Hipster Whale founder Matt Hall laughs when I mention that a collaboration with Disney seems like a meeting of giants. "We're certainly not on Disney level," he says.
He's right, few companies are as large as Disney, but Hipster Whale is nothing to scoff at in the world of mobile gaming. The Australian company skyrocketed to success in 2014 thanks to Crossy Road, a meeting of Frogger and Flappy Bird.
Now it's just dropped its biggest collaboration yet, and it's full of delights for fans of both Crossy Road and Disney.
"We were just introduced through a mutual friend. They didn't reach out to us, we didn't reach out to them. It was just like, hey why don't you two have a chat?" Hall said of Hipster Whale's partnership with Disney.
"The notion of making not just [Disney] characters into figurines into Crossy Road, but a whole new app, that was almost an immediate idea that we've been working on ever since for the last 12 months."
The game, which is available free now on iTunes and Google Play, is quite a bit more involved than the original Crossy Road. It starts out with a world similar to what you know and love from the original game -- Mickey and friends cross roads, rivers and train tracks in a very familiar voxelised environment.
However, you'll quickly learn the reason why Disney Crossy Road took 12 months to build, as opposed to the 12 weeks the original game took. It includes nine worlds based on Disney and Pixar films, and each of those has its own look, feel and rules.
These include worlds inspired by Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Haunted Mansion (based on the ride), The Lion King, Toy Story, Tangled, Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph. They're all based on the same road-crossing gameplay, but each brings something new to the table. In Haunted Mansion, for example, you need to keep candles lit or it becomes too dark to play, and suits of armour will kill you in the safe zone if you're not careful. Wreck-It Ralph plays in the sugar rush stage, with power-ups to collect, and the Toy Story world takes place in Al's Toy Barn.
That one is Hall's favourite.
"You're walking down the aisles of Al's Toy Barn with balls jumping at you and chattering teeth, bouncing left and right, so there's two new enemies there," he said. "And then the world structure changes completely, so you go through an aisle and then you've got the cross aisle and that's where the car will appear. So it completely changes the way the game is played."
Because each world has its own scoring system, they also have their own leaderboards.
Each world has its own characters, too, and Hipster Whale has added a new feature that lets you know how rare characters are, so if you are having trouble getting, say, epic-level character Princess Vanellope, you may choose to spend a few bucks and buy her. And, of course, there are characters that can only be unlocked by performing specific actions in the game, as well as other Easter eggs that reward careful attention.
"That's why it's taken so long," Hall joked.
Mostly, though, the process has involved taking a lot of care with the characters and franchises, working with people such as Pixar character designer Ricky Nierva to make sure the game is faithful to the original characters and worlds.
"It's been not only a lot more time, but a lot more people, and I hope that all the extra effort showed," Hall said. He was also careful to note that the original Crossy Road would continue to receive attention from the team.
"Externally it might look like a quick Crossy Road game, but we put an enormous amount of effort into it.In many ways, there's like nine different Crossy Road versions. In addition, we're not stopping at nine franchises, we are continuing to work on more. And we'll have regular updates to Crossy Road."