Carrying on from Just for Sidekicks, Games Ponies Play show us what happened while Twilight and friends were in the Crystal Empire. Despite preparation, everything seems to go wrong as they try to impress the inspector for the Equestria Games. Up to and including confusing a random visitor for the actual inspector. Finally, after the misunderstanding goes on for far longer than warranted, they discover their error. But fortunately the good time they showed the visitor is paid back when she tells the inspector of how good she was treated.
The moment they went to pick up the inspector from the train station I knew exactly where this story was going. Granted, I am considerably older than the target demographic, and I tend to know what happens in each episode before it happens, but there's a certain limit where a story goes from being predictable because I'm an adult, and becomes tiresome to even watch.
The case of mistaken identity is such an old trope that the moment I see someone use it I immediately abandon all hope that they will do anything interesting with it. I'm always open to be surprised, but as of now I have yet to see a fresh approach to this tired trope.
I try to be fair when reviewing MLP:FIM and to not hold them to the same standard of writing I would hold something like Game of Thrones. But generally I find that the writing for this show holds up even with the heavy weights of the industry. Which makes a disappointing episode like Games Ponies Play stand out all the more. In a more mediocre series this episode would be perfectly fine. Considering some of the shows I've seen, this might even be the best episode in a much worse show. But after waiting two weeks for a new episode, especially after loving the last one so much, I am nothing but disappointed.
There are entertaining moments, but the majority of the episode is unwatchable for me thanks to the lazy plot. I might enjoy it more on a rewatch, perhaps, but overall I find myself disappointed by what we've been given. That isn't to say I think I deserve better, I've been given enough by this show to forgive even the worst episodes. But that doesn't mean that as a critic I won't point out the bad ones. And this qualifies as one of the rare bad episodes MLP:FIM has produced. Though, it is still more enjoyable than a good chunk of children's animation I've come across.
I will say, though, in this episode's favor, it answered one of the biggest questions in the fandom, "Who are Rainbow Dash's parents?" And while only half of that question was answered, and granted we only get to see what her father looks like, not who he is as a character. And granted we have yet to meet Applejack and Fluttershy's parents, at least it's a step in the right direction.
While I hated the overall plot, there was enough to keep this episode from getting the lowest grade possible. And I am fully aware that this just might be a personal pet peeve of mine, anyone that isn't annoyed by the misstaken identity trope will find this episode perfectly enjoyable.