If there are worlds that can enchant just as much as Nintendo’s, they are those conjured by Disney. The animation powerhouse has been delighting audiences ever since Mickey Mouse whistled his way through Steamboat Willie, striking a chord that propelled the big-eared toon to stardom. Recent years may have seen them move away from their meticulous hand-drawn creations for computer-generated counterparts, but the adoration for their intrepid characters remains unwavering.
Disney Magical World looks in part to capitalise on that, whisking players to Castleton. Not to be confused with the idyllic Derbyshire village, this whimsical town is populated by all of your favourite Disney characters who each have their own role to play. It’s a miniature Walt Disney World of sorts, sans rides, built around a centralised hub that has shops, stalls and a Café for you to waltz into, each situated near the towering Magic Castle.
This is another opportunity for your Mii to be the star, with Mickey and Minnie welcoming you to their wondrous world after you arrive on a gargantuan balloon. An extensive opening prologue carries you through everything that the Nintendo 3DS exclusive has to offer, whether that be having a chinwag with Disney characters, heading on a shopping spree, fishing, snapping photos, taking ownership of the Café, setting out on a quest or using recipes to craft items, clothing and furniture. There’s plenty to reel you in, even if it’s hard to shake the obvious inspiration taken from Nintendo’s very own Animal Crossing series.
It’s clear that there’s plenty to do then, although Disney Magical World really revolves around three areas – the Café, quests and personalisation. I largely enjoyed spending most of my time sprucing up the Café, which allows players to hire and dress staff, rejig the menu and overhaul the decor in a manner not entirely dissimilar to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Completing Golden Key Requests will raise your owner level, upgrading the building’s exterior appearance and rewarding you with a multitude of menu options – earning the chance to throw parties to bask in your own success.
Quests are regrettably lacklustre, seeing players wield a magical wand lent to you by Yen Sid that you use to zap ghosts through mundane locales to their eventual conclusion. Split into episodes you are encouraged to craft Quest Clothes that will strengthen your Mii’s combat resilience, although these are largely forgettable, unchallenging instances. This comes as a disappointment, with the only drive toward tackling them being that they reward you with materials to make the more grandiose outfits.
And that neatly leads us on to personalisation, which underpins much of the game. Fashion sense is of utmost important, with players heading to Daisy Duck’s boutique where they can create any clothes available to them in the expansive catalogue. Wearing a compatible set of clothes will award you an ‘Ace Ensemble’ rating, which will see any citizens shout out ‘Nice’ ratings at you as you pass them. These can then be exchanged at the Shop of Wonder, allowing you to add sparkles to your outfits.
Whenever you “experience something wonderful,” which is basically doing anything the game throws at you although more namely by completing favours for Castleton’s hapless citizens, you’ll be rewarded with a Happy Sticker that you can slap straight into an album. These are a necessity to progress, steadily increasing the content available to you in the places that you can go and the things that you can do. That later opens up the chance to visit worlds created around Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin, which will see you attend balls, harvest crops on your own farm, run around hedge mazes, and help expand Agrabah’s bazaar.
It is in meeting the many Disney characters that Disney Magical World will regularly raise a smile, all speaking to the player by name and that level of familiarity will allow youngsters to feel connected with their favourite stars – whether that be Mickey, Cinderella, or Genie. Interaction is encouraged through rewarding players with collectible cards whenever they gesture at them, although, somewhat sadly, beyond this their appearance is completely under-utilised. Strip away the Disney sheen, and what’s left are copycat elements drawn together from other games.
The handheld’s calendar is notably put to use, with Castleton, at the time of writing, currently filled to the brim with pumpkins in anticipation of Halloween approaching later this month. These seasonal changes will, with the time of day also reflected, partly help players keep returning to the game periodically throughout the year.
Although the game finds itself hindered by frequent loading times, framerate inconsistency and even the stereoscopic 3D effect doesn’t quite come off, but the game’s soundtrack, penned by composer Keiki Kobayashi, is resoundingly joyous in comparison to such toils. StreetPass, SpotPass and even AR Cards support the experience, with downloadable content allowing players to buy Sleeping Beauty, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Aristocats outfits and items, among others.
Broken down, Disney Magical World can seem fairly disjointed in trying to deliver activities to cater to all tastes, but still results in Castleton becoming a thriving location that you’ll very much love to carelessly dash around. It’s undoubtedly targeted toward the younger crowd – most notably through the distinct lack of challenge across the board – but this will sap hours at a time as you look to unlock everything hidden away beneath its colourful exterior.