Disney Illusion Island review: Mousetroidvania

Disney Illusion Island is a fun ride as long as you're not riding solo.

Disney Games

Disney has taken fans through whimsical worlds for nearly a century. Some of them have been seen through the eyes of the company's most recognizable mascot: Mickey Mouse. Nintendo Switch players are about to visit a new land with Mickey and company with Disney Illusion Island, developed by the folks at Dlala Studios. It's nothing overly complex for Metroidvania veterans, and it's a perfectly decent romp, but one that's best enjoyed with others.

Mickey mayhem

Using different abilities as friends in Disney Illusion Island

Source: Disney Games

Disney Illusion Island's story is like something out of The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, which makes sense given that the game also shares that series' animation style. Mickey and his friends venture to the island of Monoth after receiving a phony invitation to a picnic. It actually turns out that the furry creatures of the island need help recovering powerful tomes that were stolen by some ne'er-do-well book thieves.

Players can take control of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, or Goofy with no mechanical difference between any of the characters. While there's a lack of character depth, the idea is more to get friends on the same page and cooperate toward a greater goal. With that in mind, Disney Illusion Island is structured like a standard Metroidvania in many ways, requiring players to explore new areas, unlock new abilities, and backtrack across previously-seen areas in order to progress with those abilities. That will usually require seeing sections of Monoth multiple times. While there are fast travel options, it can be difficult to tell which ones connect to which biomes, leading to some annoying trial and error.

One interesting item to note is that there is no traditional combat in this game. Enemies cannot be defeated in any way, so players instead have to find ways around them. That adds greatly to the challenge factor in the latter half of the game, especially as certain biomes exercise some gimmicks that I won't spoil here. Even boss fights focus more on finding cartoonish ways for the baddies to beat themselves. With that in mind, the boss battles are delightfully imaginative, given the parameters that the developers have put on themselves.

This game goes a step beyond typical fare for the genre. I'd even go so far as to classify it as "Baby's First Metroidvania," something aimed at first-time players and families who want to share a simple experience with loved ones. As such, Dlala hits all the right accessibility notes. Players can adjust their starting health meter before starting and set mechanical assists individually as needed. Save points (represented by mailboxes) are plentiful throughout the adventure, and restoring fallen allies is a simple matter of hitting those save points. Friends can also help one another throughout the game by delivering hugs for temporary extra health and by lowering ropes for anybody who can't quite make some of the game's more difficult jumps.

Disney Illusion Island provides a kind of simplicity that could grate on people looking for a greater challenge. It's one that's perfect for a family night or a date night. While I quickly grew bored exploring the world solo, I had a much better time playing co-op.

Disney adults

Taking a dip in the Healing Pool in Disney Illusion Island

Source: Disney Games

Co-op play is where Disney Illusion Island is at its best, especially if those playing are into the source material. This is a game that knows how to appeal to Disney adults. A multitude of collectibles are scattered throughout Monoth. Some are fun behind-the-scenes goodies, and others include Hidden Mickeys, a challenge that originated from the various Disney theme parks. Instead of a photo mode, players are challenged to find hidden Mickey Mouse symbols scattered across Monoth like something out of a picture book challenge.

Speaking more in regard to the source material, Dlala seems perfectly suited to the zany humor of Mickey's more recent adventures. Cutscenes and dialogue exchanges are filled with wordplay, dad jokes, and clean fun, a lot of which fits in with the Mickey Mouse aesthetic. It's fun to watch Mickey and his friends interact with the game's supporting cast, all of whom have their own distinct quirks and feed into the game's humor style in different ways.

In fact, as a cartoon come to life, Disney Illusion Island is an amazing feat. The backgrounds are gorgeous, the character models look like they're fresh out of Disney+, and the music evokes a Fantasia-esque flavor. If there's a complaint to be had about the story, it's that it almost feels too safe. Mickey and his friends have had some off-the-wall adventures over the past several years, and it would have been fun to see Dlala cut loose and go a little zanier with these characters.

Ticket for two (or three or four)

Disney Illusion Island doesn't reinvent the Metroidvania wheel. If anything, it serves as one of the better introductions to the genre. Got a young child who maybe isn't ready for a game like Ori and the Blind Forest or the Metroid titles? Disney Illusion Island will be the game for them. If adults want to join in on the fun, there are plenty of Disney Easter Eggs to keep them entertained. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking outside of the stomp that literally breaks the ground. (That's the level of humor that players will be dealing with in this game, by the way.)

Disney Illusion Island can best be compared to the average Disneyland ride. It's short, doesn't outstay its welcome, and shouldn't be experienced alone.

This review is based on a Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Disney Illusion Island will release on Nintendo Switch on Friday, July 28 for $39.99 USD. The game is rated E.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

  • Simple Metroidvania formula for all ages
  • Numerous accessibility options
  • Delightful co-op adventure
  • Beautifully animated
  • Boring as a single-player game
  • Humor is an acquired taste
  • Fast travel can be annoying
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