Game Review: Pixie Hollow – Fairyland

I am a great fan of Enid Blyton. Her boarding school series as well her mystery series were always a part of my childhood must-reads. But my favorite was always the Enchanted Tree series with Moon Face, Saucepan Man and other pixies residing in the cloud lands above the trees. So, I was delighted when I saw Pixie Hollow –Disney‘s online MMORPG. It is a fairy land atop an enchanted tree of pixies. The big difference is that you can be a part of it too.

The game starts by allowing you to create a fairy. Unlike other games where character design is limited to appearances, this design allows you to select your particular talent or skill. As the game is based on the story that the fairies look after the natural world, each fairies’ skill is related to nature. All quests in the game are based on this theme. Each talent has a lead fairy who will assign the tasks to its team fairies. The central fairy in charge is Tinkerbelle. She welcomes you into the pixie hollow with a quest. As you enter, you report to her. 
If you are like me – fascinated with anything fairylike and enigmatic – you will get addicted to the game. No matter your age. Pixie hollow is a huge magical tree. It has four top foliage groups, each of which represents a land based on a season. You can flit around from land to land as a fairy. The land is full of collectibles, shops and ‘addas’ or hideouts. When you visit the hideout, you can either chat to a fairy or get a new quest from her. 

 The quest normally involves gathering natural things such as berries, twigs, dewdrops etc. Some things can be obtained naturally lying around as you explore the land. While some others such as dewdrops or bubbles involve playing a mini-game. Mini-games are also available when you choose to learn a skill such as tailoring or baking. These are cleverly designed theme games.
The social aspect of the game is limited in scope. It is similar to another MMORPG only in certain aspects such as chatting and shopping. It does not have any joint quests or duels or demons to fight. You cannot form a team to solve a quest. Thus, you do not interact with another player in game play but only to chat with. As you flit around in pixie hollow, you will meet other fairies. You can make friends with them, whisper, chat or just ignore them.
The game is based on sound ID principles. The player is constantly engaged by beautiful graphics excellent music and more importantly the game play. There is always a task that she can do. Even if the fairy simply hovers in air, a honey comb or a leaf or berry might appear from nowhere and she simply clicks to collect it. The music is soothing and relaxing.

The game builds motivation constantly. Each task has a reward. Just gathering twigs can be useful It allows you to buy something. Or it may be useful in a quest. A shade or a color for your dress would cost you 25 twigs or a pretty bauble may set you back by 75 snowflakes. In a quest, the animal fairy might ask you for berries to feed the deer. And if you have already gathered them, you will complete the quest faster. After a few quests, membership is required, which is again payment based. 
The instruction is clearly written and audible. Instructions are even repeated as instruction text if needed. The game guide and characters build the atmosphere of calm, peace, magic, enchantment. 
It has a non linear navigation, which allows you to jump from anywhere to anywhere. It also has a very useful mini map which acts like the game menu. The game information and help etc. is contained in a cleverly designed menu in the form of a leaf journal. The leaf journal has information on quests, fairies, a help document, etc. There is also a pouch to store all collectibles. At every stage the leaf journal gives you menu options to do things, go places, make changes etc. 
Overall the gaming experience is pleasant, engrossing, lovely, and musical. It took me on a nostalgia trip back to my childhood and all those wonderful books by Enid Blyton which I have long given away. It recreated the world of fairies and Disney characters online. While nothing can ever replace the Disney cartoons and animation flicks, this game allowed me to interact with them in an intelligent manner. In this game Disney probably found a new target audience- that of the older and grown up ‘kids ‘rather than the five year old who watch Mickey Mouse Playhouse and learn Math with Mickey.


Content Layering

Have you ever travelled along the stretch of road between the Chakala- Lever-Bisleri junction and Andheri  east to west flyover?  If you have, you may have noticed Hotel Suba…You cannot miss it. It’s the only shining structure after rows of trash trucks and vehicles.

Have you taken a good look at it?  It’s a monstrosity of a building actually, disregarding the drive in area, that is. 

To my mind, it’s a fantastic example of content layering in a typical elearning program.

How so?


Elearning Programs

Layer 1

Your user interface and graphic shell. Your look and feel and overview of the program get contained in this layer. The reader is introduced to the program at this layer.

The shining outer surface of the Hotel. The décor , the atmosphere all form a part of your first impressions.
Layer 2

The informational aspect of your elearning program gets tackled here. What do you wish to tell your user? What should the user know? All your teach screens are contained here.

Just like the hospitality- presumably it’s up to standards – at the hotel. The reception, lounge, room instructions will give you ample know how on how to conduct yourself on the premises.
Layer 3

The interactivities occur at this layer. This is the section where the user interacts with the program with activities and clickables to engage the user.

Your interaction with the hotel for various services.

So, why just the Hotel Suba? Any hotel model will do. Up to Layer 3, there is no doubt that any other hotel will do just as well. But let’s check Layer 4.


Elearning Programs

Layer 4

The Check Your Knowledge –Were you awake and fully conscious as you read the program or did you browse through it in a dreamlike state? Your assessment grade is bound to reveal this.

In short, did you see all the aspects of the hotel? Did you see that it is a part building and part hotel? Well, it would not have been obvious, if the hotel front had not been shining, while the back portion looked as if it were glaringly cut out of the MHADA buildings for slum rehabilitation. Funnily enough, there is a small sign board near it which says – slum paradise.
It sure tests your wakefulness in the world.

If you have not really read through your elearning program in detail, it is likely you will fail the assessment. If you have looked only at the sheen and the gloss of Suba, you have missed what lies behind. Perhaps you have failed the test of being fully conscious.
An instructional designer organizes concepts within several layers such as: the information layer, the control layer, the strategy layer, and the message layer.
The casual reader will be content with the surface layer content. However, the person with an in-depth interest might dig deeper.

So you can choose really, whether to read this post at the surface level or whether you will dig a bit deeper.