One of Hasbro’s most popular and well-known toy lines for girls: My Little Pony, has gotten an extra boost in recent years thanks to a fairly new cartoon based on the toys that’s surprisingly a higher quality show than what you may expect (there are reasons for that which we’ll go into later). So in honor of the release of the My Little Pony iPad game, based on the cartoon and toys, here’s a blog featuring a review of the game and overview of the cartoon show!
But before we get started with all that, I figured I’d explain myself a bit. While reading this blog, you might ask yourself, “Why is Cary so knowledgeable about this girly cartoon and game, and how does he know a lot about these things in general when he’s a guy?” I review a lot of girl oriented games, and I don’t feel the need to explain myself, but in this case, I think I will.
I know a lot about girl cartoons because as a kid, my mom watched other neighborhood kids while their parents went to work. So even though I was an only child when I was young, it didn’t feel that way because there were always kids in the house. Anyway, there were two kids that were there longer than any other. One was my best friend, and the other was a little girl who played with us a lot. She played Star Wars and Transformers with us, so when she wanted to do something like watch Strawberry Shortcake or Care Bears, we let her. Why? Well, because we weren’t jerks. Believe it or not, there are kids out there who are thoughtful and generous, and I think we were like that with her. My friend and I didn’t necessarily like the shows she enjoyed watching, but we knew it was only fair to let her do what she wanted sometimes. Although the Purple Pieman villain in the Strawberry Shortcake cartoon was pretty awesome.
Sorry to go off on tangent, but I have to tell a funny story. When I was a kid, He-Man was a very popular cartoon, and there was a girl version of it called She-Ra. One day when I was outside playing with a neighbor kid, he asked, “What’s your mom’s name?” When I said, “Sheilah,” his eyes got real wide and he yelled, “Whoa, your mom is She-Ra?” When I told that story to my mom, she cracked up. Now when she plays a video game where you can name your character, she always keys in She-Ra.
So why do I know about girls’ cartoons and games today? Well, I consider it my job. You see, I have two ‘jobs.’ One of the jobs I have is reviewing video games. Since I write for a site that’s generally family oriented, I consider it my duty to know about what licenses and properties are popular for both boys and girls. Now, I don’t get paid for that job, but for my REAL day job where I do get paid, I still consider it important for me to know about that kind of stuff, too. You see, I work at a place that sells supplies to mostly hospital gift shops. Anything you can think of that you can find in a gift shop, we probably sell. That includes toys and kids’ items. Even though I don’t like my day job very much (but I do like the people I work with), I still want to do a good job so that’s why I try to know about girls cartoons and toys.
Friendship is Magic
All right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk a bit about the My Little Pony cartoon. There used to be a My Little Pony show in the 80’s, and it was surprisingly dark. The new cartoon isn’t quite as dark, but I hear it does have elements and stories from the original show. I think what makes this newer cartoon good is because it has a lot of people working on it who helped make shows like PowerPuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Not only that, but it seems like they made a cartoon with well-developed characters and plots, not just a cartoon based on things they think girls like. Even the obligatory lessons are well thought out. None of this ‘believe in yourself’ stuff that most cartoons of this ilk rely on that doesn’t have any applicable use in real life. The lessons are more practical and real, and deal with things like how to be assertive without being a jerk, showing concern for your friend’s problems even if they don’t seem like a big deal to you, or how to handle bullies.
And no, before you even ask, I’m not a “Brony” or Brohoof” or whatever it is they like to call themselves. You see, the new My Little Pony cartoon has become fairly popular on the Internet, and apparently, guys who like the cartoon call themselves “Bronies.” But not me. I prefer to choose what I like by my own judgment, not what the Internet says. And I’m not going to spout quips like “Any-pony.” But I tell you, this show is so popular that they make retail items just for this group of people! For instance, around Christmastime I was in the mall chain store Hot Topic. In the cartoon there are a group of ponies that are the equivalent of the Blue Angels. Well, at Hot Topic they sold a jacket with the emblem of the ‘Blue Angel’ ponies! And there were a bunch of other products geared towards these fans, too! Sheesh!
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic iPad Game
All right, I want to talk a little bit more about the characters in the cartoon show, but first I want to do a little review of the iPad game, which inspired me to write this blog in the first place. The My Little Pony app is a free-to-play iPad game, and at first glance looks a lot like FarmVille, or other social simulation games. But this one has a story! You see, one of the My Little Pony antagonists, Midnight Moon or whatever her name is, has covered Ponyville in darkness and all the ponies have run away. So now it’s your job to rebuild Ponyville, push back the darkness, and stop the bad horse’s evil plans.
In the game you must build houses for the ponies to live in, and shops to earn more money so you can build more things. You can also spend your earned coins (called ‘bits’) to clear away patches of darkness so you can have more room to build. In some darkened areas are special pedestals. When you push back the darkness where pedestals are and spend a certain amount of special gems called Harmony Stones, you’ll activate that pedestal. When all the pedestals are activated (about five or so), then you’ll thwart Midnight Moon’s plans!
Build houses to bring in new ponies, and build shops for them to work in so you can make money. Each shop sells different items (usually stuff horses eat such as carrots and apples), and to get your ponies to sell higher earning products, they’ll have to be at a certain level. To raise their levels, you’ll have to play mini-games with each pony character. These mini-games are simple fare and include activities like catching falling apples, bouncing a ball back and forth, or flying through clouds in a game similar to Jetpack Joyride. Similar to FarmVille, in order to play these games, or earn money from shops, or finish building a structure, you’ll have to wait a certain amount of real time and come back to the game later.
One of the best things about this game is the production values. The game uses music and characters from the cartoon show, and even the voice actors lent their talents to the game! Even minor characters show up (yes, that includes Derpy-Hooves, or the “Internet’s favorite” as the game calls her). The graphics are fantastic, and each pony walks around town doing cute things, and you can even tap on them and they’ll wave to you! I could imagine a little girl pony fan just loving this game.
Unfortunately, the free-to-play nature of these kinds of games rears its ugly head eventually. You see, at first, the game is really fun. You can use real money to buy coins, gems, or Harmony Stones so you don’t have to wait in order to play or build. But if you’re patient, you can still do all the requirements of the game and not have to spend any money. However, even that ends eventually. You see, every so often there are these little parasite bugs that will eat anything you try and build, and the only way to get rid of them is to tap them on screen and spend one Harmony Stone. But after a certain point in the game, those parasite bugs just keep coming, and things start getting ridiculously expensive, too. So after a certain point, there’s no way to get any further without spending undisclosed amounts of real money. You can give and trade items with other players online, but the way that’s done is wonky and didn’t seem to work right with me.
Rather than be a free-to-play game, I’d prefer this game be one that you buy whole and download as a self-contained game. In fact, if it were that way, I MIGHT’VE bought it, if anything to tide me over until the new Animal Crossing game comes out. But because the nickel and diming thing ruined the game for me, I ended up taking it off my “Best RPG/Simulation” list when I did my Game of the Year article. Not only that, but after this article is published, I’ll be permanently deleting the My Little Pony game from my iPad for good. It’s such a shame, too, because the game started out so fun and well-made.
My Little Pony “Mane” Characters
Sorry, I just had to make that pun. I wanted to conclude this blog by listing the main characters you’ll meet in the cartoon show and iPad game. I gave each of them nicknames, because I can’t remember their real names all the time. But later I felt bad so I did some research to know what their real names are, so I put them in parentheses. OK so let’s get started!
Purple Pony (Twilight Sparkle)
She’s kind of the main character of the cartoon, and many of the plots revolve around her. According to what little I know about the background story, she used to live in a pony castle, but the princess sent her to live in a small town so she could learn about friendship. Purple Pony is a unicorn, and in the show, unicorns can use magic. Which makes it easier for animators to figure out how they can pick up things when they only have hooves. Purple Pony is the straight A student type: smart, loves to learn, but hates to fail.
Annoying Pony (Pinkie Pie)
The other reason why I gave the ponies nicknames is because there’s only so many times a man can say “Pinkie Pie.” I’m sorry, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Annoying Pony is a hyper chatterbox who loves to have fun with her friends and nothing else.
Cowboy Pony (Applejack)
This hard-working pony works on an apple farm with her extensive family. Last year I got to review Dead or Alive 5, which was the first DOA game I’ve ever played. One of the DOA characters, Tina, sounds EXACTLY like Applejack. It’s not the same voice actor, I looked it up, but now every time I play DOA5 as Tina, I think of My Little Pony. And vice versa when I watch the cartoon. And I really don’t want to associate the two together honestly.
Drama Llama (Rarity)
This girly unicorn is all about being pretty, wearing fancy clothes, and admires rare gems and jewelry. She hates getting dirty or doing anything that could ruin her hairdo. And she overacts when anything goes wrong, hence the nickname I gave her.
Puny Pony (Fluttershy)
True to her name, Puny Pony is shy, quiet, and meek. But she can be strong when her friends are in trouble. She takes care of the animals in the forest. Speaking of animals, each of the main ponies has their own pet. Puny Pony’s pet is a little rabbit named Angel, but is anything but. “Angel” will demand the fanciest foods, and then kick the plate away when served, among other things. So yeah, Angel is definitely a jerk bunny, and needless to say, one of my favorite characters in the cartoon for the irony!
Rainbow Dash (Rainbow Dash)
Yeah I couldn’t think of a nickname for this one. She’s a Pegasus and has a rainbow mane, and is the jock of the group, as she is very competitive and athletic. A few weeks ago when I was in the toy aisle at Target, a couple aisles over I heard two little girls bellowing, “Rainbow Dash is my favorite!” “Me, too!” It made me sad that I knew what they were talking about. Rainbow Dash’s pet is a turtle, ironically.
I call him Spyro because he’s a little purple dragon. So what else would you call him? Anyway, Spike’s my favorite character in the cartoon because he’s the only guy main character. Plus he looks like he belongs in a Bubble Bobble game. He also eats gems, which makes me think of Spyro again since he collected gems in his old games. I hear the old My Little Pony cartoon from the 80’s had a Spike dragon character, too, but looked nothing like the new one.
There are a ton of other minor characters in the cartoon, too. So many I can’t list them all. I call the ruler of Canterlot Castle (yes) “Princess Uber-Pony” because she’s both a Pegasus and a unicorn and is pretty much God in the pony world. Many of the main characters have little sisters and other younger ponies who have their own adventures. Even the Internet named one character. In one episode, there was an animation error on a background pony and her eyes were all mismatched. Internet fans fell in love with this mistake and called that character “Derpy-Hooves!” They used that character in later episodes as a clumsy comic relief pony, but couldn’t call her “Derpy” because censors didn’t want a kid’s cartoon where they were making fun of a clumsy character. Silly reasoning, I know, but that’s how things go sometimes in cartoons.
And that’s all I care to talk about My Little Pony for now! Believe it or not, this was actually a pretty challenging blog for me to write! Speaking of challenges, I have a task for all you guys out there. If you have a little girl in your life, such as a daughter, niece, or little sister, I challenge you to watch the new My Little Pony cartoon with them. I promise you won’t throw up, and they will think it’s cool that you’re doing something they would like to do. And since the cartoon makes jokes and references about everything from Metal Gear Solid to The Big Lebowski (yes, really), you might even actually like it!
In the comments section, let me know if you like the My Little Pony cartoon and why. Or you can just tell me how insane I am for writing this blog in the first place (but that goes without saying). Next time on my long-winded blog, I’ll talk about my favorite Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films in honor of the upcoming release of Ni no Kuni! Later! –Cary