Nick Moreau- Set on the patches of a quilt, Disney Enchanted Tales brings story to the world of simulation game apps. Choosing from the worlds of Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, and Tangled, it rejuvenates the well-trodden market dominated by games like FarmVille and SimCity BuildIt by adding fun story elements.
With many sim games, the only story line is “your city/farm/theme park/etc is expanding!” They’re addictive, sure, but after you’ve filled your 500th cargo flight of random goods, you start to question why you’re hooked on the game. Disney Interactive seems to have beaten that issue, by loosely structuring the narratives of the game on the plot of three films’ heroines. After cut scenes explaining the spell placed on The Prince, or the kidnapping by Gothel, we join the stories in progress. The order that buildings, characters, and the characters’ skills are unlocked largely reflect the stories the feature films we love, while still giving you ample choice to experiment and make your own choices.
I chose to start with Belle, building her provincial town, adding in the bookseller and his shop as the second playable character, moving on to Gaston and the tavern, before Maurice and a workshop is unlocked a few levels in. Maurice’s activities evolve from cleaning up the shop, to working on inventions, to preparing for travel, to actually traveling through the woods.
And yes, you really do want to unlock antagonists. While you’re not forced to bring them into game play to continue advancing, they can really help build your points. If you’re heading to work or to sleep, assign both the Belle and Gaston avatars to get together and try and explain what the appeals of books are, and Rapunzel to hoist supplies into her tower with Mother Gothel, and the next time you open the app, they’ll be a good amount of points awaiting you. Plus, who can resist Gaston’s dopier skills, like “Eat 5 Dozen Eggs” and “Stomp Around in Boots”.
Moving through the game and the plot lines, eventually getting the option to unlock a second story (and eventually the third one, too), there’s both enough to keep an adult like me fulfilled, while still being simple enough for a child to easily pick up.
Look for the game to expand over time. I’ll soon be able to unlock Cogsworth, but none of the other enchanted objects are in the current list of levels, nor is the Beast himself. If you play with Arendale, you’ve got Anna, Elsa, Hans, Oaken, the Trade Minister, even a locksmith, but not Olaf, Kristoff, or Sven! I can see keeping them locked up in really high levels, to keep people playing, but to not even tease about their existence is surprising. I’d almost suggest giving the app to your kid only if they don’t like Frozen, for fear of their reaction.
Speaking of kids, warning, there are in-app purchases. I presume there are the usual types of locks to prevent them from racking up the charges, but you will have to connect the app to iTunes’ copy of your credit card information. (I haven’t tested it on Android.) Be very sparing spending your initial cache diamonds. You can avoid spending them entirely in developing your miniature world, but they’re rare to earn, and you’ll want to hold on to them a while to spend on neat items in higher levels. The app does have a feature to watch videos to get more diamonds, but I so far haven’t been able to queue a single clip. Perhaps it’s because I’m in Canada? Whatever the case, I have no idea whether these videos are for Disney Cruise Line or the whatever app Arnold Schwarzenegger is promoting. It does ask your age on first launch, so perhaps they’re tailored using that information.
While there’s some problems, Disney Interactive will hopefully work through (internet connection required, downloading updates over cellular when opening the app, no accounts), the successes of the game can’t be ignored. It’s well worth a download, if you’d like an anytime diversion.
- Watching TV? While you probably want to assign longer tasks to most of the characters at this point, I’d suggest repeatedly assigning Rapunzel to read books. At least within the stories I’ve chosen to play with, it’s the most profitable short task available.
- Don’t worry about choosing the “Warm Up” activity for Maurice. Yes, he’ll go trodding right into the Beast’s castle, but an hour later, he’ll be free again like nothing ever happened, without sending your Belle avatar in after him. (Perhaps that’s because only Cogsworth is around?)
- Keep rearranging your village or kingdom. As you unlock additional patches of the quilt (the game’s equivalent of land), experiment with your arrangement to find more efficient uses of area.
- Plug in your headphones, and listen to the sound. At least with my install, the sound effects don’t play through my phone’s speakers, only through the earbuds.
- Graphics are a comfortable balance between simplicity and detail. Some elements are highly “toyified”, like the sheep with giant stitch-work on their wool. In comparison, the tools in Maurice’s apron are themselves dimensional and Rapunzel’s dress has familiar detail. Even a window in The Beast’s window has a neat Easter egg to find.
- At least on an iPhone, the game plays without hiccup or crashes, just days after the release. It’s very stable and quick.
- If you can’t play for a period, you’re not missing anything. The smaller challenges set out by the Fairy Godmother don’t expire, unlike cargo shipments in other apps. If you get part of a task done one day, and finish it five days later, no harm, no foul.
- You need an internet connection of some kind, Wifi or cellular, to open the app. The only part of the app needing an internet connection is the optional Daily Challenges or the optional videos, so this seems unnecessary. But if you install it on a tablet, it will only work when you’re somewhere with Wifi, so it may not be the best option to distract your child in the grocery store.
- The app seemingly downloads small updates upon being opened. If you’re not in a Wifi hotspot, this can start to add up. My first day playing only tallied about a MB of cellular usage each hour, a trivial amount. Today, day three, I’ve only played three or four hours, and had 32 MB. Unlike other apps that download updates on opening, it doesn’t ask for your permission to download. The good news is that, once the app is open, it doesn’t seem to use any data.
- No accounts. Need to temporarily deinstall the app, you can’t log back in and recover your game play later on. As far as I can tell, it would erase all progress. US law makes blocks collecting information from children under 13, so accounts would have to be optional, but they should exist.
Disney Enchanted Tales is Now Available for download on the App Store and Google Play store.