Disney Dreamlight Valley looks like Animal Crossing with a Kingdom Hearts twist

Make room for Disney Dreamlight Valley, a new Disney-inspired life sim that feels like Disney adults got their hands on Animal Crossing’s source code. In combination with yesterday’s formal announcement, I had the chance to participate in a hands-off demo to see a little bit of the vision the developers at Gameloft have for the game. It’s going to be hard to resist the appeal of talking about a brand new Disney game, completely in the lyrics of Disney songs, but I’ll do my best to curb that impulse.

Hi! Clear the way in the Old Bazaar. Hey you, let us through, it’s a brand new star. Oh, come, be the first on your street to meet his eye

Disney Dreamlight Valley is not only a life sim game, but also the ultimate isekai fantasy of a Disney adult. In it, your character is dragged into a world broken by an event called The Forgetting. It’s up to you to team up with your favorite Disney characters, restore the world with your special powers, and create a place where everyone can live comfortably and harmoniously again.

At first glance, DDV reminded me of Kingdom Hearts. It’s hard not to make the comparison as game manager Manea Castet showed me in the early moments of the demo a dark world overrun with nasty looking vines that only the main character could dispel with her magic. But rather than a Kingdom Hearts analogy, Castet said that DDV took its inspiration from the adventure games of yesteryear, such as Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle. Instead of fighting to achieve your goals, you are tasked with non-combat tasks such as fishing or crafting.

You’ve never had a friend like me!

There is also a strong social element to the game. Every Disney character you meet has their own story that you can only develop if you improve your friendship with them. In the demo, Castet’s character befriended Goofy by fishing with him. The more you fish with Goofy, the more your friendship grows, the more rewards you earn and the more stories you unlock.

There are many characters to befriend in DDV, each with their own perks that you can unlock as you progress through their standalone stories. For example, Scrooge McDuck runs the local shop where you can buy cosmetics for the home. Remy runs the restaurant where you can experiment and learn new cooking recipes that you can then give to your friends.

But to earn these perks, you must first earn the characters’ friendship. Castet explained that during the events of The Forgetting, the Disney characters fled the shared world and retreated to the relative safety of their original home worlds. Ariel returned to Under The Sea, Simba to Pride Rock, and so on. To get them back, you have to travel to their world and solve puzzles to finally bring them home. In the demo, Castet traveled to a garbage-strewn, ruined world to find a scared and cautious Wall-E. Castet said that a majority of the characters you meet will involve puzzles that you must solve in order to gain their trust in taking them home. He also said that unlike Kingdom Hearts, when you visit these worlds you will not experience a replay of Disney movies, but will experience completely new stories created in collaboration with Disney.

Hello! Hello! we’re going to work

If you’re not going on an adventure with Wall-E or fishing with Goofy in Disney Dreamlight Valley, you have a ton of other activities to do. In the demo, your guide Merlin gives you a dilapidated house that you can refurbish, expand with additions and decorate to your heart’s content.

You explore the world to find tools such as a pickaxe or shovel that you use to gather materials for your crafts. It’s all very Minecraft-esque, and what you can’t make, you can buy. Looks like that’s the endgame vision for Dreamlight Valley. Once all the Disney characters are rescued and the world is restored to its former glory, your job will be an indoor and outdoor decorator. Castet showed me the world in its endgame state, and it was filled with oodles of stuff he’d placed to create the Disneyland of his dreams.

Decoration is also not limited to the world. Your character is also a blank canvas on which to show your style. There are many clothes and cosmetics you can buy, hairstyles to wear and even a system that allows you to design your own clothes.

I’ve got voodoo, I’ve got hoodoo, I’ve got things I haven’t even tried! And I have friends on the other side

I admit I’m skeptical of the Dreamlight Valley idea. Disney is a huge, global entertainment monopoly with infinite money and the worst political practice. I feel like I’d be better off with my time exploring something brand new and not made with the blessing of a company that seemingly exists to buy up every little bit of pop culture and sell it back to consumers ad infinitum . But there’s a reason games like Animal Crossing and The Sims are as popular as they are, which is why Disney Dreamlight Valley has an alluring charm that even I, the semi-Disney adult that I am, can see.

Disney Dreamlight Valley is getting early access on PlayStation, Xbox Game Pass, and PC this summer, with a free-to-play release in 2023.

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