Disney Illusion Island Review – A Simple But Satisfying Mickeyvania

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There are very few times when you look at a video game and say, “this was made specifically for me”, but that’s exactly what Disney Illusion Island is. As a Donald-Duck-loving Disney adult whose favourite genres just so happen to be platformers and Metroidvanias, Illusion Island eerily felt like Dlala Studios had peered into my brain to make the most George Foster game there ever was. The strong Rayman Legends vibes it was giving off didn’t hurt its case, either.


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While it managed to live up to most of my hopes thanks to its stunning visuals, great characterisation of the core four characters, satisfying platforming (eventually), and a clear love for Disney throughout, Illusion Island’s overwhelming simplicity and lack of challenge sadly stop it from standing next to titans of the genre.

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The game stars Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy as they meet for a picnic, only to find they’ve all been lured to the titular island by its inhabitants, who need help finding three mystical tomes to stop it from falling into chaos. It’s a simple setup, but one that works thanks to spot-on characterisation and charming writing.

Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald adventuring in Illusion Island.

It’s clear from the first cutscene that Dlala Studios understands what makes Mickey and friends work. Mickey is consistently optimistic and always willing to help, Minnie is equally loving but also sassy, and Goofy is, well, goofy, but Donald’s constant anger and lack of interest in the adventure is the star of the show.

I was a little disappointed that Illusion Island didn’t try to closely follow the recent Paul Rudish Mickey Mouse shorts and be a bit more whacky and out-there with its humour, but it still manages to be consistently funny thanks to the interactions between the main four. Although its dialogue is mostly told through text boxes rather than voice acting, which is a shame, the jokes still manage to land, such as whenever Donald had anything to say about his bad luck or inability to fly.

Sadly, aside from Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy, Illusion Island is surprisingly lacking in that Disney magic, and feels like the four are cameoing in someone else’s adventure. There are collectibles that reference a ton of classic Mickey Mouse shorts from the past 100 years and references made between the characters, but that’s about it, which is a bit of a shame considering how great of a grasp Dlala has on the Disney elements that it does use.

Donald and Goofy hugging in Illusion Island.

There’s nothing wrong with a standalone adventure and I’m not so desperate for IP that I need to see recognisable Disney icons every five seconds lest I throw a fit, but the world of Illusion Island and its characters just aren’t that fleshed out or interesting. There are some, like Uncle Steve and Mazzy, that get more screen time and leave a lasting impression, but I couldn’t help rolling my eyes every time I collected a Tokun card that showed one of the island’s inhabitants as if I knew who most of them were. Sorry, Toku.

Thankfully, what Illusion Island lacks in Disney energy with its world and side characters, it makes up for it in its gameplay, which feels appropriately simplistic and easygoing. Although I’m fond of tough platformers like Rayman Legends, Celeste, and Super Meat Boy, at first I loved the chill vibes that Illusion Island was giving off and appreciated that it was going for a more simplistic approach.

However, after a few hours, that lack of any bite made it feel like Illusion Island was playing on auto-pilot. Platforming felt like a one-or-two-button affair that didn’t have any consequences, and the lack of combat, while fitting for a Mickey Mouse adventure and a clever move from Dlala, didn’t help things get much more engaging.

Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald adventuring in Illusion Island.

On the one hand, I respect the understanding of Mickey’s character that there’s no combat to speak of (even if Castle of Illusion did have him stomping on all kinds of baddies), but on the other, it slows the adventure down, as a lot of enemies require you to wait for them to attack before you can react and speed past them. Maybe I’m just too used to seeing Mickey, Donald, and Goofy wipe out Heartless without breaking a sweat in Kingdom Hearts, but I can’t help but think that even being able to jump on and stun enemies would have been a good middle ground here while still keeping the platforming pace from being interrupted.

Things start to pick up a lot more after you start unlocking abilities like gliding, swimming, and swinging, which opens up the map and gives you a lot more choice and speed in how you get around. Once you do unlock those abilities, Illusion Island finally starts to feel like it’s making the most of its satisfying platforming mechanics – it’s just a shame that it’s more than halfway through the adventure, which means a decent chunk of the game is spent without much challenge. The only thing close to that are the boss battles, which make for a nice change of pace but still feel on the simplistic side.

Thankfully, the end of the main story is just scratching the surface, which meant I had plenty of chances to see the platforming and movement at its very best. The most fun I had with Illusion Island came when I went off the beaten path and used my newfound special moves to open up the map, get every collectible, and see all the Island has to offer, just like a good Metroidvania should do.

Like with the platforming, the map exploration and Metroidvania mechanics can be a bit too simplistic in execution and mostly tell you where everything is and how to get it. Seasoned platformer fans might find things too easy, but if you can accept that lack of challenge and take Illusion Island for the joyful adventure that it is, then you’ll find that it’s a good, simple time, with satisfying mechanics, a love for Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy, and a gorgeous world to explore.

Illusion Island's review card.

Score: 3.5/5. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher.

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