Review: Disney Magical World 2 is still the happiest (virtual) place on Earth

There are times when we need a distraction. Safe spaces are essential for everyone. We want somewhere to go where we can enjoy ourselves, relax and forget about anything else troubling us. Games like Disney Magical World 2 fill this niche. It is a virtual respite. While such a thing is welcome, it would be even better if it offered more variation than the original game.

In Disney Magical World 2, players are the newest residents to move to Castleton. It’s a gathering point and hub for every Disney character from the last 89 years that you’ve known and loved. Once you’ve arrived, you’re immediately treated as royalty. You get a free home and business. Every character, despite being famous, is more than happy to let his or her life revolve around you and trust you with every possible trouble.

It’s a game that straddles multiple genres. At its heart, Disney Magical World 2 is a life simulation. You enjoy daily life in Castleton. You can run a cafe, furnish a home, create clothing and other items, run errands for neighbors, interact with residents, gather materials, fish, dance, explore dungeons, fight enemies, dance and get comfortable in this fantastical land. Everything is bright, colorful and happy. There are no truly dangerous or dark encounters. Instead, it’s about enjoying and exploring the hub world, 100 Acre Wood, Arendelle, Atlantica, Dwarf Woodland, Kauai and Wonderland.

All Disney Magical World 2’s putting you through the exact paces, almost in the exact same places.

This means that much of your time in Disney Magical World 2 is spent collecting more things. More greetings, earned from wearing nice outfits and saying hello to folks. More cafe recipes. More materials for crafting. More furniture and outfits. More stickers to unlock more spaces, which let you get even more recipes, money, materials, items and encounters. It is a very acquisitive experience.

Unfortunately, going through your daily rounds and fetch quests isn’t always the most pleasant experience. There is lag in Disney Magical World 2 the likes of which I’ve rarely seen in a Nintendo 3DS game. Especially considering I am playing on a New 3DS XL, a version of the system that makes games like Super Smash Bros., Hyrule Warriors Legends and Monster Hunter Generations play more smoothly. The frame rate drags and drops seemingly without provocation, making traversing Castleton and its surrounding areas’ large spaces a chore.

This is not Disney Magical World 2’s main problem, though; the real issue is that it does little to set itself apart from and improve upon the original. The first game had cooking, crafting, decorating, fishing, music minigames and RPG levels. The second offers the exact same. The first game had six worlds, allowing us to go to places like the Castleton, the 100 Acre Wood and Wonderland. The sequel has seven worlds, with Castleton, the 100 Acre Wood and Wonderland returning. The scope of some locations are more limited than others.

As for the new features, the two major ones are very much geared toward specific audiences. The Dream Fantasy and Dance Show sequences give you a chance to see your avatar and favorite characters participate in a psychedelic, neon dream. Or nightmare. Your mileage may vary. (I find it off-putting and unpleasant, but acknowledge others may appreciate its silliness.) The Dance Shows take place in your cafe. They are the same song and dance each time. Choosing to perform the Dance Show during a party does not have any effect on the amount of coins you earn, rendering it useless. Each are a very specific form of fanservice that will appeal to some players more than others.

Disney Magical World 2 is a case of getting more of the same. If people enjoyed Disney Magical World, the sequel will likely appeal to them as well. However, it also happens to be a case where it’s a little too similar to the previous game. Given they were released less than two years apart, you expect a bit more variation in the available areas to explore and offered minigames. In fact, I’d say I enjoyed the original more, simply because it was a fresher and more unique experience. As enjoyable as this game can be, it doesn’t do enough to stand out. All Disney Magical World 2’s putting you through the exact paces, almost in the exact same places.

Score: 7/10
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: October 14, 2016
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
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