There was once a time when Disney’s bright and cheery cast were stars in their very own adventures, the likes of which were often talked with the same high regard as classic heroes like Mario, Sonic and more. Even Mickey Mouse himself had a number of excellent outings on the SNES and Mega Drive in Mickey Mania and the Magical Quest trilogy. A long time has passed though and while it seems Disney is starting to utilise its rich history of IP in everything from kart racers to Animal Crossing-style comfort food, as far as a good single-player adventure game goes, things have been lacking.
Step forward Disney Illusion Island, a game that on paper sounds like a home run. Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy on a Metroidvania-style adventure complete with four-player co-op, full voice acting and an art style that reminds of the excellent Rayman Origins and Legends. What’s not to love?
Instead of setting the game in the familiar worlds of Disney, Illusion Island rather unsurprisingly takes you to an all-new island, a fact that may disappoint fans but rest assured, the game is packed with references and winks to the company and Mickey alike. The heroic quartet are tasked with locating three legendary tomes scattered about the locale in order to help its residents restore order once more. It’s a rather light setup that fits right in with a game of this genre, and in fact, feels like an extended episode of the recent Mickey Mouse TV show. This is certainly helped by the game including full voicing in its cutscenes with the famed voices of Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy all present and accounted for.
As for the actual game itself, Disney Illusion Island plays out like your typical Metroidvania adventure, with its assortment of biomes all interconnected as one giant world and your journey taking you back and forth as you unlock new abilities that grant you access to newer areas. For the most part, it’s nothing you likely haven’t seen already twenty times over even down to the character’s growing line-up of abilities that extend to swinging, hovering, wall-jumping and butt-stomping. The platforming feels solid with the emphasis on avoiding combat an interesting twist that even extends to its boss battles. That being said, it’s a minor twist and one surrounded by familiar ideas and mechanics. But safe doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing for what Disney Illusion Island might lack in surprise and originality it more than makes up for in just being an all-round fun time.
Sitting down with my wife (someone who struggles with tougher platformers like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe), we had a truly great time for a number of reasons. As big Disney fans, it’s such a refreshing feeling getting to play a game based on its iconic mascot not to mention the countless references tucked away – from trinkets tied to older Mickey Mouse cartoons to hidden Mickeys littered about the environment that need a quick snap of the camera with the crew posing.
The game’s lesser difficulty meanwhile makes for an experience that while not exactly a cakewalk, is certainly far more chilled than most Metroidvanias for an experienced player like myself. For my wife meanwhile, its approachable difficulty meant she could enjoy things as much as myself without ever feeling overwhelmed. Adjustable heart counts also allow players to make things as tough or easy as they want, but those looking for a platformer primed to test the reflexes, timing and precision may want to look elsewhere. If all you’re looking for is an entertaining and fun time though Disney Illusion Island absolutely delivers. Put simply, the game was a delight for us from start to finish.
From a presentation standpoint, developer Dlala Studios has managed to deliver a game that looks, sounds and feels right at home in the Disney landscape. The unique art style gives Mickey and the gang a fresh feel without making it feel like a bootleg version. I’ve already mentioned the voice actors adding further authenticity to the product, but it’s the game’s soundtrack that truly caught me off guard. Every tune is perfectly whimsical, feeling as though it could have been plucked straight out of an animated classic of Disney’s. It truly adds an extra level of magic to the adventure.
Disney Illusion Island may not rewrite the Metroidvania handbook nor does it ever feel particularly challenging, but what it does, it does exceptionally well. Throughout the six-hour journey, my wife and I couldn’t stop smiling; between the colourful worlds and their light puzzly-platformy layouts, enchanting soundtrack and fun banter between its four main leads. Disney fans will adore everything about this game while those looking for a more laid-back, less demanding adventure will appreciate what’s on display too.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Disney Games