Disney Illusion Island Review
There is something to be said for taking inspiration from the best in the business and adding a sprinkling of your own flavours to create something fresh. Disney Illusion Island takes a pinch of Mario, a dash of Rayman and a healthy dose of Metroid, blends it with Disney’s special magic and serves up a delightful platformer that will bring a smile to all but the most hardened players.
Summoned to a mysterious island under the ruse of a tasty picnic, Mickey and his pals Minnie, Donald, and Goofy quickly find themselves entrusted by the leader of the local inhabitants to help locate three mystical Tomes to prevent an ancient evil from escaping and running amuck. You and up to three friends head off to track down the Tomes and save the day.
It’s a charming little tale that both the young and young at heart will adore. Each character gets a chance to shine, and I genuinely laughed out loud on more than one occasion across the endearing, if predictable, story. The visual style is reminiscent of a Saturday morning Disney cartoon, imbuing each character with a ton of personality brought to life by great voice acting and gorgeous animation both in cutscenes and during gameplay.
The game’s charms extend to the rest of the presentation too. Each of the three biomes looks wonderful with clean lines and vivid colours. On rare occasions, the environment can look a little sparse, but it does help level design cues remain clear for younger players. My favourite part of the presentation is the top-notch soundtrack full of original orchestrations that instantly fills you with Disney nostalgia and makes simply meandering around the environment a joy.
It’s a big world too. Starting from the central library, you’ll explore three unique biomes with multiple regions. This is not your classic platformer where you move right until you hit the goal. Instead, the world of Illusion Island is one sprawling map for you to explore. Anyone who has ever played a Metroidvania before will be instantly familiar with the setup, with new platforming abilities you unlock along the way acting as keys to the locks posed by previously insurmountable leaps or depths.
A double jump, hover ability, swimming and grapple hook are just some of the new abilities added to your repertoire at a steady pace across your adventure. They allow you to progress through the story and also access additional areas that are now available to go back and previously explore, making for a perfectly paced adventure that constantly feels fresh and exciting.
It is worth noting that each of these new abilities manifests in a unique manner for each character. Mickey can hover over gaps thanks to a propellor backpack. Goofy, on the other hand, squeezes a giant mustard bottle to float whilst Donald haplessly flaps with two handheld feathers. All characters function identically, so you are free to pick your favourite character. This is just a neat touch that adds a bit more personality to proceedings and it is a welcome addition.
A unique characteristic separating Illusion Island from other 2D platformers is its approach to combat. Or to put it more succinctly – there is no combat. Mickey and his friends have no offensive capabilities. The sole focus here is using jumps and your other abilities to navigate obstacles and avoid enemies. Even boss battles are simply large-scale tests of your platforming skills tasking you to use your environment to take the boss down. With that said, I never once felt like the game needed combat. Movement alone feels fantastic, with a careful balance of weight and floatiness that is satisfying to control and provides an almost zen-like flow as you seamlessly bounce about the world.
Those concerned that a lack of combat means the game won’t pose a challenge need not worry. Whilst this is certainly no Super Meat Boy, and progression initially feels quite easy, later areas can test your platforming prowess with tricky enemy placement and environment hazards that will require you to make clever use of all of your unlocked abilities. You can also tailor your difficulty, as you can choose the amount of health you’ll have at the start of each play session. Playing multiplayer also grants access to several multiplayer-only abilities to assist younger or less experienced players. You can hug to give extra health, leapfrog your friend to jump further, lower a rope for another player to climb up, and teleport to another player while underwater.
If more assistance is required, there are options to adjust your starting health to infinite, turn hints on or off, adjust timing windows on inputs, and toggle movement options such as having your wall jumps “stick”. These are all excellent accessibility features that, combined with the forgiving platforming, frequent checkpoints, and lack of combat, make this a perfect game for parents to play with kids.
My journey across Illusion Island took just under seven hours to roll credits, with occasional backtracking to explore newly unlocked areas for secrets. You can probably add another hour or two if you want to go back and find all the goodies hidden throughout. If you’re a Disney fan, there are some cool trinkets to find. There are character cards detailing the various denizens of the island, trophies of classic Disney characters and objects from the last century, and Glimts which both unlock artwork and increase your in-game health.
Mopping up the remaining collectibles is made easy with a fast travel system that is unlocked late in the game and, given that the brief runtime meant that the game was far from wearing out its welcome, I was happy to spend another couple of hours in this world finding the bits I had missed.
Disney Illusion Island is a delightful adventure that had me grinning from start to finish. It’s a colourful romp brimming with personality and charm that will warm the heart of anyone who had even somewhat of an affinity for the House of Mouse as a child. With fun platforming, gorgeous animation and a fantastic soundtrack, it is easy to recommend at its budget price despite its relatively brief length.
+ Platforming feels great
+ Full of personality and charm
+ Perfect for parents with kids
- A tad on the short side
- May be too simple for some
- Won’t have the same impact for non-Disney fans