Anyone who's visited Disneyland will be familiar with the trademark Disney magic - after all, how else could those ships fly though the skies of Peter Pan's Flight without touching the floor? We're not really sure at what point the words Disney and magic became so closely related, but few companies can boast quite such a stable of instantly recognisable and well-loved characters - and Disney Magical World 2 is just the latest in a long line of video games to try and pack all the Disney magic into one, little cartridge.
A sequel to 2014's Disney Magical World, Disney Magical World 2 gives you the chance to hang out with all your favourite Disney characters, from the chuffing mouse himself, to Stitch, Vanellope von Schweetz, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Jasmine, Cinderella, and many, many more - the game actually features over 100 characters.
Essentially a life-sim in the same vein as Animal Crossing, but with more than a sprinkling of Disney magic, Disney Magical World 2 jets you off to the idyllic world of Castleton to start a brand new life. After creating your Mii-like character from a choice of hairstyles, skin colours and outfits, you embark on your new life in a town "full of dreams and imagination", moving in next door to Mickey Mouse - and from there, you're steadily introduced to a whole host of different activities, via an extensive tutorial.
Indeed, Castleton is a busy place, and there's plenty of ways to pass the time. Resident have requests ("fetch me a blue seashell") that they may want your help with; there are job boards, which have quests for you to try your hand at; you can go fishing; go shopping at the McDuck department store; buy new clothes and change your outfit; or even redecorate your house. And that's just in Castleton itself. If you want to venture further afield, there are themed "worlds" to explore too, each based around a popular film, from Lilo and Stitch to Frozen, each coming complete with its own set of characters, and new quests to complete.
But just because there's a lot of choice, it doesn't mean you need to rush - life in Castleton runs at a relaxed pace. A rather free form game, with no penalties or time limits, you're largely left to your own devices, whether you want to focus on decorating your house and crafting an enviable wardrobe, or helping out various characters with all their troubles. Time passes as it would in real life, with 10am in your world being 10am in Castleton too, and likewise, special dates and festivals celebrated the world over also get a look in too - in our game right now, there's pumpkins galore and Mickey et al are all dressed to the nines in spooky outfits ready for Halloween, which is a nice touch.
Like most consumerist cities, money makes Castleton go round, and the cornerstone of your Disney Magical World 2 experience will be running the local cafe, doing everything from growing and preparing the food, to redecorating and re-theming the restaurant, to organising flashy parties with high-profile Disney guests.
From making the food to preparing the decorations, you get to decide almost everything that happens in the cafe. Even the ingredients will have to be gathered, either found scattered around town, or grown yourself via a simple plant/water/harvest x minutes farming distraction in the Hundred Acre Wood, and you'll quickly amass quite a stash of raw ingredients which can be made into all kinds of tasty themed cakes, pastries and drinks for sale in your cafe - and you get to keep all of the proceeds from anything you sell.
Like everything else in Disney Magical World, you're never just running a cafe for the sake of running it, either - there's a whole host of quests, requests and missions to complete, from making a new drink, to raising your cafe's level, or throwing a certain themed party - and in Disney Magical World, parties come with other bonuses too. Combine a few choice items with similarly themed décor - matching Tangled tables with a Pink Rapunzel Pie and Rapunzel-themed outfits for all the staff, for example - and you'll be able to throw the world's greatest Rapunzel-themed party, which will even pull in frying pan pro Rapunzel and smoulder-extraordinare Flynn as special guests, netting you bonus cash, making all your food sell out instantly, and earning you a neat photo opportunity with the stars too.
Now you have some cash, you can focus on collecting as much Disney-themed merch as you can, with the goods available in two main places. For ready-made clothes and furniture, you'll want to head to Scrooge McDuck's department store - or if you fancy something that little bit more exclusive, you can commission Daisy Duck to make a custom outfit, or Chip and Dale to make some bespoke furniture, provided you have enough raw materials for the item in question.
For example, a set of Winnie the Pooh-themed ears is made from a Lumpy Bark, Fluffy Dandelion and Hunny (of course!), while a Wreck-It Ralph Candy Table requires a Sky Blue Seashell, Sparkling Sea Glass and Star Shell to complete - and tracking down all the materials often requires a bit of backwards and forwardsing between different worlds. Again, even this feeds back into the cafe management portion of the game, as the more outfits and furniture of different themes you have, the bigger and better parties you can put on, inviting along the more elusive Disney characters too.
But arguably the coolest part of the whole package are the themed Disney worlds you can visit, covering everything from Lilo and Stitch, to Snow White and Winnie the Pooh, each with their own set of story 'episodes' to play through. Essentially missions of various types wrapped up in a cutesy Disney-inspired tale, you'll be helping Stitch prove a ghost was at the heart of a painty accident, tracking down enough Hunny to put an end to Pooh's rumbly in his tumbly, and locating Goofy's misplaced house keys. Some are simple fetch quests, but those involving meddlesome ghosts take a much more pseudo dungeon crawling feel, with you moving from area to area dispatching enemy ghosts with your wand attacks, finding and opening treasure chests along the way.
If you ever feel like you're not entirely sure what to do next, Disney Magical World 2 provides some guidance by way of its stickers. Providing you with a whole blank album to fill in, you can earn stickers for a huge variety of things, from catching a fish 100cm or larger, to finding rare Hunny in the Hundred Acre Wood, making a certain amount of furniture a Chip and Dale's workshop, or simply doing 15 favours for Castleton residents, meaning there's always something to be working towards.
However, while there's nothing especially wrong with Disney Magical World 2, there does seem like a few missed opportunities along the way. Making food, furniture and outfits is a simple matter of rounding up the right ingredients and watching as the magical cauldron/robot/sewing machine churns out the finished item - some simple Cooking Mama-esque mini-games for each would have been a nice touch. We also can't help thinking that the parties you throw at the cafe don't really live up to the hype, as while it says you can 'dance' with the Disney characters you've invited, you don't really get to dance, so much as simply change the camera angle and watch as you strike a pose. Again, a bit of a musical mini-game would have made a bit more out of it, as would having a soundtrack for said party that actually changes - especially considering we're meant to be throwing a themed party here!
When you're not busy manning your cafe, helping characters with their requests or crafting your perfect outfit, Disney Magical World 2 has tons to keep you busy - you can kick back with a spot of fishing, get your hands dirty with a bit of gardening or blow off some steam with some ghost-smiting too. Stickers and episodes give you a purpose to your Castleton escapades, but it's equally fun just to spend your time creating the house of your dreams. For those who appreciate the laid back nature of Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, then Disney Magical World 2 is likely to be right up your street, with it's trademark Disney flair.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS