Whether or not you are familiar with the Disney Tsum Tsum toy range. Originally imported from Japan, these collectibles were essentially small plush toys – felty to the touch, but rectangular in shape so they could be easily stacked into pyramids and other formations. Of course, Disney’s endless catalog of adorable childhood icons was perfect for slapping the faces of those feverish dreams into Funko Pop Vinyl representations. These monstrosities flooded the impulse departments of JC Penney stores everywhere between 2014 and 2017. While the line of physical toys quietly ceased production, the franchise found new life in the form of highly rated mobile games (everyone’s favorite!).

Thanks to their success in the mobile space, Disney thought it would be fun to dip their toes into console games, and now we have the Disney Tsum Tsum Festival for Nintendo Switch. These days, if a mobile developer rushes their game to the Switch, they’re laughing outside the building, but it’s hard enough for Disney to keep the title. It was first announced on Nintendo Direct in February of this year, and they’ve even teamed up with Bandai Namco to release it – you know, the Smash Brothers guys.

In this day and age, when these types of games that are damaging to reputation are getting worse and worse, it was actually quite special to see one of them get the lead role on Nintendo Direct. I’m not saying the listing in Direct is an indicator of quality, but the title is definitely a statement. I was really curious if it would hold up and what kind of Disney-themed creature mouse game would even suck.

Unsurprisingly, the Disney Tsum Tsum Festival is a collection of mini-games – the genre that defines the Wii era and is a calling card for Shovelware games around the world. At the beginning of the game you choose the Tsum Tsum you want to play, then you go to the arcade lobby where you can choose from all the games. The original mobile game is fully available, with new multiplayer and touch controls for the portable mode. But it’s an interesting addition to the title, as the new mini-games easily steal the show – eleven in all, each with its own game mechanic and online ranking. Since the Tsum has little to offer in terms of mobility, much of the difficulty lies in pursuing other Tsum on foot or using Tsum to control other units. This is a good concept for an accessible game aimed at a younger audience. The restrictions placed on the characters force them to simplify the controls, and a stronger experience is created by the fun visuals and sounds made throughout the game.

In this case, it works because the graphics are bright and colorful and incredibly loud for playing on small and skinny collectible toys. The festival’s carnivalesque, non-specific aesthetic serves to contextualize the action, but adds little to the overall experience. The aesthetic of theme parks in video games died in 2001 with Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure, but for some reason developers can’t get rid of it. It’s technically the second biggest Disney collaboration to come out after Kingdom Hearts, so you’d think the crossover would potentially make for something more creative.

The minigames themselves are a lot of fun. Most of them have a local game up to four Zums and a pretty easy way to knock out a few minutes. But once you’ve gone through them all (unless you’re at the top of the leaderboard for a particular event), the novelty fades quickly. Younger players may want it, but for everyone else it’s a pretty dry source of content. Even with all the little collectibles and items to unlock, the replay value is low.

There are a ridiculous amount of different Tsums you can unlock and play, but they are purely cosmetic. The only benefit is the ability to represent your favorite Disney franchise as you play. You unlock these characters with gifts that can be purchased with money earned in various games. If they look like safes, that’s exactly what they are. Even with the gifts offered at the beginning of the game, it’s an incredibly semi-transparent progression system that greatly diminishes gameplay. This is especially true when compared to its contemporaries in the board game genre, which offer much more content that is not randomly unlocked piece by piece.

As far as I know, there is no way to bring real money into the ecosystem, but the fact that it still works in the game only serves to standardize the more predatory practices of publishers in all areas. Clearly, this is a game that young children will relate to. Children who do not understand how such practices can limit someone are at increased risk for gambling addiction and financial recklessness. The evil genre that only exists and thrives in the mobile space because free games are the dominant business model in this market. It’s not something that ever comes out with a good taste of console gaming with a pre-release price.

Disney’s Tsum Tsum festival is certainly not the worst crime, but it rightfully ruins an otherwise fun name. The bright world of Tsum Tsum is as bright as it is charming, and the mini-games support the presentation decently. A little more precision and an update to the progression system would have been incredible. The planned live events for online gaming promise additional content, but since this is also a mechanism that comes directly from the mobile gaming market, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Assessment of the Disney Tsum Tsum Festival
  • Charts – 7/10
  • Sound – 6/10
  • Gameplay – 7/10
  • Late complaint – 5/10

6/10

Final thoughts : WARNINGS

Your favorite Disney characters become the stars of easy-to-play party games that are never fun, and Disney’s Tsum Tsum Festival can definitely bring you the fun when you need it. But we can do much more with this concept than with anything else. Advances based on batch boxes and a general lack of content have really gotten to the heart of this problem. If you have a young child that you want to play more Switch games, it’s a pretty solid family title, but unfortunately its scope doesn’t extend much further.

Evan Rude is a journalism student and amateur gambling historian. His favorite Guitar Hero III song was Even Flow.

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