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Disney Illusion Island Review

Starring Goofy

Starting with Castle of Illusion on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis (for those old enough to recall), where Mickey Mouse jumped and puzzled his way through the aforementioned castle, to the more recent Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion on Nintendo 3DS (a spiritual successor), it seems illusions are the bane of Mickey’s video game life. Sequels and remakes have all referenced the term over the years, and now we arrive at the latest iteration, Disney Illusion Island. But whereas proceeding titles were largely solo affairs with traditional combat, Illusion Island prefers a more casual four-player jaunt through a Metroidvania inspired map, for better and worse.

Mickey, Minnie, Donald and legendary hero Goofy (don’t question it) mysteriously receive invitations to a picnic on the outskirts of…let’s just say somewhere in Disneyville. To their surprise, the invitations were sent by the Toku, small Ewok-ish critters who are devastated by the theft of three important books of magic. With the promise of a grand adventure (and maybe a picnic by the end, or at least Goofy hopes so), the four iconic character set out across a handful of biomes to retrieve the tomes and put things right. Queue a quest across colourful wilderness and cities unlike anything the four have travelled to before.

Like any good Metroidvania, Disney Illusion Island separates each biome across a vast world map, where each one can be reached once a specific power-up has been attained to cross a specific obstacle. That ranges from a double jump, wall jump, or a downward dive that can break apart platforms. The further you travel, the more you’ll discover hidden areas to return to once the correct ability has been recovered, or in this case politely crafted for you without charge.  Disney Illusion Island sets itself apart from other titles of its ilk though, as Mickey and the gang do not have any attacks at their disposal. No jumping on enemy heads to vanquish them, no weapons to speak of.  All you’ll be able to do is jump over villainous entities that stand in your way, which leads to some clever puzzle solving and a touch of good timing in order to pass.

Look how happy he is!

Boss battles expertly use this to their advantage. There’s no spamming the attack button to bring down a massive health bar, instead you’ll use the environment and send whatever traps back against the larger foe. Patterns aren’t difficult to spot, but there’s a minor uptick in difficulty (for younger audiences especially) when you reach these key moments in the story.  By default, each character starts with three hearts. Losing all three, either from fumbling into a trap or enemy, will throw your character into an envelope and send them back to a nearby post box (aka a save point), which are plentiful across each level. This is a kids game after all, so the nature in which you explore and progress has been centred around simplicity for even the youngest of players. But that’s not to say adults won’t appreciate it either; when launching into a game, you’ll have the option of choosing how many hearts you begin with. For those looking for more of a challenge, you can pick one heart and try your luck, or choose invincibility straight out of the box if your younglings struggle with jumping.

Simplicity is Disney Illusion Island’s motto, streamlining the otherwise dense layers of strategy and technique for the likes of Samus or a certain hollowed knight. Its kid friendly atmosphere should be commended given how few titles seem to prioritise this experience  outside of Nintendo’s output or without the Lego branding plastered all over it. It’s also refreshing for a four-player cooperative game to focus on said cooperation instead of throwing shenanigans into the mix, thanks to a handful of unique multiplayer only abilities. There are some unfortunate caveats to that design though, each of the four characters don’t have any unique abilities of their own. There are no difficulty options for those looking for a greater challenge either, outside of those starting hearts, which means your mileage may vary depending on the kind of experience you seek.

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Despite a strong opening animated sequence, based off the more recent TV episodes that hark back to the early days of the character in both design and silliness, much of the escapade carries on with very few cutscenes to bolster the experience. In-game, the animation and little details are wonderfully crafted and the new characters fit in rather well, but it feels like a misstep not to include more animated shorts to introduce these other characters or to tie the story together as you progress. There’s also a lack of voiceovers, outside of a few quips when each character interacts with the world. I know that sounds like I’m nitpicking, I’m sure most of the kids who play this won’t care either way, but the team at Dlala Studio do show a level of dedication to the brand across much of its creation. It makes the decision not to drive that home further a strange one, but doesn’t ultimately take away from what’s a fun, engaging quest for an audience young, or young at heart.

Always the optimist

Final Thoughts

Though it won’t satisfy those looking for a challenge and playing alone isn’t as fun, Disney Illusion Island is a wonderful entry point to the Metroidvania genre. There’s a lot of love shown to the Mickey brand, something that’s been lacking elsewhere as numerous other projects mine the popular characters for all they are worth. There’s something pleasant about going back to a minimalist approach, and even more so to a game that forgoes the modern requirements of combat to achieve rewards. Even Nintendo would be proud of that.

Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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Disney Illusion Island Review
No deceptions here
It never fully challenged me personally and isn’t an overly long experience, but with a few friends or Disney diehards, Disney Illusion Island is a worthy adventure and one of the better licensed titles to venture out from the Magic Kingdom of late.
The Good
Welcoming entry point to the Metroidvania genre
Good, clean four-player fun
Vivid colours and quality animations abound
Some genuine humour in places all will appreciate
The Bad
A little too easy for experienced players
Playing solo isn’t quite as enjoyable
Could have used a greater injection of cutscenes
8
Get Around It
  • Dlala Studios
  • Disney Interactive
  • Switch
  • July 28, 2023

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Disney Illusion Island Review
No deceptions here
It never fully challenged me personally and isn’t an overly long experience, but with a few friends or Disney diehards, Disney Illusion Island is a worthy adventure and one of the better licensed titles to venture out from the Magic Kingdom of late.
The Good
Welcoming entry point to the Metroidvania genre
Good, clean four-player fun
Vivid colours and quality animations abound
Some genuine humour in places all will appreciate
The Bad
A little too easy for experienced players
Playing solo isn’t quite as enjoyable
Could have used a greater injection of cutscenes
8
Get Around It
Written By Mark Isaacson

Known on the internet as Kartanym, Mark has been in and out of the gaming scene since what feels like forever, growing up on Nintendo and evolving through the advent of PC first person shooters, PlayStation and virtual reality. He'll try anything at least once and considers himself the one true king of Tetris by politely ignoring the world records.

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