Take away Square Enix’s non-Disney characters and storylines from a Kingdom Hearts installment, then spike the game with a lackluster Animal Crossing-esque lifestyle simulation, and you might get something like Disney Magical World, which falls short of its humble ambitions due to a paint-by-numbers gameplay blueprint and an aimless narrative premise. By using your established 3DS Mii avatar, or by creating a fresh one specifically for Magic Kingdom clone hub Castleton, Disney Magical World attempts to immerse players in a treacly Mickey Mouse universe by way of amassing seemingly endless amounts of collectibles (area-unlocking stickers being the most important), managing a café, farming, fishing, crafting items, shopping, and interacting with a revolving door of dopey Disneyland denizens. Except the residents of this land, instead of exhibiting the surprisingly intimate, occasionally subversive characterizations rendered in Kingdom Hearts, display an irritatingly passive bubble-headedness, leading to lack of motivation on the part of the player to assist them with their tedious laundry list of not-so-fantastical errands.
Aside from the humdrum busywork the game expects you to attend to, there’s an initially out-of-place yet altogether necessary RPG battle element to Disney Magical World that serves as a respite from less intensive objectives. It’s a basic dungeon-crawling operation consisting of fighting ghostly creatures that take on the appearance of the Disney-themed alt-cosmos you’re currently in. There’s nothing out of the ordinary, presentation-wise, as Kingdom Hearts fans will surely experience déjà vu when entering the realms inspired by the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Cinderella, and Winnie the Pooh. Still, the combat, however simplistic it may be, is smoothly paced and devoid of vexing graphical snares (camera angle issues, significant lag when the screen becomes overcrowded) that occasionally devalued otherwise solid Kingdom Hearts episodes. Developer h.a.n.d., who partnered with Square Enix on both Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, does well to sprinkle in additional ancillary modes of play such as rhythm-based mini-games, detailed customization sessions, multiplayer (essentially “Who has the best café?” competitions via standard online or StreetPass functionality), and AR-card integration.
Yet, even with its persistent efforts to rope in genre newcomers with its free-ranged, light-as-air approach to the life-sim, there really is very little justification to continue playing Disney Magical World long after its introductory phases. The game employs a nebulous, cyclical system of loot hording and domestication that is so predictable as to become a stale science rather than the ample helping of true-to-its-title magic it requires to flourish.