MMO Family: First impressions of Ganz's Amazing World

WebKinz is one of the oldest kid-friendly MMOs around, and it still boasts a healthy community, long after other running titles have closed their doors. But Ganz Studio recently launched a new MMO that takes the WebKinz spirit and plants it in a colorful 3-D world. Amazing World combines cuteness with adventure and adds a more modern look and feel.

But is Amazing World really that amazing? In this week's MMO Family, we'll take a look and give some first impressions!

Starting up

Character creation is easy and simple, which is always important in a kid-friendly MMO. When you begin play, you can select a cow, rabbit, or bear as your Zing. I was originally leaning toward the bear because it reminded me of the Care Bears, but I ended up choosing the cow. From there, you can get right into the game, and you aren't prompted for any other information until after you land in Spring Bay. The nice thing about that is that you get to "kick the tires," so to speak, before you have to provide a username, password, and email confirmation. And when you do, it's in the form of your character's "Passport," which is reminiscent of the WebKinz birth certificates for each pet.

The game is free-to-play, but you can upgrade and purchase a membership for $7.95 a month (there are discounted prices for 6- and 12-month membership plans as well). Membership lets you access all of the game content, since some NPCs are flagged as members only. The level restriction is removed, and you can also access all of the items in the store, plus there is no limit to your friends list and you can unlock private chat.

You can also purchase your very own plush Zing, just like the WebKinz plush pets that are for sale. When you purchase a Zing, you can enter the code and play as your Zing in game. Each Zing also comes with a unique in-game item.

Story

You begin your adventure on an Airship, and you're introduced to your guide, Bloom. As she's showing some of the gameplay basics, your journey is interrupted by the arrival of Vexa, Queen of the Nix. The Nix, an army of impish, but adorable critters, have only one goal, which is to destroy everything and anything amazing, and they get to work destroying the airship you're on. Luckily, you hop a ride with Bloom and glide down to safety in Spring Bay.

From there, Bloom shows you the variety of activities you can try out in Amazing World. She needs help defending her garden from the Nix, so she sends you out to scare them away and replenish her garden. As in WebKinz, you earn a space of your own to decorate, and you receive some yard decorations for your efforts.

Fun and games

But there's more to Amazing World than just running errand quests. There's a nice feature called Team Play, where you can enter one of several areas and join others to complete various objectives. You're working together to win the event, but you're rewarded individually based on your overall contribution. It's essentially a public quest for kids, which is something you don't normally see in a family-friendly MMO. The only issue I had is that I accidentally wandered outside the Team Play area a few times because there's no defining boundary, and I wondered whether my contribution reset whenever I did. It's relevant only because the overall leader is displayed on screen during the event, but darnit, I want that shining crown icon over my head someday!

In addition to the Team Play activities, there are Zing NPCs all over the world that offer different types of quests and minigames. Some tasks ask you to complete a platform-style puzzle game, where you have to unlock barriers, launch yourself over obstacles, and search for particular items. There are also puzzle games, which literally are jigsaw puzzles you have to manipulate to piece together an image. If racing is in your veins, you'll enjoy the Springmobile, a speedy racecar that you can steer through various courses. And you'll have a chance to test your memory with a minigame that's similar to Simon. But I was especially pleased to see that there's also a fishing minigame, and it's got just the right amount of challenge for young players. As you complete each task, you earn in-game coin, experience, and specific skill points based on which NPC you talk to.

WebKinz connection

There are several aspects to Amazing World that will be familiar to WebKinz fans. There's a prize wheel that you can spin three times each hour to earn coin or prizes. There's also Rune, an NPC who asks you to seek out treasure and return it for a prize, which is similar to the Gem Hunt game in WebKinz. And there's no end to the variety of clothes and decorations you can earn in-game. Unlike WebKinz, though, Amazing World offers a 3-D style of gameplay using the Unity Engine. As a result, Spring Bay is a vibrant, open-air playground compared to the individual 2-D rooms of WebKinz.

Overall, Amazing World is a fun MMO, chock-full of things for young gamers to do. The UI is simple, and there are some nice touches that make the game more accessible to the younger audience. The NPCs have voiceovers, which is helpful for beginning readers who can listen and follow along with the text. And when you have to seek a certain item, such as a Nix, plant, or worm, you simply have to run over it, rather than interact with by clicking with a mouse. For kids who are still learning to use a keyboard and mouse, this is a nice way to ease them into using keyboard controls. I was also happy to see that the game is fairly open-ended. I followed Bloom's questline for a while but broke off to talk to Cosmo, who offered several space-themed activities. I expected that he'd turn me away and make me continue to work with Bloom, but once I cancelled her task, I was able to pick one up with him right away. And at any point, I could head over to the Team Play area and jump into the action.

Amazing World is a nice choice for young gamers, particularly those who are seeking out their first MMO. Fans of games like the recently shuttered ToonTown, for example, would find this a nice alternative. Now that the game has officially launched, it's held a tie-in event in WebKinz, and it's also running a campaign on Steam Greenlight to get itself listed. From the looks of it, there are a growing number of Zing players in game, so those Nix better watch out!

The MMO Family column is devoted to common issues with families and gaming. Every other week, Karen looks at current trends and ways to balance family life and play. She also shares her impressions of MMO titles to highlight which ones are child-friendly and which ones offer great gaming experiences for young and old alike. You are welcome to send feedback or Wonka Bars to karen@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.