Harry Potter Meets Disney Villains
Have you ever wondered what might happen if you took the world of Harry Potter, Disney villains, and anime, and threw them all together? The result might look a lot like Disney Twisted-Wonderland, a mobile game by Aniplex. Its setting is Night Raven College, a school for those with magical abilities where the houses and dorms are based on Disney villains. It reminds me a bit of Fire Emblem, a game in which you pick specific students (which equate to cards, in Twisted Wonderland) to develop for battles. The game is strongly centered around narrative, and some of the scenes (vignettes) don't really have chances for you to interact or do much of anything, though they're still enjoyable to read. More on that later.
Each chapter of the game is robust, with plenty of dialogue, battle scenes, and sequences where you interact with the screen to a beat (Twistunes). You get various rewards for completing scenes, including currency you can use to purchase new card sets, upgrade cards you have, and more. Best of all, paying to play is not required. Your stamina for taking lessons is restored generously and quickly, maybe a little too quickly, because I've been on this game for hours on my days off from work. This makes it a little hard to get things done around the house, but I love a game that's charming, fun, and that I can get lost in, especially when there is no shortage of bad news and disturbing things going on in the world.
Let's review a few of the most charming and fun specifics about the game!
The graphics and character designs for Twisted Wonderland are highly attractive. Even the fonts are impeccable. Similar to Fire Emblem, the characters are drawn anime-style with stunning detail and colors for each house. Many of the story scenes just feature the character image, not actions, that corresponds with the dialogue, but that is about what I would expect for a game that is largely free to play. There is still enough detail that makes this extra fun to play on the iPad, although you probably wouldn't miss too much if you played on a smaller screen.
The game is quick to load over a Wi-Fi connection, which is another plus. You'll need it to be fast with how quickly your stamina (LP) regenerates! You'll need stamina to take classes, which help you level up your characters in several different ways. The choice of how and who to upgrade is up to you, so choose wisely. Personally, I like the daily classes that give alchemy tokens and notepads to improve spells. Character card levels are important for raising hit points and power, but I like to strengthen their spell-casting for battles too. You can also upgrade characters' vignette levels, which makes mini-chapters about specific characters available. Vignettes are read-only; there is really nothing for you to do in them, but you do get gems for going through them.
It is not difficult at all to progress in the beginning. As with a lot of mobile games, as you progress in the chapters, you have to be strategic about card upgrades so you can win more difficult battles. You do have to have a little patience, but overall, I am not having to wait for ages to complete chapters. Between that and the quick stamina regeneration, I can easily spend hours in Twisted Wonderland.
Cards and Upgrades
After playing for about a week, I have managed to unlock 34 cards, or about 20 distinct characters. Each card has a unique appearance, type, and stats. For example, I can have two cards of the same character, but one type is defense, while the other is attack. The two different versions of the same character can also hold different spell types. This can be important for battle arrangements or what you want to accomplish with your characters.
I have mainly used free gems to unlock cards, and these are abundant early in the game too. For strategy, it might be overwhelming to continuously summon new characters every time you get enough free gems because upgrading cards costs honey (obtained through taking lessons) and thaumarks, another form of currency in the game's world. You can get thaumarks by clearing stories or Twistunes, and yes, it is possible to run out if you play enough. Honey is probably the most precious resource so far, because I'm always running out of it. I've managed to upgrade five characters past level 25 after playing for seven days. If you have more time to be on the game, you could probably do a lot more! It really just depends on how you play.
Play to Enjoy
My favorite thing about the game is that it is easy to play purely for enjoyment and not fall into the traps of FOMO or trying to amass more power than others in the server just to survive. Twisted Wonderland also does not burn me out with multiple events going at once (ahem, I'm looking at you, King's Choice) so that I can enjoy the main narrative. If you're a busy person who does like to escape into games during breaks in your day, this is perfect for that.
The only social feature I have really discovered so far is that you can bring guest characters, cards which belong to and have been upgraded by another player, into your battles. This is somewhat familiar to me since I have played one other Disney game, but it's not something I see a lot in the other strategy games I've played. It might be good for an extra boost if someone has a card that has been leveled up significantly, but I can't speak to its helpfulness otherwise since I haven't done much with it yet. You also have the option to friend request players whose cards you use, but so far, I haven't. I enjoy solitude in my gaming experience because it's a little less pressure.
Quick Pros and Cons
I can't stop playing Twisted Wonderland because:
- Stamina (LP) regenerates quickly, and you get extra whenever you level up your character.
- It's not too difficult to progress in the story, especially if you continually keep an eye on your cards and upgrade them whenever possible. For best results, don't pour everything into just one card. Aim to have at least five heavy hitters for battles, and more of different types if you can manage.
- The graphics and story are intriguing. You can't go wrong with a story that combines familiar characters and stories with a magical setting.
- Dialogue is fun to read, and each character has a distinct personality and backstory that is well-written.
- The variety of activities keep things interesting.
- I don't have to be social or play in a team if I don't want to.
What I'm not loving so much is:
- Your character in the game does not have magic and is just there as a guide for the students. It's a little lame, and I'm hoping the non-magical ability turns out to be a mistake! Alas, I can't give you spoilers because I haven't played the entire way through yet.
- There are some things you can only buy with paid gems, meaning you do have to spend money if you want them. (Don't worry. There are still a lot of things you can do without ever having to whip out your credit card info.)
- Paid gems are a bit costly, and they're combined into packages with free gems that you can't use on certain items. For example, there is a package that says 40 gems for 99 cents, but you're really only getting 12 paid gems for that price. The other 28 are considered free gems. Just pay attention to what you're buying, if you are a spender, and make sure you're getting the best value for what you pay.
- As with any game, the higher you progress, the more challenging it is to continue leveling up as you need more items to upgrade spells. Some items are available but limited in the alchemy store, so the best way to get them is to take the daily lessons as much as you can.
If this sounds like a game you'd like, you can download it in the App Store or Google Play. If you do download it, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!