Like the toys themselves, Disney Tsum Tsum Festival is a mutated mess that is both adorable and yet utterly bewildering. On the face of it, this is a collection of mini-games populated by stylised versions of your favourite Disney characters, yet it doesn’t quite live up to that promise.
This is in part down to its roots as a mobile game, which are very much apparent here. Disney Tsum Tsum Festival is derived from a free-to-play match-three title that first launched in Japan, which sits at the core of this package. Every character you unlock has a special ability specifically for the match-three sessions, and coins you earn are either spent on power-ups for the puzzle game or to unlock more characters.
Of course, you can’t sell a full-price Switch game that’s solely a port of a free-to-play mobile puzzler so this package has been expanded with ten other mini-games – plus a Festival Tour mode that plays through them in random order.
Tsum Tsum Festival has clearly been developed with family nights in mind; Switch Lite and handheld players will only be able to access the match-three puzzler, played with the console held vertically. And it’s not exactly suited to millennial roof parties either – many of the games (and even the main menu) are far too chaotic to follow on the Switch’s small, kickstand-supported screen.
Herein lies the core problem: most of the games are a bit too frantic and unforgiving for the young children this game is targeting. Take Spinner Battle, for example, which harks back to the old spinning top toys and challenges you to knock each other out of the arena to steal your opponent’s Tsums. The characters are so small, the action is so fast and the match is so short (just one minute) that it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening – even on a big screen.
Similarly, Round ‘n’ Round Run – which is a procedurally-generated assault course in which you have to collect the most jewels – features a moving camera that moves that little bit too fast to give you adequate time for most things you want to accomplish. Throw in a few CPU players – who are naturally talented at all games and cannot have their difficulty reduced – and kids will be ending with a fraction of the score they would want.
It doesn’t help that controls in some of the games feel a little imprecise. The Egg Pack Coaster, which should be one of the most enjoyable games, is particularly bad for this and as a result, can be unforgiving. You don’t simply tilt around the bends; you have to tilt in time with the eight or so arrows on the side of the rails. Trouble is, when you’re hurtling along at a minimum speed of 100km/h, you inevitably resort to Wii-style waggling and have to hope your motions are registered. For younger players, they might not be, and after five misses, it’s game over.
Tsum Rhythm is another prime example. A self-explanatory rhythm action game, the Joy-cons just don’t seem to register your movements as accurately as you’d like, and for some songs available, the symbols you’re trying to match don’t even seem to be in time with the beat. It’s also odd that, given Disney’s world-famous repertoire of songs, only one of the six tracks is actually a recognisable tune: a techno version of the Mickey Mouse Club March you will have stuck in your head for days.
What makes all of this so disappointing is that the range of games on offer is actually pretty good, and each of them comes in a few different flavours. Most have both versus and cooperative options, plus challenges and daily missions (another hallmark of mobile games that made its way into this Switch title).
Some of the minigames can actually be good fun. Bubble Hockey, for example, is a little less frenetic than the others and opens itself to a little strategy. Tsum Chase, meanwhile, is a fun Pac-Man clone (a little nod to publisher Bandai Namco), but these two games alone aren’t enough to shake the frustrations of the whole collection.
One odd inclusion is Lost Treasure, which serves as more of a mechanic to unlock the 100-plus characters than an enjoyable game in its own right. If players don’t want to spend the 10,000 coins required for a Present Balloon, which unlocks a random character, they can instead play this coin pusher mini-game to win whichever Tsum is available for a limited time.
The problem is this mode is confusing and gives you little control over the outcome – much like real coin pushers. In fact, you will be literally throwing away the money earned in other games and get little-to-nothing back for it. The air of gambling that hangs over this game feels like another free-to-play trapping somehow snuck into a full-price title (although it’s worth pointing out there are no real-money transactions here).
Disney Tsum Tsum Festival may well still appeal to kids. The visuals are adorable, and it can be exciting to spot a stylised version of your favourite character in the background. It’s not that the overall game is terrible; it’s just not as fun as it should be, especially with better party games on the Switch.
An inoffensive mini-game collection that tries to deliver a little of that Disney charm, but it feels like the type of lacklustre Wii title that was abundant during that console’s golden era. With the availability of Super Mario Party or even Carnival Games, it’s hard to recommend this – unless you’re a really big fan of Tsum Tsums. Not Disney, just the Tsum Tsums.