Are you prone to saying “gawrsh” after watching a Disney cartoon? Even if you aren’t, Disney Illusion Island will leave you feeling as if there’s a little bit of magic in its beautifully hand-drawn animation. Almost as soon as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy embark on their whimsical journey, dotted with playful platforming challenges and plenty of collectibles, it’s difficult to imagine the game looking any other way.
As for whatever magic there is to Illusion Island’s mechanics, those who’ve played their fair share of platform games will find that it’s barely there. This combat-free reskin of a Metroidvania—a Mickeyvania, if you will—is a decent platformer and easy entry-level experience, given the family-friendly co-op and assistance options. But if you know your way around a platformer, the too-few innovations, mechanical or otherwise, that you’ll stumble upon across Illusion Island’s linear and relatively short campaign are likely to disappoint.
It helps, then, that the animation so effectively pulls its weight, beginning with the lengthy cutscenes that establish how Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy were lured—via the promise of a picnic—to the mysterious island of Monoth, where they’re urged to help the cute Hokuns reclaim three stolen Tomes of Knowledge. The animation is also good at differentiating between the otherwise identical abilities of the four playable characters. For instance, the double-jump is illustrated with Mickey boosting forward on a jetpack, whereas Minnie holds an origami paper plane, Goofy clutches a spicy pepper, and Donald has a rickety rocket.
There’s creativity and wit to how all those little bells and whistles are rendered on screen. Monoth’s three biomes—Pavonia, Astronomy, and Gizmopolis—are also too vivid to ever feel like empty backgrounds, and the developers at Diala Studios wisely reward players to pay close attention to the environment with secret passages and hidden Mickey symbols. Especially of note is Gizmopolis, across which you’ll utilize semi-automated and high-tech contraptions (emphasis on trap) that highlight how inventive Illusion Island can be with a little QuackShot in its step, culminating in a post-office maze that keeps re-sorting its corridors.
As for the game’s approach to enemies, it’s a double-edged sword. Not being able to attack them means that there’s more time to study their cool designs, like that of the Kurokanic, a very volcanic pastry. But this also means that they’re just another set of non-interactive obstacles, and waiting for the Sharpik cactus to turn around or for the charging Berrybull to run out of breath stunts the game’s momentum. Given the plentiful placement of mailbox checkpoints and the lack of penalty for running out of hearts, it’s often more enjoyable to just take a hit and get on with it, which raises the question of what your non-boss foes are even accomplishing.
It doesn’t help just how stubbornly Illusion Island’s gameplay traffics in the familiar. It’s not until the last level that it takes off the training wheels and offers much of a challenge for older audiences, but it’s disappointing that it’s game over just as the campaign is getting a head of steam up. Illusion Island, then, has enough magic to make you wish there was more of it.
This game was reviewed with code provided by Tara Bruno PR.
Since 2001, we've brought you uncompromising, candid takes on the world of film, music, television, video games, theater, and more. Independently owned and operated publications like Slant have been hit hard in recent years, but we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or fees.
If you like what we do, please consider subscribing to our Patreon or making a donation.