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Disney Illusion Island Review: Mickey Mouse and His (New) Adventures

A metroidvania studded with “caspiterina” is at the center of our review today: is Disney Illusion Island the exclusive that was missing?

Announced some Nintendo Direct ago as a surprise exclusive for Nintendo Switchour today’s object of review is many things: the elements that flow into Disney Illusion Island they are several. At the sight, what appears most evident is the stroke of genius of putting the boys of Play Studios (Battletoads 2020) at the helm of Mickey’s water bus. After all, the hand-animated sprites in the fighting games (Skullgirls) and in the run and guns (Cuphead) have appealed to any animation lover. True, the development team is closer to the dictates of Paul Rudish’s shorts, but the “playable cartoon” everything is there.

Not that the genre chosen for the game is the first that comes to mind with such a premise, of course. Sure, the title of the game is a deliberate homage to the Mickey Mouse games for SEGA consoles. But of the Illusion series, “simple” platformers, only the name remains as a (heavy) legacy. In this case we have instead a metroidvania in hands. Between the strand of gameplay and the art style adopted, one can expect a side-scrolling soulslike like Hollow Knight. However, for once, the combination of hand-drawn sprites and controller difficulties thrown at the wall does not exist. And this is already a good starting point…

“Here’s Mickey, he’s not at home” | Disney Illusion Island Review

Minimal though it is, the plot of Disney Illusion Island is something that we want to spoil as little as possible in the review phase. We limit ourselves to providing you with what is shown by the first trailers of the game. The basic quartet of the proven troupe called “Banda Disney” (baby mouse, Memory, Donald Duck e Foo) finds himself on an island to have a picnic. Each of them believes that it is the other three who gave him (or her) the map of the place, but soon the person responsible is revealed to be the local librarian Mine. He and his Hokum tribe are die-hard fans of Disney’s “big heroes,” which is why their help is needed.

Three volumes they have been lost from Toku’s open-air library, and each of them can be found in their respective biome. It is up to the player, with any friends in tow, to find the books to quench the thirst for heroism of the protagonists (Mickey Mouse in the first place, unsurprisingly). And… that’s it. There’s more, of course: between animated films (starting with Frozen) and Marvel Cinematic Universe projects, Disney has developed a real fondness for twists and turns in recent years, and at the risk of having already told you too much , feel free to move around the meanders of Monoth (the eponymous island of illusions) feeding the necessary suspicions.

Disney Illusion Island Review: Mickey Mouse and His (New) Adventures

Kill that Mazzy | Disney Illusion Island Review

It’s not the first time the Disney gang has tangoed with the gameplay of the Metroidvanias, nor the first in which it does so on Nintendo systems (see Epic Mickey: Magic Power on 3DS). But it is the first occasion in which the dogmas of the genre are respected up to the moveset, which starts with a simple jump. By attributing a minimum of linearity to a videogame trend known for not having any, the reptile Mazzy appears sporadically to provide us with the knick-knacks needed to expand our movement options: different objects for all characters, but identical in their functions (and in their intent to humiliate Donald).

Il level designas befits the genre, knows how to be confusing. The visual fidelity to the crooked style of some illustrators (such as the talented Nicholas Kole of Toys For Bob, known for the stylized illustrations for Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time) does not make it easy to read thehuge interconnected map of the game. And, sometimes, the comings and goings (almost imposed by the genre) suffer not a little. A real pity, given the undoubted intention of giving a well-defined identity to each area, in order to transform it into a real “place”. The backgrounds help maintain that identity, but the level design works against them.

Disney Illusion Island Review: Mickey Mouse and His (New) Adventures

All on stage! | Disney Illusion Island Review

At the beginning of the adventure we tested local co-op much hyped in the marketing phase of the game and, despite a flaw in the management of the camera, we have to recognize that this is the best way to play. Let’s start with the only real patch to tear off: the shot always follows only the first player, except for full-screen puzzles that keep the camera fixed. An unusual choice, but given the lack of linearity of the metroidvania, giving only one player the attention of the shot turns out to be an obligatory choice. Players 2 to 4 can have camera control when the first player loses all hearts and has to wait to get back into the game at the checkpoint.

Similarly to Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, there is no shortage of options to include even less experienced players in the game (whether they are beginners of too young or too old an age). The trick in question is the possibility of choose how many hearts to start your game with: from a minimum of one heart for Hollow Knight veterans to a maximum of three for those in between, up to the diamond heart which guarantees unlimited health. Outside of this last option, however, the number of hearts initially chosen tends to increase as the map is properly gutted. If nothing else, the varied moves exclusive to multiplayer (healing hugs, ropes, leapfrogs) are available immediately.

Disney Illusion Island Review: Mickey Mouse and His (New) Adventures

Very Healthy Collectibles | Disney Illusion Island review

As much as metroidvania in its level design, the game also maintains collectathon elements. There are many objects to collect, starting from the Flash. These are apparent dew drops that are usually found in groups of three, and which, as happens with Mario’s coins, Crash Bandicoot’s wumpa fruit and Sonic’s rings tend to tacitly show where the player hasn’t been yet. They can often be found in secret areas, accessed through hidden alcoves; the latter suggest their presence to the player through platforms and paths that otherwise would only serve as dead ends. In short, a “Mariesco” expedient.

Once a certain number of Glimt has been reached, part of a mosaic is revealed at the end of which, in addition to the simple illustration, one more heart is permanently unlocked. We appreciate Dlala’s intent to make the learning curve as smooth and customizable as possible, but we also understand the potential confusion in co-op from more experienced players who, looking for a challenge, see their number of hearts skyrocket. odds four after selecting only one. There’s an option to deliberately complicate your life, but that’s not talked about until post-game (and 100%, no less).

Disney Illusion Island Review: Mickey Mouse and His (New) Adventures

Beastly Bestiaries and Curious Relics | Disney Illusion Island review

Another type of collectible are the Bigliotti, which act as a bestiary for enemies and offer descriptions for all the characters created ad hoc by the development team to then be inserted into the pro-Disney world of Monoth. In true Dlala fashion, many of the enemies featured boast odd eyes and a deliberately gross look to their design. However, there is also room for quotationism: references to Crash Bandicoot abound, from the functionally identical Stelica to the robots of Piston It Away and Spaced Out to the fly plants as temporary platforms. Not to mention the most shameless creatures: “Who is it that rolls, is it blue and does it have thorns? Lo Spino, of course!”

The big piece, for fans of the house of the Mouse, however, remain the Mickey memorabilia. They too can be found in the most varied corners of the map, and there are twenty-three sets of three Relics each (for a total of 69 objects to search for). Each set corresponds to a different Disney Gang short (with the occasional film in between), from the legendary 1937 Clock Cleaners to the delirious series curated by Paul Rudish, such as No Service, Goofy and First Love and The Shivering Streetcar. It would have been even better if the costumes in the display cases had been wearable, but even so the fanservice it’s not little.

Disney Illusion Island Review: Mickey Mouse and His (New) Adventures

The Lucky Emblems and the Pedometer Gone Crazy | Disney Illusion Island review

The last collectible “object” are the Hidden mice. That’s right: the “Hidden Mickeys”, silhouettes born as easter eggs from Disney theme parks, return here as an actual gameplay element. Several are noticed from the beginning of the game, but unfortunately the key object necessary to collect them is received only after reaching the urban area of ​​the game, and the journey is not exactly the shortest. Unfortunately, there is no escaping the dictates of the metroidvania: the backtracking there is, between a “come back when you have the ability [X]” and the other, and it’s quite a lot too. And it is here that we have to mention what for some may not be a trivial detail.

For what is the contemporary gaming industry, with the rise of increasingly large and ambitious games goes hand in hand the need for “quality of life” functions with which to simplify life. If the fast travel is a must for you, we have some unpleasant news to tell you: we don’t talk about it until the final stages of the game. In other words, you’ll have to explore a good 90% of the map on foot before you can use the checkpoints as points to reach at any time instantaneously (transforming the character into an envelope, which is appropriate since checkpoints are mailboxes). Before that, gods take over bring them which act as shortcuts, but as in Dark Souls it is nothing to cry out for a miracle.

Disney Illusion Island Review: Mickey Mouse and His (New) Adventures

Pacifist approach | Disney Illusion Island Review

We briefly talked about the bizarre enemies in the game and the moves that can be obtained; with the dive attacks unlockable almost halfway through the adventure, one would think that there is some combat in the game. But no: the enemies only act as obstacles to avoid, as the characters have no attacks of any kind. The nuisance role played by the opponents is evident from their variants, each of which aims to stand between us and progress based on the skills required to proceed. Is it necessary to do a climb with a wall jump? The roto goes up and down the wall. Dead End Heirloom? We will have to dodge the “Mirtoro” in charge.

This limitation that Dlala Studios imposes both on us and on itself extends to bossmore similar to riddles to be solved by dodging the numerous attacks that in real fights. The difficulty of the game proves permissive enough to save the player’s progress between one phase and another of the battle, however contributing to an adventure that in more expert hands can really prove to be shorter than expected. And since the aforementioned fanservice is mostly consumed among the Memorabilia, those who cannot find a sufficient reason to admire the panorama every two by three could reach the end credits by mouth more …