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My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch & PC)

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My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery Promotional Art

When the so-called Mac Genius over at my local tech store informed me that gaming on a 1998 iMac G3 wouldn’t be feasible, he forgot to mention that, when it came to booting up modern games like My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery, an iMac G3 could’ve very well functioned as well as, say, a Nokia 3310. Aside from its simplistic graphics, My Little Pony is, in spite of its best efforts to broaden its scope and appeal to a slightly more materialistic demographic of modern gamers, a barebones, albeit niche series that probably won’t appeal to anyone under the age of, I don’t know, eight? However, as a “professional” in this rather unruly field, I feel as if I have to align my best interests with those of another, slightly younger and more open-minded aficionado. Fine, I’ll review it.

In case you’ve yet to onboard the latest chapter in the ever-sprightly, candy-popping pony-centric IP, then just know this: My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery is, in short, a single and two-player co-op game in which players take to the hoofs of a troupe of colorful characters and—you guessed it—knuckle in on an ever-alluring mystery that just so happens to encase itself in wisps of magic and curiosities. Are you with me so far? Great — then let’s press on.

For the record, A Zephyr Heights Mystery is not, in spite of it looking a great deal like its counterpart (we’ll get to that in a moment), connected to A Maretime Bay Adventure. The question is, which of the two is better, visually, mechanically, and aurally? Let’s talk about it.

To M̶a̶r̶e̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ B̶a̶y̶ Zephyr Heights!

Everypony avoiding hazard (My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery)

We’ll start out by saying this: yes, A Zephyr Heights Mystery is, more or less, a souped-up version of 2022’s A Maretime Bay Adventure—to the point of it sporting pretty much all of the same controls, themes, and collectibles. But there’s a slight change to this mix here: there are a few new characters in the fold, and not to mention a rather nifty narrative that also allows an additional player to join in with the antics. Aside from all of that jargon, A Zephyr Heights Mystery is, in layman’s terms, a total cakewalk in which just about everyone can scoot through. I say this, mainly because my four-year-old also played it, and was able to sweep the vast majority of its mini-games and basic platforming mechanics beneath the rug without needing any additional assistance. Phew.

All in all, you’re looking at a rough six-hour story here, which is mostly comprised of short stints around the titular world, and essentially having you pluck various semi-open world biomes clean of various doodads, nickknacks, and other collectibles that radiate some form of moral message about the power of friendship and love. Like the prequel, the game also features a select number of short and easily accessible mini-games—bouts that occasionally require you to hit buttons in a timely manner, herd some cattle into a coupe, or navigate through a series of elegant hoops. Suffice it to say that, while several of these games can be a little threatening for a newcomer to the genre, they are, for lack of a better word, forgiving, to say the least.

To state the obvious, anyone can pick up A Zephyr Heights Mystery and solve its casket of “riddles.” Well, unless you’re still tied to the womb, in which case you might struggle. Might.

Friendship Conquers All

Ponies jumping across parasols in market square (My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery)

A Zephyr Heights Mystery comes seasoned with all of the rainbow-smothered trappings that you’d expect from the My Little Pony franchise—a roster of toothy grins and fluffy tails, and a moral code that pretty much reminds you every so often that, no matter how tough the situation may seem, “friendship” can always remediate the issue and aid the cause — whatever that may be. And that’s essentially what this latest chapter is: a gentle reminder of what My Little Pony aims to represent in its bubblegum-like world. Does such a message resonate with an older audience? Eh — I’m not saying that it doesn’t resonate with an older audience. With that said, this is, and respectably so, a game for younger eyes; its message speaks volumes for those unaware of the meaning. In other words, adults probably won’t gel with it all that well.

While on the subject of storylines, A Zephyr Heights Mystery tells the tale of—you guessed it—the ever-colorful ponies and their quest to banish a mysterious magic that’s turning the world on its axis and causing rather peculiar events to unravel across the kingdom of Equestria. Either alone, or with the aid of another person, you must enter the luscious candy-encrusted boroughs of its cattle-centric world, and gradually shovel through a wide array of tasks, whether it’s skating down the street, slotting bunnies into their communal hutches, or working to obtain certain items to either boost your own appearance, or fund some other venture on the opposite side of the city.

Maretime Bay 2.0

Ponies herding bunnies (My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery)

Whilst you could certainly argue that this is a mere clone of its predecessor, A Zephyr Heights Mystery does, believe it or not, tout a few additional bells and whistles. Is there enough to make a sequel seem even the slightest bit justifiable? Eh, it’s a matter of perspective, to be fair; if you’re an avid fan of the franchise, then you’re far more likely to spot all of the major differences, whereas, if you’re a complete novice in the world of taming mohawk-sporting, rainbow-spewing ponies, you might struggle to tell the two sides apart. And, to be fair, I can sort of relate to the latter half of the argument, as A Zephyr Heights Mystery isn’t, when all’s said and done, that different from its next of kin.

Of course, it’s easy to recommend the latest installment in the saga to anyone with a heart for it, as it does at least make an attempt to add a bit of extra flair to the mix by incorporating new cosmetic items, collectibles, and, dare I say, a generous overhaul to its existing mechanics and UI. This isn’t to say that it flows without a hitch, mind you; in fact, it does often struggle with relatively low frame rates and the odd camera jiggle — and not to mention the occasional audio and dialogue stutter, to boot. Sure enough, these are mere snags in the overall design that, if given the tender love and care that they deserve, could quite easily become a little less burdensome in future post-launch patches or hot fixes. Don’t get me wrong — it plays well enough, but to say that it sets the new standard? Mhmm.

Verdict

Everypony smashing set of crates (My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery)

As the saying goes, if you’ve played one My Little Pony game, then you’ve played ‘em all. Such is the case with A Zephyr Heights Mystery; it idles in receipt of all of the same mechanics and niche items as its predecessor, with the only exception being its inclusion of a few new familiar faces and cosmetics. Does this warrant a sequel at all? Probably not, no. But then, I, being the skeptical, no-nonsense-talking person that I am, do not fit into this particular target demographic — like, at all. If, however, I had previously established a lifelong relationship with the franchise, then I might’ve seen things in a clearer light, and probably wouldn’t have spent the two or three hours of playing it questioning its inability to differentiate itself from its prequel. Swings and roundabouts, though — you know how it is.

Of course, if you are a bit of a die-hard fan of the franchise, then there’s every reason for you to onboard the latest entrée in the series and run with it. If, however, you like to make a habit out of comparing certain things with others of a similar nature, then you might just find yourself putting A Zephyr Heights Mystery on the same pedestal as, well, any other My Little Pony game that has come to light over the past, I don’t know, ten years. In a nutshell, the game is, in all honesty, a 2.0 of A Maretime Bay Adventure, and so, if it’s a “new” game that you’re after, then you might as well bite your tongue and wait for Outright Games to capitalize on something with a little more originality. For a whopping $40, too, it feels like an insult at this point.

My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch & PC)

My Little Emulation

My Little Pony: A Zephyr Heights Mystery doesn’t dare to stray all that far from the blueprint that was initially conceived for A Maretime Bay Adventure back in 2022 — which is a bit of a double-edged sword, in ways. Don’t get me wrong, it does make the effort to include a couple of new characters and mini-games, but to say that it’s a huge step forward for the series wouldn’t be totally accurate.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.