I went into Disney Illusion Island hoping that the game would feed that hunger I have had for a new Rayman Legends game. Let’s be honest, no one has done it as well as Ubisoft did with both Legends and Origins. Sadly, Disney Illusion Island isn’t quite as fancy but rather a dumbed-down, family-friendly Metroidvania game that has all the charm and only half the personality.
Disney Illusion Island wants you to drag your family members by their ears to the couch and pair them with a Joy-Con as you explore a whimsical world together. Of course, it is a Disney game so expect all the child-friendly checks. There’s very little violence, the comedy is on point and Donald Duck is still the best part of the game.
It starts off with Mickey, Minie, Goofy and Donald all meeting up for a picnic one day which they all assumed they planned. However, that isn’t the case as strange creatures that live on this mysterious Island of Monlith reveal they actually invited the party there. These weird animal-looking creatures claim that their Islands have been invaded and their sacred items have been stolen. The party is tasked with retrieving them. Why? Because this is a Disney game and you have to do good things for random creatures.
The main challenge behind each of these items is that they have been scattered across different islands and as Metroidvanias go, you’ll have to have certain abilities to get across these locations. And so the platforming adventure begins.
Disney Illusion Island is definitely an attractive game. The hand-drawn cartoon art style looks beautiful on the Switch. Even more so on the OLED through handheld mode. Each island and location manages to bare a distinct look and feel to it even if the same platforming mechanics carry across for the majority of the game.
While most of the map relies on exploration and obtaining certain abilities to get through them, the game’s completionist appeal is carried by the ability to teleport to previously-visited areas. This went a long way to save time backtracking through the map just to complete a mission.
Getting around is also simple and I could see Disney wanted this game to be approachable for all ages. The parkour never gets complicated. With a wall kick here and there and an air dash to get over larger gaps, the game’s core movement system is a breeze. I do have to say that even though this was the case, I could not help but feel like I wanted a bit more. Things are a little too simple.
This is great if you’re playing with four players and everyone is making their own way to an objective but playing solo felt a bit lonely. The world isn’t exciting enough to keep things entertaining and after collecting the hundredth blue orb, it becomes a little tedious.
Later on, a grappling hook adds a bit more speed to the game but even then, the level design never challenged me to precise jumps and hooks to make it captivating. All the characters are also pretty much the same. While their moves might use different objects such as Mickey’s propeller cycle compared to Minnie’s parasol to glide, there’s no gameplay variety that separates the cast.
There’s also no combat in Disney Illusion Island at all. Every enemy is added to the game as an obstruction rather than a fight. You have to avoid them and there’s no way to get rid of an upset cactus marching along a platform. The boss fights are also passive combat. Instead of directly attacking a boss, the game throws platforming challenges at you which indirectly deal damage or impact the fight.
So without combat and copy-and-paste boss fights, Disney Illusion Island relies heavily on parkour to make a statement. I don’t think it does enough, to be honest. I get that this is a game aimed at younger generations but the world design is pretty basic and the movements leave a lot to be desired.
Where Disney Illusion Island does shine is in co-op. This game is definitely a couch experience and it is fun with both experienced and inexperienced players. Similar to the likes of the Super Mario Bros series, each player can directly interact with other players in many ways. From hugging them to refill lost health to tossing them to reach higher places. There’s a robust set of moves which come in handy only when playing co-op.
Of course, everything is reachable without other players. These extra moves just add a bit more to the game and are aimed at helping players who might struggle to get around. So again, this family theme is present in Disney Illusion Island.
But my biggest issue with Disney Illusion Island is it’s frustratingly easy. You know when something is so easy that you try and breeze through it because you just want to get it finished? Well, that’s exactly what happened here. In turn, I ended up dying more often because I rushed through a gap without waiting for an enemy to pass by. I didn’t wait for a platform to arrive right next to me before jumping so I fell into the spikes below. This wasn’t because it was challenging, I just got lazy and bored.
Most of the time, the game also doesn’t provide any freedom to go another route and if anything, it is quite restrictive on its progression too. So instead of finding tougher routes, I just had to shut up and deal with the same platform puzzle for the tenth time.
I don’t think the multiplayer aspect of this game is enough to sell it. While the movement sets help, the general gameplay just isn’t exciting with or without players. There were no moments that stood out as “the best fun we have had together playing a game on the couch”. I have had those in other titles like Super Mario Bros and LittleBigPlanet. This is just a little forgettable. It is fun, don’t get me wrong but feels like there should have been so much more to do.
This Disney Illusion Island review is based on a code sent to us by Disney. The game is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch on 28 July starting at R820
Disney Illusion Island Review
Disney Illusion Island is a pretty game but its shallow platforming and uninspired level design results in a half-baked metroidvania which had the potential to be something remarkable.