Who doesn’t love metroidvanias (apart from those who don’t love metroidvanias)? Who doesn’t love Disney? Well, how about a Disney metroidvania! That’s exactly what Disney Illusion Island is, acting as a spiritual continuation of the ‘Illusion’ series of Disney games from the 90s.
On paper, it sounds like a fantastic concept, but metroidvanias are known for dark, often brutal gameplay, so how will this pair with the cutesy Disney aesthetics? Let's find out!
Disney Illusion Island begins with an innocent picnic with the usual Disney cohorts: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy (collectively known as the Fabulous Four). They’re all drawn to the same location on a map, which they are all independently given (ooh, mysterious) where they find a tribe known as the Hokuns. The Hokuns and their leader, Toku, enlist your help to save the island of Monoth by retrieving three magical books spread across the island. The story is told via cutscenes that are dripping with Disney charm, and the interactions between the Fabulous Four are pretty funny; it’s great to see Bret Iwan and the rest of the actual Disney voice actors providing the voices for the characters.
The world that you explore in Disney Illusion Island is vibrant and colourful, as you would expect. There are also plenty of collectibles to find, which keeps you busy, and the backtracking isn’t overly tedious. Said collectibles provide opportunities to look at classic Disney art, which is still a fun pastime after all of these years. The developer, Dlala Studios, having gotten hold of a relatively lucrative IP, is not afraid to make the most of it, and they strike a good balance between old Disney legend and originality.
Widely publicised in Disney Illusion Island’s release build-up is its cooperative mode, which does not disappoint. I played with my wife and we both had bags of fun! In fact, I enjoyed it a lot more than the single-player because the added element of watching out for your buddy(ies) added some much needed peril to the gameplay (more on this later). It would be a blast playing with kids around 7 to 10 years of age (my son is sadly too young), so I would recommend this as a solid family gaming option.
- Cutscenes feel like a mini Disney movie
- Characters voiced by the actual cast
- Vibrant Disney art style
- Fun cooperative mode, especially for kids!
There’s no hiding from the fact that Disney Illusion Island is aimed at younger audiences, but at times, it is completely devoid of challenge. I cut my gaming teeth on Disney games in the 90s, including QuackShot, Mickey Mania, The Lion King and Aladdin, and they were all HARD, but still had that aforementioned Disney charm. I chose the mid-range difficulty on Disney Illusion Island and, excuse the inadvertent humble brag, but I don’t think I took any damage at all in the first hour of gameplay. It does get more difficult, but not exponentially so.
Some of the areas, as beautiful as they look, can get quite visually repetitive in Disney Illusion Island. At times, it feels like Scooby Doo when he’s running and the same background is panning across behind him. More artistic variety would have been nice, especially for a metroidvania game where you have to go back on yourself at times.
Lastly, a gripe I find with many metroidvanias is that Disney Illusion Island gives you access to unlocking some of the power ups within the first few minutes of gameplay, meaning the pacing is off. I prefer it when you’re made to wait for that key power up (the double jump, say) because otherwise the challenge and anticipation don’t scale properly. It’s a bit like opening all of your presents at 7am on Christmas morning and having nothing to look forward to for the rest of the day!
- Gameplay is too simple and lacks challenge
- Repetitive background art
- Key power ups are awarded too early
Final Score: 7/10
It seems Disney Illusion Island was torn between aligning itself with the audience that will love its IP or the genre that it has chosen to design the game around. Ultimately, Disney Illusion Island falls in a no-man’s land between the two because it’s neither a great metroidvania nor a challenging platformer that we’re used to with Disney games of the past.
All in all, Disney Illusion Island is a great game for families to play, especially parents with their kids, which will surprise no one. As a family man these days, I can appreciate this; I just wish they had provided more challenging gameplay options to cater to a wider audience.
Thank you for checking out our Disney Illusion Island Switch review, thank you to Nintendo AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: