Disney Crossy Road Demonstrates How the Arcade Experience is Being Re-Invented for Mobile

Disney Crossy Road Demonstrates How the Arcade Experience is Being Re-Invented for Mobile

First, take a dash of Frogger. Then add scrolling, lots of collectable fuzzy friends, some Disney chiptunes, and--

We have a tendency to think of arcade-style games as "retro." That assertion isn't incorrect, but the arcade experience isn't necessarily frozen in time. The genre is constantly undergoing a change-of-form on mobile platforms.

Though plenty of mobile game developers are lending a hand to the reconstruction of the classic arcade experience, Hipster Whale is arguably at the forefront of the charge. Its revolutionary "hopper," Crossy Road, got people talking with its cute voxel graphics and original take on the Frogger formula. Instead of restricting you to a single screen, Crossy Road slowly scrolls you across an endless array of busy traffic veins and treacherous rivers.

Your goal remains unchanged from the original Frogger's -- survive a hostile world's attempts to kill you long enough to get a high score -- but Hipster Whale also added an irresistible collection element to the mix. As you play, you grab coins that fund a Gashapon-style game. You might draw a rare character, or you might wind up with doubles. Either way, the character you decide to lean on doesn't change how Crossy Road plays. It's just a fun and addictive extra that encourages you to keep on playing even after you've jumped face-first into the side of a moving truck for the tenth time.

(Incidentally, Crossy Road also revolutionized free-to-play game mechanics. Players are offered the choice to watch ads or abstain. If they agree to sit through a pitch, they're rewarded with coins. You give a little, you get a little. The system is now widespread across free-to-play games.)

Hipster Whale has since gone on to add the "endless" treatment to other arcade games and genres. Shooty Skies is a never-ending shooting game, complete with big, wacky bosses and power-ups. And Pac-Man 256 is literally a Pac-Man game with an endless, glitched-out maze that a honestly looks and feels like something out of an unsettling dream. It might not be your ideal version of Pac-Man, but if you approach it with an open mind, you might be surprised at how quickly it imprints itself in your memory.

Pictured: Mufasa in the grip of a cruel premonition.

Hipster Whale recently double-backed on its first hit, and treated that to a bit of revision. Disney Crossy Road is another Frogger-style hopper, but its levels are retooled with a Disney theme.

Disney Crossy Road isn't the first time Crossy Road mixed things up with an outside property, but this is the first time an instance of cross-breeding warranted a separate release. Disney Crossy Road doesn't simply feature Mickey Mouse hopping across the street (though it has that, too). When you unlock characters, you unlock their relevant stages as well. Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph comes with Sugar Rush and all its hazards (watch for speeding Go-Karts). Nick Wilde from Zootopia hops around Tundra Town, where you'll probably spot Mr Big's limo. Banzai the hyena prowls across -- where else? -- the Savannah.

I even unlocked one of Sid's hell-toy hybrids from Toy Story and guided it through a toy room lousy with tumbling blocks. Avoiding death is such an environment is tough, though the hybrid doubtlessly prayed for an end to its tortured existence with every leap it took.

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

Disney Crossy Road isn't nearly as innovative as its predecessor, but it successfully adds even more incentive to keep playing and collecting. And, like vanilla Crossy Road, there's no need to bust open your piggy bank if you want to unlock a favorite character: It's easy enough to do so over time by collecting coins, collecting the free gifts the game hands you, and watching the occasional ad.

Though, if you're in a rush to get baby Simba squashed by an animal stampede, you can buy him right away instead of relying on the luck of the draw. Hipster Whale has to rake in in-app purchases somehow.

However you decide to play Disney Crossy Road or its older brother (try out the new multiplayer mode if you're playing the game on Android!), take some time to observe how it pays tribute to Frogger while adding touches that make it ideal for the kind of bite-sized play sessions mobile platforms thrive on. It's cool to watch games evolve.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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