Developer: Dlala Studios
I can’t help but react with a tiny bit of snark to Disney Illusion Island. While the game is generally fine, I have to admit that I liked it a lot more the first time around when it was called Rayman Legends.
Okay, now that I have that out of my system: while Disney Illusion Island finds Mickey Mouse and friends returning to the world of 2D platforming after more than a decade (the last time being, as far as I can tell, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion on the 3DS), it’s important that you don’t go in expecting this to be some kind of nostalgic trip to the old Sega Genesis Mickey Mouse games. For better or for worse, Disney Illusion Island brings the iconic mouse and his friends into the modern era.
More specifically, it means that – as I said in the first paragraph – Disney Illusion Island draws pretty heavily from the likes of Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends. So heavily, in fact, that if you squinted and looked at the game just right, you could be forgiven for thinking that Ubisoft had quietly rebooted the Rayman series and not told anyone. (I mean, if the Rabbids can join with Mario, why can’t their one-time foe join with Disney?)
You really see it in the way that the characters move. Regardless of whether you play as Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck or Goofy, they all have the same long, loping stride as Rayman, and the way they jump between walls is pretty reminiscent, too. Likewise, the environments feel awfully similar, right down to the little bouncing puffs that help you reach higher platforms (and you notice the similarities even when your character is bouncing in the air).
To be fair, Disney Illusion Island adds the fact that it’s also a metroidvania to the mix. Thus, while you’re doing a pretty solid Rayman impression, you’re also exploring a pretty expansive world that requires plenty of backtracking and exploring as you gain more powers. Thankfully there’s also a map, so you’re never likely to get lost – or even forget where the collectibles are hidden, since those get marked as well.
To a certain extent, that also points to a criticism some may have of Disney Illusion Island, which is that it’s not particularly difficult. While you can increase the challenge by giving Mickey only one heart, which means that one hit sends you back to the last checkpoint, even then, a) checkpoints are very, very common here, and b) the enemies are generally pretty slow-moving and predictive, they’re easy enough to avoid – which is a good thing, too, since you can’t actually confront them head-on, and rather you just have to jump over them whenever the pop up.
But, presumably, that’s all the way this game was always envisioned – you wouldn’t want Mickey Mouse squashing bad guys, after all. What’s more, given that it allows up to four players, it’s clear that the lack of difficulty here is a feature, not a bug, and that Disney Illusion Island was meant to be played by families with small kids. Admittedly, that should also be obvious because of the fact this is Mickey Mouse we’re talking about, but looking at it from that perspective, suddenly everything makes a whole lot more sense.
Also from that perspective, it’s worth noting how nice the game looks and how much care went into creating its world. Between the bright colours, the fully animated cutscenes, and the voice actors, this is much more polished that the vast majority of other metroidvanias (and, if we’re being honest, the vast majority of games in the eShop, period.)
Mind you, if you want the kind of challenge you’ll find in other metroidvanias, you won’t get that here. But given how nice the game looks and how well it’s put-together, there’s a very solid argument to be made that Disney Illusion Island is the perfect way to get kids of all ages hooked on this genre. It may be a well-worn genre, and Disney Illusion Island won’t win any awards for originality, but on the whole, this is a pretty polished game.
Disney provided us with a Disney Illusion Island Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.