ToonTown

Lately I’ve been getting back into to ToonTown for some reason. I know I know it is a kids game. Really that has never bothered me though. I’ve always looked for top quality games regardless of who the game is targeted at. To me, if the game is fun it is worth playing. And honestly, ToonTown is fun and thus it is worth playing. Well at least for short bursts it is. It is kind of like City of Heroes where the repetitiveness comes up really quickly in the game.

In a way though, it really isn’t as bad as CoH, which in a way is sad. This is largely because of the plethora of things to do in it. The designers have done a great job in creating breaks for the player to really spice the game up right when you are getting bored.

A Grape PB&J Fish?You go around town fighting cogs, but eventually you run out of weapons (gags) to fight with so you need to return to the playground to get more gags. Now in order to buy more gags you need the currency of the game which is jellybeans. Unlike other MMOs, you don’t get anything off the cogs (monsters) themselves, you are fighting those solely to finish quests. So when you get back to the playground you need to earn jellybeans in another way. The easiest way to do this is either by playing mini-games or by fishing for awhile. This in itself is a major break in what you were doing. The mini-games are pretty varied as well. They are all short and simple and there are seem to be around 15 of them. Some of them are only single-player games, some are multi-player (up to 4) and some are both.

Then there are the alternate advancement things that vary up the game. You can get a pet but these cost more jellybeans which you can only get by capping your bucket, the overflow then goes into some sort of bank that can only be used on pets and the cattlelog. Pets seemed silly to me at first but then I learned they can heal the entire group in battle, yourself included so they do have a great benefit to the game. It just takes time to get one. There is also the cattlelog like I said which again has more expensive items that range from house items, gardening items, new speed chat emotions and sayings, and I think also you can buy yourself different color chat bubbles, clothes, and names with different fonts, all of which are kind of cool. (I haven’t tried gardening yet but I hear you can grow gag trees so that you don’t have to buy them in town).

The combat system itself is very basic. The developers brought the systems of MMOs right down to the core. It is completely turn-based which gives it an old-school feel that I truly appreciate. When you use your gag, it gives you experience in your gag skill and after so many experience points you get to learn a new more powerful gag. There are seven gag categories that range from AOE, single target, accurate single target, high damage single target, stunning, trapping, and healing. Healing never heals yourself which can create some interesting situations. The system isn’t overly intuitive but it is very solid and it makes it enjoyable.

One of the other things that really drives the game is that there is something ALWAYS to look forward to getting. More than most MMOs I find myself going “I will play until I finish this quest so that I can get this” and then once finishing and seeing what is on the next quest I find myself staying for the next one! That is because the quests are very powerful in a lot of ways. In most games quests are just a means of getting loot and money. In this game, that is the least bit (although you can do those, people for the most part ignore them unless they have no other choice).

Here, your leveling is basically done through quests. If you don’t do quests you don’t level. But they segment it out. Some quests help you gain more health to take on bigger cogs, some quests give you access to new skills, some quests allow you to carry more jellybeans or gags, or give you teleportaion to certain areas. The quests here are so important that they are integral to the game’s design. Even in World of Warcraft you can not do quests and in many ways it is actually faster for you not to, here you can’t do that. You must do the quests.

Fighting in ToonTown still has its dangersTo me the weakest point is the dungeon play of the game. They are basically a grouping of cogs that you must complete and you cannot run from in order to get any credit for any of it. They are done in buildings and the difficulty is based on how many floors there are (1-5). I realize this is actually similar to how it works in other MMORPGs, however given that you are battling in gray buildings (unlike the colorful streets) makes it less special than normal fights. The saving grace is that there are two boss cogs for each type of cog that only appear in buildings and you need these to get higher level skills later in the game (another thing to strive for is killing each type of cog a certain number of times for these high level skills).

The other big knock is chat, which has gotten better from ToonTown’s inception. It used to be that you could only talk in speed chat unless you added someone to your friends list, and changed an option in your preferences panel and your friend did this too, and I think you may have even had to add the friend to another list in the preferences panel. Now anyone can understand anyone’s normal chat unless you don’t have the option turned on. There is still censoring however, and the annoying censor in particular is numbers. I think they didn’t want people telling their age to others but this is prohibitive when you are trying to tell someone you want to do a four story building. I do understand wanting to keep kids safe, though I think this is kind of extreme.

Overall, ToonTown is a great game. It only costs $5 a month too to get the all inclusive subscription. You can also play for free, however you can’t do buildings and you probably are limited in how high you can go skill wise, can’t do the normal chat and have to live with an annoying red button asking you to subscribe constantly. It is a good price for $5 and given that you don’t need to invest a lot of time with it, it is a good MMORPG option for those with jobs. I also decided to do it to allow my daughter some time on it when I have her more this summer.