For something a little dark but oh-so-fun, there's nothing quite like My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Story of the Blanks for fans of the series. In this fan-made retro adventure, Apple Bloom convinces Twilight Sparkle in letting her tag along on a delivery run to Zecora. The only problem is that they will need to pass through Everfree Forest and everyone knows that's no place for a young filly. What could possibly be waiting for her in those woods? Or better yet, will she be able to escape?
A Dark Secret
Not a fan of the franchise? Don't worry, you don't have to know or be into all things My Little Pony to be able to appreciate the game's storyline. The heroine of the story, Apple Bloom, is a curious little pony -- the best kind of character to thrust into a horror scenario. After convincing Twilight Sparkle to let her deliver some books on herbs to Zecora, the latter asks them rather ominously to return quickly to Ponyville. Though they think her message was odd, they simply head home. Unfortunately, they find that there are some trees that are blocking their path. While Twilight Sparkle attempts to move it out of the way, Apple Bloom sees a filly watching them. She follows the stranger and finds herself in a quiet, pony-filled town where the residents don't have cutie marks. The horror ensues from that point on.
The story is downright creepy, in a good way. What makes it even more hair-raising is the fact that there's no skipping events. You are required to investigate odd little things to progress in the story, learning about what lurks in the unsettling village known as Sunny Town even when you know something bad is going to happen.
Another great thing about My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Story of the Blanks is that its control scheme stays true to the platform it emulates. All you need to mind are the directional controls and one more button to interact with the world. Taking the time to talk to the game's bizarre cast of characters not only reveals details about the plot, it also immerses you in the game's haunting, non-canon universe. There are ponies unique only to the game such as Starlet and Roneo, Gladstone who has never heard of cutie marks before and even a "celebration planner extraordinaire" named Grey Hoof. We love the transition from normal Sunny Town to its darker version as the game doesn't rush you through the process. What starts out as a normal town celebration ends in a surprising twist. Why haven't the village ponies earned their cutie marks? Why are they isolated from the rest of Ponyville?
Additionally, it is possible to access a hidden Level Editor for those who wish to try their hand at tweaking the game. The conditions to open this up is non-game play related and could only be accessed by playing the SWF version of the game.
Is it a Dream or a Nightmare?
Considering that it is an indie-title much like the beloved pony creators shared on the web, created almost single-handedly by the artist/programmer Donitz, we can't ask for more in terms of improvements. The game is masterfully done and is downright creative when it comes to the NES-like delivery. The in-game art is good enough to pass for an official title, with its retro style and moody colors being a very good fit for its mysterious theme. The level of detail that went into the game is apparent all throughout the game. From the game's in-character script to the ponies' portraits, it stays true to the franchise while still retaining its own style.
As for its storyline, well, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Story of the Blanks may not stick to the canon storyline but fans of the series will likely find the liberties it has taken to be entertaining to say the least. We assumed it would be like most innocent pony games and certainly would not have thought that a could get so dark and twisted that it defies the very kid-friendly nature of the animated series. We were impressed with the creator's daring take on the lore, even going so far as introducing new characters. It's fresh and unexpected, which makes it worth a look even just to satisfy one's curiosity.
It's not a terribly long game so it's perfect as a lunch break title. Keep in mind that it's not for kids and young fans of the series as they may get scared of the scenarios. Play the MLP game here for a few harmless scares. Not yet sold on the idea? Here are two words for you: Zombie ponies. How can you say no to that?