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Disney Illusion Island

Disney Illusion Island

Dlala Studios' Metroidvania is here, offering up a new platforming adventure with the Fab Four at the forefront.

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It seems strange to say, but Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy have never really been my pillars of Disney. This collection of iconic characters have stood the test of time, and don't get me wrong, I adore them, but when I think of Disney, I think of Pirates of the Caribbean, Pixar, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch, and the other franchises that boomed onto the scene from the 90s and onwards. The point is, when I think of the magic of Disney, Mickey and company don't instantly spring to mind, although now that I have spent a bunch of time with Dlala Studios' Disney Illusion Island, I think that's set to change.

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This adorable platformer first really caught my attention after I got to sit down and preview it alongside creative director AJ Grand-Scrutton in Los Angeles as part of Summer Game Fest. Since then I have been clamouring for a chance to play the full game, and to get the full experience of the title's charming humour, fun gameplay, and wonderful animations. It did not disappoint.

At its core, Disney Illusion Island is a Metroidvania platformer, which tasks Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy with exploring a seamless world in the hunt for a collection of powerful books that promise to save the land of Monoth from devastation. If you've played a Castlevania or Metroid game, or Blasphemous, Hollow Knight, Dead Cells, Guacamelee, and so forth, you'll be familiar with what this means. You have to travel around, unlocking new abilities and items that will allow you to access new zones and areas, to further continue the story. In this mindset, it's very traditional Metroidvania, but where Disney Illusion Island sets itself apart from other games is in its challenge, as this is not a brutally tough game like some of the latter ones - it's actually the opposite.

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The story isn't complex to progress, it's very linear and tells you specifically where to go, who to speak with, how to do things. The only part that is really left down to the player is how you travel to the next objective, as you can explore the world as you see fit, assuming you have the abilities to cross certain obstacles and hazards. To add to this, the gameplay doesn't have any combat (well...minus boss fights), so you're not dealing with attacks and battle mechanics, instead you simply have to evade the enemy types around the world by leaping over them. And then, on top of all of this, as this is a Disney game through and through, it's meant to be playable for all ages, so the platforming mechanics and level design isn't massively demanding to overcome.

Now you might be thinking that this surely means there is no challenge whatsoever, but there is. You only have a specific amount of hearts to withstand hits, and when you lose them all, you have to respawn at the most recent checkpoint. Granted these checkpoints are frequent and there's no penalty for having to respawn, but the system is present.

Disney Illusion Island

The reason why this lower level of difficulty works really well in Disney Illusion Island is because this game exudes so much charm. This isn't a Metroid where you want to be pushed to your limits, it's a game that wants to connect with that childlike sense of awe that Disney instilled in all of us during our younger days. The narrative is built on the power of friendship, the hand-drawn and colourful art style makes me reminisce of Disney's older works, the soundtrack and audio is frankly magical. It's all so authentically Disney. And the best part is that this means it offers both humour and charisma tailored to younger and older audiences.

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Mickey and Minnie are the middle-ground, being both applicable to older and younger folk alike, Goofy has a well...goofy sense of humour that no doubt suits children, and then Donald has that more pessimistic and cynical aura that comes with age. The quartet work effortlessly together and it's no doubt thanks to the original voice actors reprising their roles here that makes everything feel so special and real. The multitude of lengthy and fully voiced cutscenes only elevates this as well, and trust me when I say you'll find it hard wiping a grin off your face when the characters are bouncing off one another, more so when you catch on to a joke that is clearly intended for older audiences.

Disney Illusion IslandDisney Illusion Island
Disney Illusion IslandDisney Illusion Island

The world of Monoth is split into mainly three biomes, Pavonia, Gizmopolis, and Astrono. Each has a unique theme, be it botany or the cosmos, and aside from following the story throughout them, you can explore tons of hidden avenues and paths to find collectibles and other goodies that relate to former Disney works, and can be used to unlock puzzle pieces that ultimately lead to acquiring more permanent hearts. I will say that I began to find the exploration a little tiresome towards the end, as it didn't come across as massively rewarding to dedicate time to picking up collectibles or keeping an eye out for Mickey Mouse symbols built into the backdrop. This was especially apparent as being a Metroidvania game, there's a lot of retracing your steps, which ends up feeling a little too familiar and struggles to hold your attention as the hours roll on.

Fortunately, to keep things fresh, Disney Illusion Island features great cooperative support. You can team up with up to three friends to explore the world and complete the entire story. With each person taking up the role of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy, you open the door to co-op mechanics, such as leapfrogging to cover long gaps, rope dropping to help tackle the verticality of the game, and even the adorable hug to get a temporary extra heart. Since each of the characters have their own animations for each ability and item you unlock, the game also never loses its uniqueness with more players on the field.

I mentioned a moment ago that there are boss fights, but it's worth being aware that these are only fleeting parts of the Disney Illusion Island experience. The idea is to use your platforming abilities and moves to interact with the environment to damage the enemy. There's no actual combat per se, and that does take the sting out of them a tad. But these fights do go on for multiple phases and feature very, very unique mechanics, so don't expect them to be a walk in the park.

Disney Illusion Island

While Disney Illusion Island isn't a particularly long game, it is one that feels instantly memorable. Dlala Studios has captured the charm that Disney has been missing for years and offered it up in an interactive medium that never fails to be fun and overflowing with charisma. You can tell right away that this game has been built by a team that lives and breathes Disney, as you'll struggle to find a game that feels more authentic to the brand than this one. Whether you're a Disney or a Metroidvania fan, Disney Illusion Island is definitely worth checking out.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Packed with charm and charisma. Very easy to pick up and play. Beautifully animated. Fun for all ages. Well-incorporated co-op. Authentically Disney.
-
Exploration becomes repetitive. Collectibles can be a drag to hunt for. Boss fights are a little flat.
overall score
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Disney Illusion Island

REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Dlala Studios' Metroidvania is here, offering up a new platforming adventure with the Fab Four at the forefront.



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