Disney Dreamlight Valley is a hybrid between a life-sim and an adventure game rich with quests, exploration, and engaging activities featuring Disney and Pixar friends, both old and new. Once an idyllic land, Dreamlight Valley was a place where Disney and Pixar characters lived in harmony—until the Forgetting.

Disney Dreamlight Valley released last week, and I played (forced) my way through it so you don’t have to. Do note, this review is based on the Xbox version, though I don’t expect much difference across the platforms.  

I like Disney animated movies as much as the next person, and I love Animal Crossing, so I came into Disney Dreamlight Valley with at least a slight tinge of hope. It was clearly a third-party, AA game, as the $29.99 price tag tells, so I was at least prepped for what that usually entails. I avoided spoilers, wanting as always to go into a game blind, and I figured worse comes to worse it’ll just be an average, if not mundane, time-passer I could come to now and again based on the trailer.  


Disney Dreamlight Valley: Too Glitchy for Gameplay?

If you’re even able to play the game, through horrific framerates and/or crashes, there’s not much waiting for you there. I cannot stress enough that the framerates are atrocious, especially if you, god forbid, try to access your inventory or the menu. I’m not sure how this is, as there were not one but two 2.5 GB updates across the three days leading up to its release.  

Unskippable cutscenes

What’s the game like then, you ask?  Well first, you need to get through the cutscenes to get to it. The cutscenes are unskippable – and don’t get me wrong, I’m usually the person who has to tell my friends what just happened because they skip all the story and dialogue – but the Disney Dreamlight Valley cutscenes do absolutely nothing for the story. The very first cutscene is just a trailer for the game, which you don’t need to show me since I’m, you know, actively playing the game. The rest just tell you things that will then be repeated to you by the character you speak with immediately after. (The story follows the usual “An unknown evil has fallen upon us, the main protagonist is the single person who can stop it” trope.)

That said, take those cutscenes when you can, because they’re the only times you’ll be hearing much of anything (and even then, half that I’ve encountered are entirely just subtitled, no speaking whatsoever). Disney Dreamlight Valley didn’t spring for voice acting, instead using just a handful of (sometimes knock-off) sound clips when speaking with characters that will very quickly get on your nerves. Otherwise, be prepared to play in dead silence and/or to turn your volume all the way up to hear the background music… only then to get your ears blown out by a “A-hyuk!” or “Hu-ha!”.  Risk adjusting the voice volume meter at your own peril, as doing so almost crashed my game with my attempt.

Quality of Life

Quality of Life and smooth gameplay are non-existent in Disney Dreamlight Valley. Framerates aside, the obscene amount of Night Thorns you have to clean up atrociously slogs down the game and your enjoyment. The design controls are absolutely mind-boggling – I’m too angry to really go into them – and so slippery you’ll think your controller is drifting. You can’t just pick something up; instead you magic it to a few steps ahead of you, where you can then go pick it up, (unless it gets stuck behind something, like, I don’t know, a telescope maybe). Sometimes items don’t even need to get stuck, they just simply won’t register. 

You get one movement “speed”, which is anything but. Surely there can’t be stamina, then? Oh, but there is, and it’s as awful as every other stamina mechanic on the planet. Just to pad out the gametime, it’ll take you an hour to catch a Sprout Boot or get enough money to lose immediately on creating/improving a building (curse you Scrooge McDuck). Don’t get me started on the bug that made me unable to feed animals for an hour. (Let me make WALL-E happy damn it!)

Merlin decided to see what I was fuming about, but rest assured, even if he’s not there, I still cannot pick up this cursed memory.

The stench of corporate propaganda permeates the air, but you already really know that when going into the game, being Disney-themed and all. Still, I think there’s a (as close as you can get to) “right” way to subliminally message me with Hidden Mickeys, but this wasn’t it.  

The realms you go to to find and return the Disney characters are incredibly small and lifeless. Not to mention, they’ve got dialogue continuity errors, both with what’s said and what’s happened on screen. The missions on each are ridiculously quick and easy.

Disney Dreamlight Valley: The Pros

Is there anything good about this game? Well, I love a witchy aesthetic, so I do enjoy the magic animations of getting rid of the vines or summoning a tool. In spite of its overt capitalistic influences, the designs of the game are fun. (Every piece of furniture must have Mickey ears on it, or I think you’ll get arrested.)

The in-game time changes with real-world time, which I always enjoy for some reason. Mickey is very cute sitting on a chair, I have to say. And WALL-E (my beloved) is as adorable as ever. The game did two singular QoL things right – crafting accesses your storage, no matter how close nor far, and you can access the wells through the menu. The biggest positive the game has is the writing (other than the Forgetting); it’s actually quite good, equal parts touching and comical when it wants. 

While I’m sure the team behind Disney Dreamlight Valley put their heart into it, this game isn’t AAA, and it shows. Hot dog, does it show. 

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