Released in Japan in January 2014 (and July of that year in the West), Tsum Tsum is based on the Disney stuffed animals of the same name. Literally meaning "stack stack" these stuffed animals look like popular Disney characters and are designed to stack on top of one another.
The game itself is a simple puzzle game. You have a screen full of five different Tsums. If three or more of the same character are next to each other, you can draw a line from one to the other "popping" them. The larger the chain, the more points you get. If your chain is long enough (7 or more), a bomb appears on the screen which you can tap to pop all the surrounding Tsums. When you pop enough Tsums, you will enter "fever time" which gives you a bonus to your score for a short time.
Many Tsums are full of coins which you get when you pop them. These coins can in turn be used to buy various power-ups to increase your score or cash flow. But the main point of gathering coins is to buy more Tsums.
When you play, you chose one Tsum to be your avatar. By erasing enough of your avatar's Tsums, you can use that Tsum's special ability. Some abilities pop a large swath of Tsums while others turn some Tsums into other ones for a limited time or stop the clock for a few precious seconds.
While everyone starts with a Mickey Tsum, you can use your coins to get a random Tsum from one of the gift boxes. You make enough money through the levels and daily challenges to get a cheap Tsum every day. But if you want the better ones, it will take about two days or more to save enough for one — at least in your first few weeks with the game.
Unfortunately, that randomness is the one major downside of Tsum Tsum. To level up your Tsum's special skills, you need to get two of the same Tsum. There are currently 40 different "premier Tsums" in the Japanese version of the game (which I played) — meaning each time you have only a 1 in 40 chance of getting the one you want. Those are pretty darn frustratingly low odds. Each round of Tsum Tsum takes a grand total of a minute — though this can be increased a bit through power-ups and skills. Playtime is somewhat limited, however.
You start with five hearts and it takes one heart to play a round of the game. Hearts are restored naturally at a rate of one per every 15 minutes. There is also another way to gain hearts: your friends. Once per hour, another friend playing Tsum Tsum can give you a free heart over LINE. So with equal parts thankfulness and annoyance, I can tell you my phone hasn't stopped buzzing since I started the game last week.
Like most social games, there is a pay aspect. With real world money, you can buy gems. These gems can be turned into gold or into hearts. And while I haven't yet broken down, I can see how tempting it is to drop some hard earned cash and attempt to get the Tsums I want.
All in all, Tsum Tsum is short, quick, and fun — perfect for any time you have a few free moments. This is no doubt why it has proved to be so popular. And though it is rather repetitive, the social aspects — i.e. playing against your friends — and the various daily challenges keep me coming back day in and day out.