Review – Disney Illusion Island
They say there’s a first time for everything in life. For games, that’s especially true. Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars was my first dabble with RPGs; after I was through, I fell in love with the genre and have never looked back. With Disney Illusion Island, the hope is that the same happens with less experienced players who have never tried a platformer, let alone one in the “metroidvania” subgenre.
Dlala Studios have done a tremendous job at providing a cohesive adventure that all ages can enjoy either solo or with a group of up to three other players simultaneously, although the best of times are surely to be had with friends or family along for the ride. And what a ride it is, as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy are hoodwinked to a faraway island with the promise of a grand picnic.
Instead, they’re recruited by the locals to try and find a set of stolen tomes with which the entire balance of the land we’re quickly introduced to as Moloth depends on. The three of them lose no time in jumping into this new adventure, with Donald tagging along for good measure, the lovable grouch that he is.
In fact, Donald’s antics in this game are only part of the impeccable character definement within Disney Illusion Island. If you’ve caught a glimpse at a screenshot of it, you’ll know that it’s extremely colorful and throws Disney’s traditional character model sheets out the window in favor of a new, more exaggerated style more akin to modern animated shorts like Mickey’s.
Along with their new look, their personalities follow suit, and the script takes that into account by providing plenty of opportunities for them to deliver funny skits that gel incredibly well with the new characters introduced in this game. Donald’s the highlight, thanks to a dry sense of humor chock full of sarcasm at every bit.
He doesn’t buy any of the sugar-coated fantasy going around the group for a second, making him feel like part of the audience since from the get-go things don’t seem to be as black and white as happy-go-lucky Mickey seems to believe. That’s something that the story of the game addresses quite well, and it’s exactly what you should witness without stepping into any spoilers, safe to say that it takes some clever turns by the end.
As touched upon before, Disney Illusion Island is a platformer first and foremost, and its “metroidvania” quirks work as means to make your character ever more quick on their feet. Different from your usual game in the subgenre, though, as this one feels distinctively linear leaving no room for sequence breaking or the same level of rewarding exploration. That said, there’s plenty to be picked up along the way.
The collectibles in this game mostly unlock a whole bunch of bonuses such as pieces of art from old-timey cartoons such as Steamboat Willie and character cards for just about every single character present in Illusion Island. The only one that has an actual gameplay benefit are the thousands of glimets you accrue throughout the game – with a bucket full of them, every now and then you’ll get an extra heart.
Speaking of those, they work as the difficulty measure when starting off a run, whether you’re just beginning a new save file or picking up from where you left off. The amount of health points is the only bar that the game sets in terms of its challenge, and truth be told, Disney Illusion Island is fairly easy, even when running with a single life.
It’s funny that this is such a breezy affair considering the dev team’s previous project, their reboot of Battletoads, a franchise that’s notorious for its tough level of challenge. And even though Disney Illusion Island stands at the opposite end of that spectrum, it doesn’t mean that it’s a throwaway experience. In fact, the platforming in the game is so tight that DaLala didn’t think it was necessary to include any combat in it.
That’s right: it’s got a strictly reflex-based gameplay that thanks to some well-tuned controls that leave just enough floatiness to make your character feel anything like a duck, mouse or “funny animal” – yeah, that’s how Goofy is officially referred as – that they are, but quick-on-their-feet ninjas. The boss fights boil down to more intense dodging and weaving challenges that are downright a blast to get through, even more so with more than one hero on screen.
Then again, outside its beautiful aesthetic that’s absolutely brimming with personality through its impeccably animated characters that brings out their own unique identities, as well as the gorgeous world where all the action takes place in, there’s no denying that Disney Illusion Island is a fairly standard “metroidvania” game.
None of the acquired abilities that you get go out of the box in any way; for as adorable as the way they are presented might be, they are still a wall bounce, double jump, hook swinging, etc.
Disney Illusion Island is a game that takes no risks, but at the same time, is exceptionally well made. There aren’t any deep criticisms to be made about its design, outside of it being the safests of bets in the overcrowded marketplace of its subgenre. As an entry level game for those without experience and/or younger players, it checks all the necessary boxes as it not only is a visual spectacle, but a lot of fun to play. And in the end, fun is what matters in a multiplayer game such as this, which it delivers in spades.
Disney Illusion Island is visually stunning, with a rich, vibrant art style that is a pure joy to the eye. The game pops off the screen when playing portably.
It plays extremely well, with just enough floatiness to make characters feel nimble without taking control away from you. Takes no risks within the subgenre.
Musically, the game brings the usual Disney fare, thanks to a whimsy soundtrack. The character voices sound like they were pulled straight out of one of their animated shorts.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable game that is easier than most, but it’s still a whole lot of fun in both solo and multiplayer.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Disney Illusion Island is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher.