Disney Illusion Island isn’t technically a Mickey Mouse solo adventure, as it features Goofy, Donald Duck, and Minnie Mouse, too. But after nearly a decade without a proper Mickey Mouse platformer in the vein of popular games like Castle of Illusion or Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, we’ve finally received the next best thing: Disney Illusion Island, a colorful and excellent platformer inspired by past Mickey games that features both his friends and new characters.
Out on July 28 exclusively on Nintendo Switch, Disney Illusion Island is a 2D co-op or solo platformer that is visually inspired by the modern Mickey shorts, but isn’t directly connected to them. Instead, as Illusion Island’s creative director explained to Kotaku in a preview earlier this year, the game takes inspiration from every era of the famous mouse.
And the new characters you meet—a mix of plant-based and animal-inspired folks—need the help of iconic characters Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Minnie to rescue important, island-saving tomes from nasty thieves. (Don’t worry who you pick, they all play the same.) After selecting one of the classic Disney characters, what follows is a platforming adventure through a large, maze-like map spreading across multiple biomes that are filled with secrets, collectibles, and yes, Hidden Mickeys.
As the name implies, Disney Illusion Island is inspired by some of the most beloved old Mickey games, many of which had the word illusion in their titles. But unlike those games, which were traditional platformers with combat elements, Illusion Island ditches combat entirely and instead focuses on incredibly tight and fluid platforming. You won’t be jumping on top of enemies or picking up power-ups to shoot balls of fire or goo at baddies. While this might sound like an odd choice for a game that is Metroidvania-like in every other sense, it works wonderfully in Illusion Island.
A big reason why the lack of combat never bothered me during my playthrough was because Disney Illusion Island never got dull. Every forty or so minutes I got a new ability that let me explore more of the map, or I took on some big platforming challenge or squared off against boss enemies—which don’t feature fighting, but instead rely on puzzles. One boss had me swing around specific points using my grapple ability. Eventually, after I dodged all the threats and activated every swing point, the enemy was knocked down and Mickey was able to use magic to turn them into stone.
Disney Illusion Island almost seems worried that you’ll get bored with it and stop playing, so it’s constantly trying to keep your attention, either through powers, collectibles, jokes, or silly characters. This mix of variety and approachability seems perfect for kids and adults alike.
Thankfully, the in-game map makes all of this content manageable. It’s easy to use and loads fast, letting you quickly see where you are and where you need to go. It also shows all the things you haven’t collected or paths you still need to unlock. Without this map, Illusion Island might feel like a chore to play. With it, the game is very hard to put down. I’d check it and think, “Well, I just need to go over there and I’ll get some more collectibles to unlock a health upgrade” and suddenly another 30 minutes had passed and I had not stopped playing. (This happened to me at least a few times.)
What will also help kids (and adults with limited schedules) enjoy Disney Illusion Island is the way it gradually becomes more difficult, but never gets too hard. As long as I took my time or didn’t get distracted by the gorgeous art, I could avoid most baddies and traps. And when I did die, I never felt like the game had screwed me over thanks to its wonderfully snappy, responsive platforming controls and rock-solid performance when docked or played in handheld mode. Plus, deaths won’t cost you or your co-op partners much progress thanks to an ample amount of checkpoints throughout the world.
If you crave platformers that aren’t brutal nightmares bent on making you throw your controller in frustration, you should play Illusion Island. And for those who do want a bit more challenge, you can tweak how much damage Mickey and friends can take before dying. If you lower this amount, you’ll add a bit more spice to Disney’s latest game.
My only major complaint with Disney Illusion Island is its Nintendo Switch exclusivity. I can only imagine how gorgeous the vibrant, cartoonish art and characters would look in 4K, perhaps running at 120fps. Plus, it would let even more people play this fantastic Disney platformer. But, the dev has given no hints about porting the game to more platforms in the future, which is a shame.
Regardless, if you own a Switch (and based on the sales of that device, you probably do) I’d recommend checking out Disney Illusion Island. Even non-Disney adults will enjoy the snappy action, low-stakes gameplay, gorgeous visuals and co-op shenanigans. And if you are a Disney adult, well, you probably already bought this game and have it installed on your Switch. Good news: You are in for a treat.