“Disney meets Animal Crossing” is such an obvious recipe for success that it’s surprising it wasn’t created 15 years ago. Disney Dreamlight Valley, which launched in Early Access last week, finally turns that into a reality, and at its core it offers everything you’d expect. You run around a town making friends with Disney characters, helping them out with basic chores and offering them gifts, while fishing, gardening, cleaning up the town, and decorating your house. (Uncle Scrooge fills the Tom Nook role, of course.) Its socialization is actually more in-depth than Animal Crossing’s, with a level system tracking how tight you are, and you’ll have to convince many of your new friends to move back to your town by helping them out with various tasks—like, say, helping Remy from Ratatouille cook up some meals at his restaurant. It sticks closely to the tried-and-true Animal Crossing template, but offers enough twists to define its own identity outside of the Disney nostalgia. It’s a smart take on this type of game, and would be a must-play for any Disney fan—unless they own a Switch, on which it’s very frustrating to play.
I’ve heard it runs far smoother on PC, but the Switch version of Disney Dreamlight Valley is almost unplayable in its current state. Hard crashes back to the main Switch screen might actually be the least annoying of its many issues; that’s happened to me a few times, but I’ve never actually lost any progress, as every crash seems to have happened right after a save. No, the major issue with Disney Dreamlight Valley, at least on the Switch, is that everything takes longer than it should—just like when you go to a Disney theme park.
To accomplish almost anything in Dreamlight Valley, you’ll have to juggle between menus regularly, and every single thing you have to do inside those menus has just enough lag to frustrate the heck out of you. You need to pull up a menu? It’ll take what feels like more than a second to actually open. Is the specific inventory screen that you’re looking for not the first one to pop up? Well, wait a half-second or so for every page that you need to scroll through. Did you pick the wrong item, or hit an incorrect button, or just need to close this menu for any reason? You better have some patience. The Switch feels like it’s swimming through molasses whenever you do almost anything in this game.
It also struggles with recognizing when a mission is completed. More than once the game has refused to acknowledge that I’ve done everything a quest has asked me to do. A restart often takes care of that, but it’s neither fun nor convenient to keep exiting and rebooting a game just to get it to work properly.
Even its most basic foundations can unexpectedly freeze or take too long. The camera, always sluggish, is an outright obstacle when you’re trying to update the way your town or house looks. The interface to place and move furniture is so inherently bad that I assume that’s a platform agnostic issue and not just a problem with the Switch version, but the pauses you’ll have to deal with while trying to even open that menu might only plague Nintendo players. Whenever you have to transition between any two screens, you’re faced with an unreasonably long gap, and you’ll have to jump between screens constantly.
I’m usually reluctant to complain about technical issues like this. They have to be bountiful and omnipresent for me to care about them, and especially so for me to actually write an article all about them. And I realize Early Access games are by their nature unfinished and can suffer from a variety of hangups when they first launch. But the Early Access version of Disney Dreamlight Valley isn’t some free beta you can just mess around with. The game itself will be free-to-play when it officially releases, but the only way to play it right now is to pay for the Founder’s Pack (or subscribe to Xbox Game Pass). The Founder’s Pack comes with a bunch of incentives that you won’t get from the eventual free-to-play version, but those aren’t worth much if the game itself is too annoying to play.
If you want to play Disney Dreamlight Valley on the Switch today, you’ll have to pay for it, and right now the Switch version is so aggravating that I can’t recommend it to anyone. Its developer Gameloft (a studio that focuses on mobile games) has announced that patches are coming for the Switch version, so perhaps those will clear up everything that’s ailing it and make it playable on this system. And, as I mentioned above, I’ve heard that the PC version, at least, runs noticeably smoother than this one. (Paste will soon have more thoughts on Disney Dreamlight Valley from a writer who has played the PC version.) But at the moment, trying to play this game on the Switch is nowhere near worth the hassle.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.