Disney Illusion Island | REVIEW (NINTENDO SWITCH)
''IF GOOFY IS A DOG... HOW COME PLUTO CANT TALK?''
Developed: DLALA Studios
Published: Disney Games
Genre: Platformer, Metroidvania
Release Date: June 28th, 2023
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
*Review copy provided to me by Tara Bruno PR*
Disney Illusion Island is a metroidvania game with a cast of characters from the iconic company of Disney that is developed by DLALA Studios and published by Disney Games. With the House Of Mouse having a stacked library of both good and bad titles for the fabled mascot throughout the years, DLALA and Disney attempt to add one more game to the good category with Disney Illusion Island. But, do they succeed in granting that genie wish? or is this just one optical illusion destined to fade away? Only one way to find out, so lets go!
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy embark on a new adventure to find three magical books and save the mysterious island of Monoth. But are they too late to stop the acts that are currently taking place? or do they have one more shot at becoming the heroes they always wanted to be.
''NO GOOFY, THAT'S A FRIEND, NOT FOOD!''
Mickey Mouse and gang have had tons of games to release over the years, such as World of illusion, Castle of illusion, or even one of my favorite Mickey Mouse themed games, Mickey's Mousecapades on the original NES. Sure there's been far more than that, obviously, with Mickey Kart racing and the dreaded Kinect themed DIsneyland game, however, they haven't all been as great as Mousecapades and Epic Mickey, because yes... some are just borderline stinky and stupid like Itekani's fragile ego in initial D. Seriously Itekani, get your head out of your butt!. Sorry. Where was I? The games I just named, good and bad, they've always been easily distinguishable from each other, for better or worse, with the height of Disney's creativity peaking in the 90's and settling at just ''ok'' with their 2012 game iterations. Why am I talking about the past? am I just trying to be a second coming of AVGN by taking you back to the past? no, I can never be THAT entertaining. The point I am trying to make here is that Mickey Mouse games have always felt unique, had full on charm in their platformer outings, and use the Mickey Mouse IP to its full strength. This surprisingly enough holds true here Disney Illusion Island, as the game draws heavy inspiration and charm from the legacy of past games, the characters, and this time around, brings an adventure filled experience that not only provides you as a solo gamer with a cute and casual good time, but also with 4 player couch co-op. Oh yeah, it can totally offer your whole family and even your lot of friends, an entertaining time as well. Well... unless you have me in your party and I play as Goofy, and then I immediately just start wanting to sing every single song from A Goofy Movie. But I have my ways to make you stay if you try to get up and walk away. Good luck! because I got the PERFECT CAST on my side. Ten O Clock, Two O Clock, Little Teacup and BAM. GET OVER HERE. NO ESCAPE FROM ME. Uh... anyways.
The story in this cute and carefree title of illusion island sees our pals Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy receive a very mysterious invitation to have a picnic in a beautiful and secluded area where they can all enjoy each others friendships and just have a plain ol good time. Just like me when I order pizza and am enjoying myself, as long as you don't poke the bear and let me eat in peace, I will not bite you, well unless you want me to, but then I can't guarantee your safety though - one big shark level bite to your booty, bye bye. After the entire gang meets at the designated spot set up by this mysterious letter, you learn that they were lured to the island of Monoth on purpose, which is an island of civilians who are dealing with major problems. Thieves have invaded their lands and have taken three magical books and should they be used the wrong way, all of Monoth will be destroyed... or even worse... they'll never have another picnic day ever again. OH MY GODDDDD. The gang is then asked by their new friend, Toku, if they can please get the books back, defeat the villains and restore peace to the people of Monoth. Heck yes we will, we'll be heroes, the entire gang shouts, well.. not Donald, screw that, he's like I was just here for a picnic, I don't give a crap about your people or island, peace out bro. Well that is until he was promised a reward, then of course he was SUPER down to be a ''hero''. Yup, the Quack doesn't fall far from its beak in this family, he's just like his Uncle Scrooge, only with a sailor mouth that is very close to mine when I get super angry. Donald, you're my spirit animal. All kidding aside, just in the opening cutscenes, the animation via in game gameplay, its cutscenes and even its voice acting is absolutely superb and immediately brings me back to the good ol days of watching the old Mickey Mouse cartoons or shows like Quack Attack. Its a nostalgia overload with its spot on voice acting and hilarious banter between all 4 characters that shows why they're the main staples of the Disney brand and IP.
''MINNIE FINDING HER NEXT VICTIM''
While you may try to get transfixed on the main story, which albeit is a bit straight forward and a little razor thin, the main focus will be on its overall gameplay with occasional cutscenes and textboxes here and there to move story narrative forward. So in essence the story here is more a backdrop and akin to something of a.. LaunchPad, to the main game mechanics themselves. Kudos to the people who get that reference. As you progress through the main game itself, utilizing your favorite characters as you journey through Monoth, which is strikingly beautiful and colorful, you will move across a multiple range of diverse biomes that include areas like forest areas, farmlands, ethereal gardens, mechanical areas, deep oceanic cave and water dives and engaging boss battles, all which have their own tone, look, feel and mechanics built around them to the point where all sections, even when constantly going by them over and over due to the Metroidvania style of game play, never feels old and always feels like something new is unlocked the next time you make a pass. That's right, the entire game is interconnected via compact areas with little to no load times with anything you do, thanks again to the metroid like map system that's EXTREMELY easy to navigate and only gets even easier the further you progress, when you learn how to use balloons for fast travel purposes. Don't worry, we'll get to the actual game play in a second, but first I really got to hand it to the studio for their work on the overall aesthetics for this game, everything is richly colored, vibrant, full on animated cutscenes feel like a cartoon, everything from the main playable characters and enemies are smooth but also exaggerated when they need to be for movement based physical comedy, or smooth as silk with Mickey's bicycle hover ability and double jumping ability. It's extremely visually appealing and perfectly sets up the tone of what to expect, as far as quality goes, as you actually now dive into the gameplay, to you know... play the dang game.
Visuals and fawning over animations aside, the overall gameplay department is where the game might lose some people as far as their interest goes. Most platformers out there on the market focus not only on the platforming , but the way the combat works too with hammers, guns, mallets, rocks, you know, literally anything to use in order to beat enemies or main baddie villains. However, illusion island says, nah screw that, were aiming for a pure platforming adventure that focuses on exploration, narrative and precision timing. Yup, that's right, there is absolutely zero ways to kill your enemies in this game, as far as weapons go, and instead you will be tasked to dodge everything by any means necessary. Whether by jumping and wall kicking between enemies and obstacles, making a narrow double jump between bad guys, swinging your way across a ledge while dodging exploding enemies filled with gas, bullet shooting bad guys, electric enemies, etc. All your reactions need to be split section decisions, because on the games default setting, you're allowed to take three hits of damage before you're super dead bro. But it is a kids game after all, so you will find a TON of mailboxes in each zone that allow you to continue from that section of the map, should you happen to die. That's right folks, no game overs. The game is as generous as Kirby's Epic Yarn and sometimes can feel as easy as a race is to Takumi, tofu naps and all. But honestly I feel that's a strength not a weakness. With this game being not only a kids game or a title thats aimed at EVERYONE, including families, would you really want to die and restart a game that has a maze like map, over and over? oh heck no, I'd be madder and screaming more profanities than Donald does, that's for sure. The beginning hours of the game will focus mainly on easing you into it with simplistic platforming and dodging mechanics, letting you get a feel, which might make it feel a tad bit tedious at first glance, but soon as you acquire more skills and upgrades, oh man, the fun just gets started.
''WHEN CHAOS ERUPTS, THE MICE PLAY''
As you move through each section of the map, you will meet a character named Mazzy, who, out of the kindness of his heart, will give you items to increase your abilities that helps you get to places you might not have been to before or more difficult secret areas you haven't been to yet. Abilities you acquire are double jumping, wall jumping, using grapple hooks to swing, ground pounding to get through rocky terrain and slight hovering like you're Yoshi's fat butt when he grunt flies. All of these in conjunction with one another are key to getting through enemy traps, which start very simplistic with double jumping over a far ledge, but then becoming more strategic and intricate by having to mix abilities such as double jumping and hovering to hop along man eating plants, then proceeding to immediately hop off that, through a narrow passage of spikes as you use your hover ability to go up a stream of air while dodging thorn bush spikes that fly up at you. Oh ya, it can get pretty intense in the second half of the game if you don't pay attention to your surroundings or patterns of enemies you've encountered. Remember when I said this was for kids? I was half right, as the beginning is more kid friendly, but further you progress, it becomes all about complex challenges that require a tad bit more skills than a normal average young player might not be able to withstand without a little help. Thankfully the games controls themselves lend well to the user experience with controls feeling intuitive and responsive, which you know, helps in a freaking platformer game. Why didn't you run this smooth back in the day, BUBSY 3D?. The controls in part on top of everything else is actually what makes makes exploring this games world for secrets and unlockables so much fun too. I mean would you like to explore big areas for hours with unresponsive controls? Not me, if that were the case, I might as well just go play BIG RIGS if I wanted terrible controls.
Using the smooth controls and your skills at platforming to traverse and navigating the biomes and secret rooms, you will find areas filled with collectible items known as Glimts, which reveal parts of the map and are used as an actual in game currency for you to use, take pictures near monuments, collect Tokuns that give you small details, photos and bios of all Monoth resident's you uncover and collect. Glimt though being the major one you'll want to keep track of as that is the currency that allows for permanent health upgrades, but I never found a reason to use them for that personally, but hey you can always do it and not be a dumb dumb like me, so that's a win there. Throughout your total playthrough of the main game, which can run you anywhere from six to eight hours, that's not factual, that's just a guessing game based off your player skill, which that 6 to 8 hours can easily be 10 hours plus due to the abundant amount of collectibles and exploration to be found, while all that's going on, you will travel through Pavonia and its forests, Gizmopolis and its mechanical engineering, Astrono and its magical oceanic views, and through these main three large areas, you will encounter major boss battles that requires precision timing by dodging lasers, hitting levers to drop an object on a boss, memorize a pattern as the boss hides in the background, uses plants to fire huge beams at you as you jump to try to swing away his crystal power ups, etc. While you have no way to physically hit an enemy, the make up for it is just use the games platforming abilities in creative ways to initiate a potential hit using the environment in its place instead.. and it works masterfully well. While battles may go on a tad bit long sometimes, which may drag to some, you're ALWAYS engaged, focused and watching their next move, and that part to me, never gets dull.
''THE MOUSE HUNT IS ON''
At the end of the day, Disney Illusion Island is a return to form for both Disney video games and the crazy little mouse himself. Sure, its nowhere near perfect with some wall sticking here and there hindering jumps every now and then, short gameplay length for more seasoned players, difficulty being a tad bit on the easy side, but with the games overall smooth gameplay, amazing voice acting, tremendous soundtrack that feels loud and bolstering like Charlie just scored the winning goal in The Mighty Ducks, tons of collectibles to keep you playing long after credits roll, 4 player co-op for you and your family, challenging platforming obstacles. and absolutely stunning animated cutscenes like the giant worm cutscene that just reminds me of something that's straight out of Beetlejuice. All of this combined makes this title, especially for a $40 price tag, a must play for any Switch owners who love a good fun platformer. So with all that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW