You may or may not be familiar with the Disney line of Tsum Tsum toys. Originally coming from Japan, these collectibles were essentially small plush toys – felt-like to the touch, but rectangular in shape so they could easily be stacked into pyramids and other formations. Naturally, Disney’s never-ending catalog of lovable childhood icons were a perfect fit to spank onto the faces of these fever dream interpretations of Funko Pop Vinyls. These chibi monstrosities flooded the impulse sections of JC Penney stores everywhere from around 2014-2017. While the physical toy line has quietly ceased production, the franchise found new life in the form of heavily monetized mobile games (everybody’s favorite!).
Thanks to their success in the mobile space Disney thought it’d be fun to dip their toes into console gaming and so now we’ve got Disney Tsum Tsum Festival for the Nintendo Switch. Now, normally when a mobile developer hastily ports its game over to the Switch they’re laughed out of the building, but Disney was actually backing the title pretty hard. It was first announced as part of the February Nintendo Direct earlier this year and they even teamed up with Bandai Namco to publish it – you know, the Smash Brothers guys.
With how bad of a reputation licensed games like this get nowadays, it was actually kind of head-turning seeing one getting the spotlight at a Nintendo Direct of all things. Not to say that being featured in a Direct is some measure of quality, but it definitely makes a statement with a title like this. I was genuinely curious as to how well it was going to hold up, and what a game about dead-eyed Disney themed mice creatures would be like anyway.
Much to the surprise of probably no one, Disney Tsum Tsum Festival is a mini-game collection – THE defining genre of the Wii era and a calling card of shovelware titles everywhere. At the start of the game you select whichever Tsum Tsum you want to play as and are then dumped into an arcade-like lobby area, where all of the games are available for your selection. The original mobile game is available in full, beefed up with new multiplayer and touch controls for handheld mode. This is a rather neat addition to the title though, as the newer mini-games easily steal the show – eleven in total, each with their own gameplay mechanics and online rankings. As the Tsums don’t have much for a range of mobility, a lot of the challenges involve chasing down other Tsums on foot or using the Tsums to control another apparatus of sorts. It’s a good concept for an accessible game geared toward younger audiences. The limitations of the characters force the controls to keep things simple, and the more robust experience happens via the visuals and jovial tone that encompass the entire game.
It works in this case, as the visuals are bright and colorful and incredibly loud for a game about small and subtle collectible toys. The carnival and non-specific party aesthetic gets the job done for tying the events together under a similar context, but it adds very little flavor overall. Theme park aesthetic in video games died in 2001 when Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure happened, but for whatever reason developers can’t seem to move on from it. This is technically the second biggest Disney collaboration to release behind Kingdom Hearts, so you’d think that kind of crossover potential would yield something a little more creative
The mini-games themselves are genuinely fun. Most have local play with up to four Tsums and are a pretty easy way to knock out a couple of minutes. However, once you’ve played through them all (unless you get really into climbing the leaderboards for a particular event) the novelty is going to wear off fast. Younger players may want exactly that, but it’s a pretty dry well of content for everyone else. Even with all the little collectibles and unlockables, the replayability is slim.
There’s a ridiculous amount of different Tsum Tsums to unlock and play as, but they are purely cosmetic. The only benefit is the ability to rep your favorite Disney franchise as you play. You unlock these characters through “presents” that you can purchase with currency acquired throughout the different games. If this sounds like loot boxes, it’s because that’s exactly what it is. Even with the free presents given away to start out the game, it’s an incredibly hollow-feeling progression system that brings down the title significantly. This is especially true when you compare it to its contemporaries in the party game genre that offer up significantly more content that isn’t unlocked randomly one piece at a time.
As far as I know, there isn’t any way to incorporate real money into the ecosystem, but the fact that this is still worked into the game only serves to normalize more predatory practices from publishers down the line. Obviously, this is a game that smaller children are going to be attracted to. Children who may not understand how these practices could condition someone over time, putting them at greater risk to gambling addiction and financial recklessness. It’s a bad look, one that only exists and thrives in the mobile space because free-to-play games are the dominant business model in that market. It’s not something that ever appears in good taste from a console game with an upfront price tag.
Disney Tsum Tsum Festival is by no means the worst offender of this, but it legitimately mars an otherwise fun title. The light-hearted Tsum Tsum world is as vibrant as it is charming and the mini-games actually do a decent job of backing up the presentation. A bit more polish and updating the progression system would’ve gone an incredibly long way. The planned live events for online play offer up some promise of additional content down the line, but as that too is a mechanic ripped right out of the mobile game market, it’s not something I would hold my breath for.
Disney Tsum Tsum Festival Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 6/106/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 5/105/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Your favorite Disney characters star in an easy to pick up party game will never not be a fun time, and Disney Tsum Tsum Festival can absolutely bring the fun when it needs to. But so much more could’ve been done with the concept that it just feels underwhelming more than anything else. The loot box based progression and overall lack of content really hitting this issue home. If you have a small child that you want to get playing more Switch games, this is a solid enough family title, but its reach unfortunately doesn’t extend much further.
Evan Roode is a full time journalism student and amateur game historian. His favorite song from Guitar Hero III was “Even Flow”.