reviews\ Jun 15, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Disney's Toontown Online - PC - Review

I’ve played a couple of MMORPG’s in my day. They’re not my #1 selection, since I’m more into FPS and action titles, but I was super addicted to both Everquest and Ultima for a while. My 9 year old son would sometimes come in and watch for a small period of time and want to play as well, but I wasn’t comfortable unleashing him into a world filled with language, griefing (getting killed by someone so they can steal your things), and sometimes some of the subject matter that these games and other gamers presented. Well, I saw Toontown Online at this year’s E3, and I can say that there is finally an answer that both kids and parents can be happy and have fun with.


Toontown Online is an online only game that revolves around a happy and fun filled cartoon Disney world. All of the inhabitants are happy and just enjoy life, until one day when the Cogs decide that they want to move in. These robots are bent on buying up the colorful and happy property and switching it out for drab, gray, ugly buildings and want to replace the fun filled land with a corporate tight laced community free of laughter and play. Well, the only hope for Toontown lies in the players and the cartoon characters that they create to stop the Cogs and restore the happy world of Toontown.


Basically, this game contains all of the elements that make an MMORPG … and make it good at that. Players create their own character in looks, size, and color from various head, body, and leg templates resembling cartoon animals like horses, cats, dogs, and mice, pick a name, then they enter a big online world where they go on quests or play open – ended style, level up and become stronger, fight bad guys, and can even team up in parties, create buddy lists, and chat with one another during play or in safe zones where Cogs don’t venture. Since this sounds a lot like other MMORPG titles out there, what makes Toontown so different and family friendly?


The first thing revolves around the world and interaction itself. Players can chat and converse, but cannot use any kind of foul language or any other sort of offensive remarks due to a full time monitored system. There is both an open chat (requires a parent password) and a speed chat option, and the speed chat which has pre-made remarks and statements is surprisingly robust and can handle the majority of conversations. In the time that I have played, I have yet to use the regular chat function and have had no problems. Granted there were times where I wanted to say something extra, but this was an exception rather than the norm. When you make a friend in Toontown though, you gain access to a secret open chat menu and whatnot to talk with them freely.


Another note on the interaction in Toontown revolves around combat, since once you venture out of your starting playground and into the bigger world, you will begin encountering Cogs of various levels and strengths (32 types total, including a “Big Cheese” boss) both on the street and in the buildings that have been converted by the Cogs. Toons like to laugh, so a “laugh meter” has replaced the “health meter” seen in RPG titles or action games. When it’s full, your toon is happy. When it goes to 0 during a fight, your toon will get sad and return to the playground rather than dying in a traditional MMORPG sense to play with his or her friends, eat ice cream, and things like that to get happy and go adventuring again.


From an attack perspective during combat, rather than using swords, magic, or guns for attack, defense, and support, toons in Toontown rely on what works best ... Gags! Cogs hate laughter, so getting them to laugh makes them get unstable and they explode. Combat takes place in a turn-based style with players tossing pies, dropping anvils, or telling jokes to lower a Cogs hit points or make their friends laugh and get “healed” while the Cogs use their business tactics to fight back with such funny and off the wall things as firing paper shreddings or smacking a rubber stamp at them. It may sound a little silly, but it works well and can be just as tactical and enjoyable as flinging lightning bolts or shooting an arrow since you can designate certain players to handle certain responsibilities just like you would a party with a mage, cleric, and barbarian. As your character levels up, he or she will begin gaining access to newer and better gags to use.


Another unique feature to Toontown is the way that players obtain currency to purchase gags and items. Rather than getting money from slain creatures or selling items that they find or steal from other players, toons play games to earn jellybeans to spend. While some of these games won’t be too terribly challenging for single adults who play lots of other games in their spare time, people can play in groups which makes it more fun and challenging overall. These games also have a pretty good mix to them of things to do, like swimming through rings, firing yourself out of a cannon and into a bucket of water, playing tag, or even a Pac Man style maze game to collect treasures while avoiding Cogs just to name a couple. Basically, picture a game like Mario Party crashing into an MMORPG and you are pretty close to what you’ll do and see during these competitions.


One of the biggest changes that I noticed in Toontown versus other MMORPG titles revolves around the missions and item collecting as you play. It’s there, as I mentioned earlier, but has been stripped down enough to keep it interesting but not difficult enough to be frustrating. A lot of other titles will have players collecting numerous things to put together and form one thing, or sometimes they will have to venture out for miles to find something. Toontown instead keeps the majority of the mission goals simple and close by enough that they have to be searched for, but you won’t be wandering through virtual miles of forestland to find where you need to go either. In addition, they do get challenging as you go on, but this also encourages team play and interaction between players which is where the real fun of these kinds of games comes into play.


Graphically, Toontown is brightly colored and looks good … like a cartoon should look. The clouds in the sky are round and fluffy, and will slowly drift around as you run through the streets and areas of the game. While a lot of areas have a very similar look to them and there really weren’t any that were massive expanses of land to explore, it’s important to remember that this game was made to be family friendly and fun. My kids (and I as well) can get easily bored or lost running across miles and miles of repetitive desert terrain, so most of what you will encounter will be city style surroundings or park areas in the various separations of the world. A lot of the buildings are also interactive, and you will see a definite difference when you enter a dull Cog building and step out of the elevator to battle through to the boss. In addition, the character animations were nice and humorous as they dance for joy or mope around the playground sadly, and there were some little extra environmental things added here and there like snow falling that were a good add in.


Overall, I would have a hard time saying anything negative about Toontown, especially since I am really enjoying it and I am both NOT a huge MMORPG fan (FPS games for me thanks) and an adult as well. Die hard EQ or Dark Age of Camelot players may have a harder time putting down the sword or staff for a seltzer bottle and may not catch on quite as well, but I would recommend at least giving it a try especially if you have children. My 9 year old sunk about 3 and a half hours into it the other day, which is a record for him and I had to finally make him turn it off and find something else to do. Big thank you to the developers and to Disney for making an MMORPG game that is not only a good game, but fun for the whole family as well. I can FINALLY feel comfortable letting my kids play an MMORPG game, and can also feel comfortable leaving the room for a bit knowing that I won’t have to listen to crying about someone killing them in the game or asking me that dreaded question at dinner “Dad … what does this four letter word mean”? 


Gameplay: 8.9
This is one of the easiest games that I have sat down and gotten into, and I have let my son and my niece run on it by themselves with no problems or issues anywhere or them getting stuck. Everything ranging from interaction and speech to movement and combat is very simple button presses and mouse clicks, and the world is a good size without being confusing or too repetitive. I was especially impressed with the “gags versus adult office” humor that was in the game, and was really surprised at how much strategy could be played into the confrontations that occur between the Cogs and the players especially as players gain levels and access newer gags. I was also impressed at how much fun the mini games were when playing in a group, and it reminded me of games like Mario Party that I have spent many hours playing with my kids.


Graphics: 8.4
The graphics in Toontown are, well, cartoony (which is what they should be). The streets, backgrounds, characters, and playgrounds are brightly and happily colored … while the Cogs are dressed in their black business suits and their buildings are a drab gray color. The animations were good and humorous, and there were a few good environmental effects tossed in like falling snow and moving clouds. The environments are not as big as some MMORPG games that are out on the market so there’s not as much free roaming to do, but this also helps to make it a lot less confusing and decrease the chances of someone getting lost.


Sound: 8.5
The sound isn’t bad at all, and everything from the thudding walking noises to the zips and bangs of gags and exploding Cogs has a very cartoon style feel to it. The characters talk in animal noises and Cogs will grumble in a grouchy tone as they walk around the city. The music in Toontown ranges from happy to a little more sinister, depending on what area you happen to be in or what you just did since music will play after battles or events. It’s not bad, but a little quiet (I didn’t even notice it until I had played a couple of times) and consists of looped tracks. 


Difficulty: Easy
It’s really easy to pick up and get into, but is also challenging enough to be fun but not frustrating. There is a quick tutorial in the beginning to help players understand the basics of playing and getting into the game, and everything from there is simple to figure out and utilize. For example, one jellybean will get you one gag and everything in combat is simple point and click stuff.


Concept: 9.0
This was not only a great idea, but it was also executed very well. They managed to make a solid and enjoyable game that has all of the elements of an MMORPG that make it fun, but also made it family friendly so that anyone old enough to operate it can play it. In addition, adults can have just as much fun playing it as kids can, which is always a big plus in my book.


Multiplayer/Overall: 9.0
This game is a multiplayer only title, so my overall impressions are going to go to both categories. Personally, I haven’t found many complaints that I can sit here and gripe about with Toontown even though I tried to get nitpicky with it just to try and find SOMETHING major. Really, the only thing that I can say is that a lot of die hard MMORPG adults out there may not find it as entertaining as I did to quit playing what they are currently playing, but I would at least say to give it a try especially if your kids want to play EQ or whatever you are playing in that genre. You won’t be slaying monsters or dragons, you won’t be flying around with an army to destroy or save the world, but you will find that same level of interaction and MMORPG opportunities in a different setting. If you have networked computers and have kids that enjoy games, what better way to do a bonding thing than with an MMORPG? Well, finally there is one out there that is a lot of fun and won’t leave you worrying about what your kids may do or see while online. Thanks to Disney and especially the developers for a good, fun, family friendly online game.



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