HIGH Traversing the expansive, animated world.
LOW A couple of cutscenes are too long.
WTF Water stages that control just as well as the rest of the game!?
Going in with no expectations, knowing little about gameplay or story, and being shocked at discovering a high quality product is rare in this age of instant information. Color me pleased, then, that the most recent surprise of this kind just happens to include one of the most recognizable characters in the world – Mickey Mouse.
Disney Illusion Island stars animated icons Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. All four have received an invitation to a picnic on the island of Monoth. Upon arrival, the gang is tasked by the local leader to retrieve three stolen books that are vital to the island’s survival. Mickey and company venture off, exploring the vast land in search of the missing texts.
Disney Illusion Island is a fully original story, presented in the same animation style as the recent redesign of Mickey Mouse. The characters look just like they do in current Disney short films and are even voiced by the current actors.
Illusion Island is a platformer, so players run, jump, float, and swing to traverse the various biomes of Monoth. Sadly, there’s no variety in controls based on which character players choose – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy all have the same moves. But despite which character is picked, players will find tight, responsive controls that make movement a breeze.
Shockingly, swimming in Illusion Island controls just as well as land-based movement. I appreciate that the developers decided to keep things simple for the water – after a button is pressed to dive, all movement is then controlled with the joystick. There’s no button tapping to swim, nor any drifting longer to stop. It’s just simple movement that avoids the frustration that’s all too common in platforming swimming sections.
As expected of the genre, Illusion Island is inhabited by numerous enemies with spikes, electrical shocks, and noxious gases all trying to slow Mickey and crew down. These enemies must be bypassed, as jumping on them results in damage and there are no alternative combat options. For the most part this works, but there are a few sections later in the adventure where knocking foes out of commission would have been preferable to the acrobatic gymnastics needed to advance.
Even without direct combat during levels, there are boss battles that must be bested to retrieve the stolen books, and Illusion Island smartly leans on its platforming to defeat these villains. Players must use the skills they have acquired to jump on platforms and switches, causing items to launch at or drop on the enemies. These were enjoyable challenges that never felt too difficult, even if a few got the best of me at first.
While Disney Illusion Island has a heavy emphasis on platforming, I was delighted to find out it was a Metroidvania in disguise! While I didn’t read up on it before playing, the little PR I saw didn’t give too many hints towards this, but Monoth is one huge, interconnected island. There are secret areas to find, maps to uncover, new skills to acquire, and even “fast-travel” teleporters – all common features of this sub-genre. This all works to its advantage, as Illusion Island is a well-made Metroidvania.
In fact, the game is so well designed that there isn’t much to find fault in. There are a few sections later in the campaign that host too many obstacles in a short span that make movement difficult, but those instances were rare and not impossible to pass. I also found fast travel to be too limited until nearly the end, requiring some extended backtracking to reach certain locations. There are also a few cutscenes that are a little on the lengthy side for this type of game – my Switch began going into sleep mode multiple times because I hadn’t pressed a button in so long!
That said, none of these minor issues ever came close to spoiling this wonderful surprise. Disney Illusion Island is a well-crafted platformer that hides an equally-excellent Metroidvania underneath. Fans of the genre who might not be immediately taken in by the license shouldn’t let that dissuade them from giving this game a shot — this is a great one.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Disclosures: This game is developed by Dlala Studios and published by Disney Electronic Content. It is currently available on Switch.This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch.Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Zero hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Fantasy Violence. The rating summary from the ESRB reads: This is an adventure platformer in which players assume the roles of Mickey Mouse and friends as they retrieve stolen magical tomes. From a side-scrolling perspective, players explore 2D levels, solve puzzles, and avoid various enemies (e.g., cacti, plants, fantastical creatures). Players defeat bosses by performing a series of platforming objectives to drop large objects onto bosses’ heads.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and/or resized. Many dialogue interactions are text only, displaying a speech bubble and the character’s name. Some cutscenes are fully voiced, but subtitles include the name of the character speaking as well. No audio cues are needed for gameplay. This title is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.