You’ve probably played Crossy Road. The endless riff on Frogger finds its protagonist in some kind of videogame hell, crossing roads, rivers and train lines.
Death is inevitable, whether by way of getting run over, drowning, finding yourself splattered across the 9:45 to Waterloo, or being snatched off screen by a giant, screeching eagle if you have the audacity to dawdle.
What set Crossy Road apart was its chunky visuals, friendly freemium model, and the huge range of characters you could win or buy, many of which dramatically updated the game’s visuals. The game almost became a template, aped by countless others. But none beat the original - until now.
And if your heart sank on seeing the word ‘Disney’ before ‘Crossy Road’, don’t be concerned - download the game and it’ll soon be singing.
Initially, the game performs a rare mis-step, given that you start off with Mickey Mouse leaping about the place, in a world almost identical to Crossy Road’s. The visuals have black outlines, recalling classic animation, and the railroad lights bob about to the background music, but otherwise you get the feeling this is yet another in a long line of unimaginative movie cash-ins.
But then, as in the original, a fistful of virtual coins is hurled at your face, giving you the chance to try your luck at winning a new character from the prize machine. At that point, everything changes. You discover the game has nine distinct worlds, and although they all use the Crossy Road template, each expands it in new and creative ways. This not only keeps the game fresh, but in some cases provides a more compelling - and sometimes sterner - challenge.
In Wreck-It Ralph, you can play as normal, but the only way to get really high scores is through quickly collecting candy, ramping up a multiplier. You must therefore speed about - far riskier than taking your time. In Tangled, crates endlessly tumble towards you, as if an off-screen Donkey Kong was having a closing-down sale. And Lion King replaces trains zooming across the screen with herds of stampeding buffalo.
Our favourite moments, however, come in Haunted Mansion and Inside Out. The latter has you running about collecting ‘memories’ to fling back to base, for bonus points; the former boasts rampaging suits of armour that force you to keep moving, a spooky voiceover, and candles you must keep alight, to avoid being enshrouded in gloom.
Such nods continue right down to the smaller details, such as chip-tune renditions of film soundtracks (the bloopy You’ve Got A Friend In Me from Toy Story being particularly joyful), and the eagle being replaced by something more suited to the world in question, such as Toy Story’s claw.
Bar the odd launch niggle and some of the more elaborate worlds very occasionally blocking your view, there’s nothing to grumble about here, unless you hate both Crossy Road and Disney with the kind of passion that results in a venomous stare that melts a plastic Mickey figurine at 100 paces.
And to be fair, we were fully prepared to hate this game, reasoning it would be yet another cash-in, on app stores already full of horrible and lazy cash-ins. Instead, it’s super, to the point we’ve even set notification reminders for free coins. So now we just hate ourselves.