Disney Illusion Island is a charming, family friendly Metroidvania platformer that captures the spirit of classic Disney cartoons whilst delivering a highly accessible experience that’s fun for all.
Developer – Dlala Studios
Publisher – Disney Electronic Content
Platforms – Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Review copy given by publisher
The Disney namesake needs no introduction, existing in virtually every medium, but Disney video games, especially ones starring Mickey Mouse, have been exceedingly rare. Have we forgotten about our longtime red overalls and yellow boot wearing mascot? Developer Dlala Studios aims to fill that hole in our hearts with their newest project, Disney Illusion Island, a colorful and charming cooperative Metroidvania platformer starring our classic beloved Disney protagonists.
Mickey and his friends set sail for an island called Monoth as they have been invited to a picnic. But it turns out that it was just a front used by the leader of the inhabitants of the land, known as Hokuns, to plead the mouse and his crew for help. Artifacts known as the Tomes of Knowledge have been stolen and it is up to our beloved heroes to track them down and return them to their rightful owners. It’s a simple yet effective premise that sets up what the rest of the adventure has to offer.
You can choose between Mickey, Minnie, Donald, or Goofy, each dawning their own unique silhouette, personality, and antics, yet all the characters play the same mechanically. I always go for my boy Goofy as I adore his famous “Gawrsh” tagline. Even though there’s no real gameplay difference depending on what protagonist you choose, I do appreciate the level of detail Dlala Studios has put into animating each character’s different moves. For example, Minnie uses a cute pink umbrella to glide, Mickey has a helicopter-like device, and Goofy uses a huge mustard bottle to propel him upwards!
Expect to obtain and use all the classic abilities you would probably expect in a Metroidvania platformer. You got your classic jump, glide, swing, and swimming skills that can be obtained to visit previously unreachable areas. Every aforementioned ability can be further tuned, so you can jump higher, cling to walls, or even ground smash to further enhance your traversal experience. Every level boils down to following an objective marker and collecting enough keys to unlock the next biome. Some require you to gain new abilities before being able to access certain areas. Navigation is made easy thanks to distinctly designed environments and a handy dandy map with plenty of markers.
The complete absence of combat might be a deal breaker for some players, but it makes sense when thinking about the audience that this game is catered towards. Yes there are still enemies and boss encounters, but they’re more like obstacles to get over and puzzles to solve rather than entities you need to defeat. What the game lacks in fighting it makes up for in its abundance of collectibles to seek out. There are literally hundreds of hidden collectibles to be found, including Mickey Memorabilia, Tokum cards, among other secrets I won’t spoil. Don’t worry, these aren’t all just for completionists either, because collecting enough of one item will grant you an extra life point.
Disney Illusion Island aims to be a gateway game for Metroidvania platformers rather than be one that redefines the genre, and it does so quite successfully. While the mechanics are not groundbreaking, they serve the purpose of delivering a fun and family-friendly experience. Younger players or Disney fans may find the gameplay particularly enjoyable, although seasoned gamers might crave more complexity and challenge.
A pleasant and wonderful surprise is that the game features local cooperative play of up to 4 players! I was definitely expecting a solo player experience as most other experiences of this genre are as such. Hopping into the shoes of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy definitely allows the game to be enjoyed to its fullest potential. It’s undeniably family fun time for everyone! Just keep in mind that the camera angle follows the first player, so any other player accidentally going off screen will be teleported on-screen. It’s a bit of a bummer that the co-op is offline only, because having online matchmaking would’ve been an extra win.
Accessibility is a hot topic in today’s gaming day and age and Dlala Studios does not disappoint when it comes to Disney Illusion Island. You start off with the ability to choose exactly how difficult you want the game to be, ranging from only having one heart to being invincible. The game also offers a convenient jump and wall cling assist in the settings along with excellent subtitle and text options. It’s nice knowing that this entire game from the ground up was made with inclusivity at the center of its design philosophy, something that’s quite rare nowadays.
Being able to customize what kind of experience you want naturally increases the replayability factor. Do you want to challenge yourself with just one life or do you want to just have goofy (no pun intended) fun with your buddies? An added bonus is that every player gains co-op specific abilities to help out those that might be less experienced in gaming, such as providing healing or increasing jumping distance. This truly is a game for everyone because any one at any age, from any background, can enjoy this title! However, the game can get a tad bit too easy at times, with plenty of checkpoints along the way.
Dlala Studios have truly outdone themselves with both the visual, aural, and technical performance of their project. The team has successfully captured the spirit and charm of what makes Disney, Disney! The art style perfectly captures the charm of classic Disney animation while infusing it with a modern flair. The diverse palette of colors that make up the game’s 3 distinctive biomes immerses players in a captivating world, making every step feel like a journey through a beloved Disney cartoon. The standout music adds an extra layer of magic to the game, enhancing the overall experience and evoking fond memories of Disney classics.
Both in handheld and docked mode, the game runs flawlessly, with virtually no loading screens and smooth framerates. It’s the perfect game to play on the go, or on the TV for family night. With the animations crisp and the transitions flawless, there’s nothing to complain about in this department! The main, if not only, pain point is that the game is priced a little too high for how much content there is. Priced at $39.99, Disney Illusion Island will run you around 6-8 hours depending on your skill level and whether or not you choose to play it with others.
Disney Illusion Island is a charming, family friendly Metroidvania platformer that captures the spirit of classic Disney cartoons whilst delivering a highly accessible experience that’s fun for all. If you can look past its somewhat high asking price and lack of combat, then you’ll surely enjoy a whimsical world filled with gorgeous artwork, a magical soundtrack, and loveable characters.