I’m a huge fan of Mickey Mouse and in turn many of Disney’s attempts at giving Mickey his own gaming franchise. While there are admittedly dozens, with each varying in quality, there’s no denying some of them absolutely rule; Castle of Illusion and Mickey’s Wild Adventure, we’re looking at you. The art style and cooperative play certainly help make this worth taking the time to play through, it lacks the refined depth and challenges that those previous entries had balanced so well.
The Tale of Three Books
Disney Illusion Island’s story is nothing to write home about but certainly gets the job done. Set on the island of Monoth, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy settle in for a lovely picnic, but are soon roped into finding three magical books that have been stolen from the island’s library, threatening its very existence. It’s a great way to get players moving and exploring the island, but don’t expect anything in the way of emotional depth or shocking twists and turns.
That being said, the experience rolls forward at an even clip, rarely stopping to discuss anything unimportant or irrelevant to the plot at hand. Each of the four protagonists shares some charming lines of dialogue, but it’s a shame they don’t tag along with you during gameplay to comment on general interactions. The 10-or-so-hour story still feels compact and direct, layered with plenty of platforming that proves its worth with gameplay variety, as opposed to telling a memorable tale.
The Way Forward… and Back
When it comes to gameplay, Disney Illusion Island feels about as standard as you would expect from a child-friendly platformer. You’ll navigate Monoth’s winding pathways and hidden crevasses as you search for each of the three books. The environments themselves are lush and vibrant, with the entire experience soaked in a rather gorgeous art style that mimics the golden age of Disney’s animation in the best ways.
You’ll jump, glide and climb through a range of environments and complete a number of puzzles that sometimes require you to return to, once you have unlocked a new ability. It’s classic Metroid-Vania in terms of its design, but that’s far from a bad thing. As open and diverse as Monoth is, you never necessarily feel lost or confused, as the map points out objectives at any given time. The true highlight is simply discovering the new abilities, which are given to you by a pink crocodile-like creature named Mazzy, who always seems to forget how they got anywhere.
These interactions with Mazzy bring out some interesting chemistry between our four protagonists, as they are each given their own versions of a new ability. While they all look different, they all work in the same way. For example, Mickey’s double jump/ glide is given to him in the form of a jetpack, while Minnie’s glides atop a paper plane. Unfortunately, none of these abilities are based around combat, as you’re expected to avoid patrolling enemies at all costs.
The game also rarely gets you to do anything other than head to previously unaccessible areas to find sets of three keys to unlock doors to progress further into Monoth. Thankfully the platforming is consistent, as every corner of the map encourages players to take part in its platforming. It’s worth noting here that while the game can be played on multiple difficulty settings, mainly reducing the number of health hearts you start with, the game itself rarely presents a challenge that holds players back for long.
For as friendly as Disney Illusion Island feels at times, it certainly helps to play cooperatively with a friend. Up to four players can team up locally for the entire experience, with exclusive multiplayer abilities that can help with both survival and traversal. My personal favourite was the hug, as each player can hold a button at the same time to embrace, gaining a health heart in the process. I played most of this with my partner and found it consistently charming to see Mickey and Minnie stop for a quick cuddle.
Unfortunately, the camera chooses to focus on the first player at all times, meaning secondary players will fall by the wayside and out of view if they are left behind. It’s not really noticeable if you’re playing this with someone who understands how to play, but those with kids might find they’ll be waiting for them to catch up rather frequently. That being said, if the primary player does proceed and leave their friends behind, their friends are tucked away in an envelope and delivered right to that primary player to continue along.
Half the fun is not only progressing through the story alone or with friends but travelling off the beaten path for a multitude of collectibles. you’ll be able to track down concept art, map pieces and even keys, which can unlock doors to hidden areas. While it doesn’t change the game in any meaningful way, it’s simply nice to check out some of the art that inspired both the game and the general art style behind it.
You can also scour the island for Glimt, blue floating orbs that can be collected and traded for upgrades like extra hearts to increase your maximum health capacity, and even unlock additional concept art. You can also unlock an additional mode called ‘Iron Mouse Mode’ by finding every Glimt in the game. This mode certainly ramps up the challenge, as you must complete the entire game without dying or you’ll be taken back to the beginning. As cool as this mode seems, I also feel like people who are invested enough to check every single corner of the map would have mastered its platforming mechanics by then.
Disney Illsion Island feels incredibly safe and tame at times, but also occasionally charming. While its gameplay mechanics are far from new, they’re entirely functional even if the game lacks a certain level of challenge throughout its shorter runtime. The art style is certainly the highlight, dousing environments and characters alike in vibrant colours and adorable animations. I would certainly recommend pairing up with a friend or two on the couch for the most fun, as Disney Illusion Island still manages to do enough right that’s at least worth checking out in the short term.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Functional gameplay; Charming art style; Best played cooperatively
Lowlights: Uneventful narrative
Developer: Dlala Studios
Publisher: Disney Electronic Content
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a launch code provided by the publisher.