What happens when you combine life in a fantasy world, lots of the most recognisable fictional characters on the planet, some bonus magic, sparkles and cheery songs into a tiny 3DS cartridge? Theoretically, the answer you're looking for is "success". Luckily in the case of Disney Magical World 2 this is also a reality.
Just like its prequel, Disney Magical World, this game sees you move into your new home in Castleton, right next door to Mickey Mouse himself. The objective of the game is both simple and definitely not simple, by which we mean there are so many different things to do and take away from the experience that you can create your own objectives – the most important of which should be to just have fun. There is an awful lot of content to explore here with bucket loads of characters to meet and objectives to tackle, both in your home town and also the worlds of the various Disney characters everyone knows and loves.
The first portion of the game guides you through a variety of tasks to help you get to grips with your surroundings, the types of activities that will be made available to you and the system by which the game works – stickers. Earning stickers is as simple as meeting various criteria – at first these are very simple and compulsory, before becoming optional and more time consuming as the game goes on in the form of side quests. These stickers unlock new portions of the game – locked sections have a required sticker count which once met will become available to you to explore. Apart from the first 18 stickers which take the form of what feels like the longest tutorial in video game history – though it likely isn't – these can be done in any order you like as long as you have come across or unlocked the necessary means to complete the task.
Restricting this game's genre to just "life simulation" feels a little harsh. Just like the relatively recent treasure trove of great life sims such as Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Fantasy Life, this game sees you have a go at several different styles of gameplay. Alongside the typical life simulation traits such as creating your own avatar and maintaining your own house, the RPG elements perhaps take centre stage. Your room, your outfit and your café – yes you run your own café – all require materials and ingredients to be found which can be crafted into the specific items you need. The opposite end of the RPG scale is also represented with small missions requiring the use of health points and magic stamina bars as you fight through hordes of enemies, collecting more items along the way in treasure chests and from your opponents. Other genres appear occasionally such as rhythm-action, whereby you'll be pressing buttons along with the music and images on screen. This mix of activities keeps things fresh and lively and helps stave off any boredom from repetition.
The scale of the game is immediately striking; during the opening sections you may find yourself walking past areas with particularly high sticker counts that feel like they're ages away, yet it always feels like a good amount of content is unlocked with each new sticker. The amount of collectible items for your home and your outfit is also impressive, with countless different options available. Many, many hours could easily be poured into simply trying to make new furniture for your home, and just when you finally start to wonder if you've seen most of the important stuff, new worlds begin to open.
Just like in the original title, after collecting the required amount of stickers whole new worlds begin to unlock. These are worlds based on the locations in which we see our favourite Disney characters in their original films, and each contain new quests to complete alongside your new-found friends. Despite an already generous cast of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald and Daisy Duck living on the same street as you, within the first few hours you'll be visiting Lilo and Stitch in Hawaii, Winnie the Pooh and the gang in the 100 Acre Wood and – new to this sequel – the incredibly popular Elsa and Olaf in the Frozen Universe. We'll stop there and let you have the excitement of stumbling across more of your favourite Disney stars for yourselves, but needless to say there are many characters to meet here.
At any point in the game you are able to take a photograph of your character, too. Pressing the L button brings up a menu from which you can take a screenshot of the action, and whilst you could be saving hundreds of images to your SD card at any point, the game does a great job of setting up as many photo opportunities as possible, just as if you were visiting Disney World. Often characters such as Mickey will offer the chance to have a photo, sometimes in dream like situations which can be unlocked by certain collectibles. Needless to say, younger audiences will likely love every second of seeing themselves next to all their favourite characters.
It's challenging to pick any real faults with this game; it is by no means spectacular, but it does everything it tries to do well. Of course, this doesn't mean that everyone will love it – the music, the over-the-top excitement and wonder may be a bit too in your face for some players; this is an all singing, all dancing Disney product, remember, but you probably knew that before reading this review. It doesn't quite live up to the incredibly high bar set by Animal Crossing and the like, but if you're a fan of the Disney franchise you will likely instantly look past that as you are drawn in by the magic.
An impressive amount of content, a great cast, and a significant number of hours that are undoubtedly about to be expended by its players make up a solid new title, likely to help ensure the 3DS's legacy stays strong as it ages gracefully. Younger Disney lovers will unquestionably get a lot out of this game, with the photograph opportunities being a nice touch, but this title will also appeal to Disney fans of all ages – being able to spend your days alongside your favourite characters is fun for anyone. If this style of game captures your attention or you have a deep love for the franchises involved, we'd recommend giving this title a go.