Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: My Little Pony: Magic Shards


Scheduled to be reviewed much earlier, My Little Pony: Magic Shards was delayed due to issues with Wine on Xtux's computer. The task fell to me, and now, at long last, here's the review! From Dark Era Studios comes an extensive pony platformer with all the bells and whistles. With 22 stages (not counting bonuses) over four worlds, this is certainly a game to take seriously. But does its potential for entertainment measure up to its length? 

Read on after the break. Go ahead, make my day.


The game begins with the story of an anonymous young colt, who, outcast from his peers, attempts to steal Celestia's magic. He fails, and magic shards are scattered across the land, requiring immediate retrieval by Fluttershy and her five slightly less awesome perpetual tag-alongs. Able to play as any of the mane 6, you  must venture from Canterlot through Ponyville and the Everfree Forest to the ominous metal compound of the magic thief himself. 

The game seems to have a touch of classic Mario, from the switch puzzles to the grab-100-apples-for-a-life mechanic to the 5 secret red coins you must find in several levels to unlock bonus stages. These extra stages range from trivia to mini-levels, and are a nice touch in moderation. 

In addition to apples, the player must collect bits to spend at an in-game shop, with a convenient location in every world. In it you can by health, lives, skins and even new characters to help you on your journey. You'll need these bonuses and power-ups as well as some platforming skill to defeat Nightmare Moon, Discord and the colt, now a magic-crazed alicorn. 

Fun fact: Octavia throws cello bows that return like boomerangs, a la Sir Kibble.

Aside from its length, My Little Pony: Magic Shards has several other features that set it apart. It's a rare pony platformer in that it boasts its own character sprites, rather than those from Desktop Ponies. Even better, it doesn't just have sprites for one pony - there are no less than fourteen playable characters, all with their own abilities (see Tips & Tricks). The game experience is rounded out by great background art, a variety of enemy types, and apt musical choices. Another bonus is the ability to save, which is a necessity in a game of this length and a useful tool right before a boss level. 

No game is perfect, but the problems here were spread thin over larger success. The first couple of bosses got a little tedious - they weren't too easy, but there was a lot of waiting for a single vulnerable point. \Nightmare Moon's magic pulse attack, when reflected back, only hurts her when she's waiting at a certain part of the screen. Unfortunately, Rainbow Dash couldn't jump on bosses two and four (the method required to defeat them) without falling through their sprites and taking damage. Compared to the rest of the game, the intro scene seemed rough and unpolished - using a black Times font on white made it look like someone was drafting a document in Word 2007.

However, these few shortfalls detracted little from my overall enjoyment of what I'd dub classic fan content. It's breadth and style gives it a legitimacy that's seriously worth your time spent downloading. The only fair grade is a coveted 8/10.



Tips & Tricks:
The game is much easier to beat if you match each pony to levels and bosses which suit their strength. Each character's abilities seemed to be balanced between jump height, stomping ability, and ranged attack ability. Ranged attacks that shoot faster (Rarity's and Applejack's, for instance) were weaker. Characters such as Rainbow Dash and Big Macintosh, with no ranged attack, had much stronger stomps. In particular, Rainbow Dash's triple jump ability made her a prime choice for most levels.

For the first part of the game, the best stage for health-farming is world 1-2 (The Canterlot Library Roof). With two hearts and a 1-up in a relatively short stage, you'll come out better off than you went in. Abandon this once you've reached the world three bonus stage, "Rainbow Dash's Fly:" unlike the other bonus games, you can play it multiple times for infinite health, lives, and cash. 

There's a stash of hearts hidden underneath the island on which you fight the second boss. Grab them before the fight gets going, otherwise you'll be swarmed by his ghosts when you emerge from the water.

In the shop, none of the characters you're able to buy are labeled, presumably to surprise you with each new character. To save you the agony of buying the wrong pony with your precious cash, I've speciously applied the properties of gluons to reveal which pony is for sale behind each space in the shop (minor spoiler alert.)


That's all... Arctic out.
P.S.: I'm still not sure what the second boss was supposed to be. Feel free to fill me in in the comments.