For many years, My Little Pony seemed to serve as one of Hasbro’s ‘other’ brands, behind the boy toylines of Transformers and G.I. Joe, among others. It survived, but it didn’t seem to thrive beyond the fringes of pop-culture consciousness, much less produce characters as memorable as Optimus Prime, Cobra Commander, or even the short-lived Jem.
Enter: Lauren Faust. While a fan of the original toyline, Faust was disappointed at the rather lackluster and shallow nature of the animated series, and instead set out to create a version of the series with a new aesthetic and smart writing, one that didn’t talk down to its female audience or follow more traditional feminine stereotypes.
The result exploded into an Internet phenomenon, drawing in not just young girls and women who had grown up with the line, but even attracting a male audience of self-proclaimed ‘Bronies’ who appreciated the new world of Equestria and its inhabitants, from bookwormish Twilight Sparkle and the proper lady Rarity to the extreme tomboyish Rainbow Dash.
A video game was more or less inevitable, arriving just in time for the start of the show’s third season (no other version has had more than two seasons). And while the ‘Mane Six’ Ponies are popular enough to star on their own, many fans enjoy the whole world that’s been laid out before them, as well as its many unique inhabitants. As a result, a city-building game not unlike The Simpsons: Tapped Out makes perfect sense for its audience, and a social one at that– ‘Friendship is Magic,’ after all.
The game begins with an interesting and somewhat unexpected twist (unless you’ve read the description, anyway), as it retells the legend of Nightmare Moon, an alicorn goddess of the night who had been trapped for generations, but as foretold by prophecy, has returned to get her revenge by casting darkness over the land of Equestria.
In Ponyville, lawnmowers aren’t necessary.
This is very much in keeping with the first episodes of the series, but rather than series protagonist Twilight Sparkle journeying to the town of Ponyville to discover the magic of friendship needed to defeat their enemy, she instead finds it wiped off the map entirely. So she sets out to rebuild the town and bring back everypony so that she and her five friends can restore the six Elements of Harmony and drive Nightmare Moon off once more.
The main cast from the cartoon reprise their roles here with all-new dialogue as they interact with one another, and while not everyone is voiced, almost everyone of note– save for some larger-scale adversarial characters– is available to eventually join your new Ponyville. This includes the Mane Six, popular secondary characters such as Trixie and Lyra Heartstrings, the royal Princesses Celestia and Luna, Indiana Jones expy Daring Do, The Big Lebowski reference Jesus, and the timey-wimey Time Turner.
Even the somewhat-controversial Derpy Hooves appears, though not as a resident. Rather, she shows up as a sort of ‘spot her and get a bonus’ Easter Egg, which befits her sporadic appearances in the animated series.
The pony store.
As the game progresses, you’ll build up places to produce things such as fruit, wheat, and bread, and assign different ponies to those outlets (though they seem to wander around and socialize regardless), so long as their star rating is high enough. Results vary according to how much time it takes to produce, and when it’s ready, you’ll earn different jewels and the local currency, ‘bits.’ Minigames also operate on a timer, and you can pay to play in order to increase each pony’s star rating.
With these, you can help Twilight cast off the veil of darkness and further expand the town. Or you can use them to purchase new businesses, or even bring in more ponies (along with their affiliated homes). Incidentally, this part may strike a nerve with some fans– you have to be at certain levels in order to get certain ponies, and they’re spread throughout the list, with no choice in what order you can get them in.
Want Rarity to add a touch of class to your town? Not until you’re level 19. Want Fluttershy to coax the local wildlife out of hiding? Not until you’re level 29. And your Ponyville won’t get an extra 20 percent of coolness with the addition of Rainbow Dash until you reach level 43, so hopefully you weren’t in a rush to see her.
Overall, reassembling Ponyville is fun, but not without a few minor problems. The touch controls can be iffy, if not just particular at different times, such as during minigames or when looking over the list of ponies to buy. Worse is when the game produces money and jewels for you to pick up on the map, only for Twilight’s dragon sidekick Spike to suddenly speak up and have whatever advice he was going to offer be tapped through by your coin collecting.
The game can be vague if not confusing at times as well, as there are certain items and things you get without any idea of what they’re for. At another point, we had Mrs. Cakes in town and we were told to assign her to work; we kept trying to get her to work at Sugarcube Corner, just as in the show, before realizing that it serves as her house here. And then there was the urging to get things done so Pinkie Pie would now think it was okay to return, well after she had come back, said hi, and gotten to work.
My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic for iOS is a good game, especially for fans of the series, but not without its problems. Unless your eyes are good, you might prefer to play it on the iPad, as some of the text is can be tricky to read with the fonts used. Nonetheless, we can’t complain too much as the game is free, and while it does allow you to purchase certain in-game currencies, it feels less necessary than even some games which charge you for the purchase, making this a must-try for MLP fans, ‘Bro’ or no.