The ToonTown Online graphics engine is quite adequate for gameplay, and the shapes and colors are very good at reproducing the cartoon look and feel. That said, the low polygon count does hamper the visuals somewhat, and drops the game lower on the visual scale than other MMORPG competitors like EverQuest. Of course, this does allow for faster gameplay on wider potential system base, and Disney has included game resolutions from 640x480 to 1600x1200, so those with faster PCs can jack the resolution and enjoy much nicer graphics. The sound effects portion is quite good, and although most in-game music can become grating, the ToonTown Online soundtrack is upbeat without become tiresome. For those who feel differently, the game audio can be turned off through the configuration screen.
To be truly successful, an online game environment must add new features, tweak existing ones, and give veteran players new and exciting challenges. So far, Disney has been quick to update certain features, along with testing out some new ones. Fishing is a great example, as it initially started as a physical exercise of baiting a jellybean, casting and reeling in a fish at random. Later, it was adjusted to "target practice" of casting and hitting a fish shadow dead on, which really didn't work and was a great way to lose jellybeans. Currently, it's more like real fishing where you can aim for the fish, but are given a minute for them to actually move closer and bite.
A new area, Cog Headquarters, has been opened up, and allows higher-level Toons go into disguise and wage war on the Cog's home turf. ToonTown is also the victim of Cog Invasions from time to time, where extremely high-level Cogs take over building after building in a given district. Invasions are dangerous times to be a Toon, but it does heighten the sense of impending danger. There are holiday themed events, such as a Halloween Bloodsucker Invasion, New Year's Fireworks, and likely some upcoming Valentine's Day treats.
Disney also offers sanctioned contests, like the recent Toon Marathon, where everyone competed in a wide range of events, and an inaugural Fishing Tournament. There are also non-sanctioned events, such as a real marathon, where players race from one end of ToonTown to the other. The other major enhancement has been the catalog (or cattlelog in Toon-speak) where you can use jellybeans to buy items for yourself or you home. Initially a player's house had no use, but once catalogs appeared, you could redecorate the whole thing, and then invite some Toon friends over to ogle your new furniture, wallpaper or fish tank.
The inherent value of any online gaming membership is based on the enjoyment level, and we really had a hoot during our time in ToonTown. There is a lot of gaming hidden inside the ToonTown facade, and it's also a very easy game to grasp and perfect for kids both young and old. This is also a totally online product, and the installation program downloads automatically, checks your system and then loads, so there is no need to go buy a physical game in order to start.
Disney offers a free 3-day membership (no credit card required), but be forwarned, if you don't sign up after that, your characters are deleted. Here are the price levels for ToonTown Online memberships:
$79.95 for Annual Membership
$49.95 for 6 Months
$9.95 per Month
Disney's ToonTown Online turned out to be a lot more fun that we anticipated. Sure, the basic cartoon premise seems geared towards kids only, but it has the same addictive qualities of other online multi-player games, and you'll start out completing that final task or finishing up a Gag Reel, and find a few hours have passed. There are some niggling issues, such as long-term interest and the difficulty in amassing quantities of money, but overall, this is a very fun online game that can be enjoyed by all ages.