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PC Review - 'Toontown Online'

by RumDragon on Nov. 8, 2005 @ 1:45 a.m. PST

Disney's Toontown Online is the first massively multiplayer 3D online game created for kids and kids of all ages. Although not targeted to hard core gamers, Toontown is built on the principles of traditional Role Playing Games (RPGs) and Massively Multiplayer Games (MMPs). Its game play, however, has been expanded and modified to appeal to casual gamers and through several years of testing, Toontown has developed a core fan base among the gaming community.

Genre: MMORPG
Publisher: Platform Publishing
Developer: VR Studio
Release Date: October 4, 2005

Buy 'TOONTOWN ONLINE': PC

People in the market for a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that is family friendly usually do not have many options, but with Disney's Toontown Online, you can let a child of any age play without worrying about them running into any "undesirables."

In Toontown, you create your own Toon character, play games with friends, furnish your estate, and explore amazing lands. The evil, over-serious Cogs have invaded Toontown! Do you have what it takes to defeat these cogs with practical jokes and take back the land?

Most undesirable components of MMORPGs has been eliminated from Toontown Online by removing chat functionality. The only way to communicate with other Toons is with speedchat, a format that sends canned messages to and fro. For instance, if you want to tell someone your strategy, you click the speedchat button, move the cursor over "Battle," and click on the phrase, "Attack the strongest one first!" There are ways to chat directly with one other Toon, but it takes a password that can only be entered after registering with a credit card.

The laidback setting of Toontown is definitely a welcome change from the frantic grinding of other MMORPGs. There is, of course, fighting, but you could never fight and still have a pleasurable gaming experience by playing the mini-games on the trolley, racing your kart, or fishing. In fact, these games advance your Toons in ways that fighting cannot, with both fishing and the trolley games giving jellybeans (currency of the game), and the kart racing yielding tickets to upgrade your kart.

The trolley games are a collection of fun things to do, including a Pac-Man-like game with Cogs chasing you instead of ghosts, tug of war (where you alternate the arrow keys to keep pace with the power meter), a DDR-esque activity where you match Minnie's dance moves by pressing the corresponding arrow keys, the cannon game where you launch your Toon out of a cannon and try to land in a water tower, an underwater swim game where you try to go through each of the rings, and a catching game where you try to position your Toon to catch apples and avoid dropped anvils. If more than one Toon hops on the trolley before it takes off, then the person who gets the most points is the winner, and in some games, you are pitted directly against up to three other Toons.

The fishing mini-game is fairly simple, as there is a pond in every city where Toons can step onto the wooden platforms and cast their lines. Each time you cast your line, a jellybean is deducted from your pouch, but the potential income from the fish you catch outweighs this cost. There are two dark spots that keep moving around the pond, and the objective is to simply get your cast close to it by dragging your mouse back to the strength you want used in the cast, and angling it in the direction you want it to fly. In keeping with the theme of the game, the fish lurking in the ponds are also rather silly, from star fish dressed as Elvis to clown fish with full makeup and big red noses. Every Wednesday night, there are also fishing contests where people at each pond try to catch the most fish and match it up on their scorecard, much like a game of Bingo.

The kart racing is simplistic and fun, being very reminiscent of Mario Kart, with attacks like anvils or speed power-ups lying around the tracks. You start with 100 tickets and can buy a starter car for 50. The participation of at least one other Toon is required, and there are three different tracks that allow you to bet 50, 100, or 300 tickets on the race. No matter how you place, you can always gain at least a few tickets and never go below your wager. These tickets can then be used to change the appearance of your kart (paint jobs or accessories), or to purchase entirely new types of cars. There is also a leader board by the tracks to show the current best times.

If you do want to fight though, the process is extremely easy and quick to begin. You can go through one of several tunnels connecting to the cities to seek out the Cogs. You initiate combat by walking up to the Cogs; once engaged, a screen opens up to display your current list of gags. Gags are your attacks, but are really just a few categories of jokes to play on the Cogs. The selection of what kind of gag to use at any given time is simple; throw, for example, does a lot of damage but has slightly less accuracy, whereas squirt does lesser damage with more accuracy. There are seven categories in all (including a group heal and area of effect tree), and they are increased by using your gags until you level up in that category and get a new one, such going from a cupcake to a fruit pie in the throw category. These gags can be purchased at each town's gag store or immediately after a trolley game, since they cost jellybeans to purchase.

The objective of combat is reduce the Cogs' health (denoted by a button on their chest) to red, while not letting your laffmeter (hit points) reach zero. If you are defeated in battle, you lose all your gags and are teleported to the nearest playground in a sad state from which it takes a couple of minutes to recover. The only way to heal your wounds between battles, short of being healed by another Toon with the correct abilities, is to hang around the playground doing the above-mentioned activities where you slowly regenerate, but you can also increase your laffmeter by a few points by finding hidden ice cream cones and musical notes scattered around the playgrounds.

The quest system is rather easy to get acquainted with, as you can go to a HQ in any of the towns and the NPCs will tell you where to go from there. Initially, you can only have one task at a time, but some quests reward you with the ability to have more than one at a time. There are a number of quests in each town that can give you new combat skills, jellybean capacity, laffmeter increases, or various other upgrades. Usually the task is to seek out another Toon in one of the adjoining streets between cities and do tasks for them, such as defeating a specific type or number of Cogs, or fishing an item out of the pond.

Another way to help defend the Toon lands is to take back the buildings the Cogs have ransacked on the many streets between cities. It is usually hard to do, even with the maximum group of four, but if it is achieved, the amount of skill points you gain is multiplied by the number of stories the building has at the end of the battles.

Speaking of groups, there is no formal system for creating a group, and if you want to help out a fellow Toon, you only have to walk up to where they are engaging a Cog, and you will immediately enter into combat. The only exception is when you are attempting to take over a Cog building, where you must all have to enter an elevator with your fellow Toons who want to help. While you are in the building, no other Toons can enter it, unless your whole party is wiped out.

Aside from all this, your Toon also has his/her own place to go to at any given time. Here you can keep your jellybeans in your own personal bank, play with your pet "doodle" if you purchased one, or you can buy items from Clarabelle's Cattlelog. The doodles you purchase will roam outside of your home on your property, and you can play with them. Each doodle has a different personality and might be more inclined to certain things like boredom or playfulness. Your doodle can also help you out in battle if you summon it to do tricks. The catalog is where you buy items for your character like new wallpapers, speedchat phrases, furniture, or even better fishing poles that let you catch better fish. You get new catalogs depending on how long you play, and ordered items are not instantaneous and can take a long time to arrive.

There are a few problems with Toontown Online. The sound is very fitting and sounds very sunny and upbeat, but it gets extremely monotonous after a while. The graphics are also deliciously cartoony, but they are decidedly outdated compared to the newer, slicker-looking games out there now. In addition, during the kart racing, lag can make your opponents seem to phase around you, which can lead to game-losing crashes. The single biggest problem that this game has is that it gets repetitive, since it is very simplistic and aimed towards a younger audience. There is a plethora of things to do, but all are implemented in a rather empty way that quickly becomes boring. There are only so many times I want to see "Defeat 3 Cogs" in my task screen.

All in all, Toontown Online is a nice change of pace from most MMORPGs and should definitely be the first place one looks if they intend to let their children try online gaming, but due to its repetitive nature and the difficulty for a seasoned gamer to take this title seriously, I have a hard time giving it an extremely high recommendation.

Score: 7.8/10

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