Back in the days of the Sega Genesis, Disney games like Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion offered some of the best platforming action you could get your hands on that didn’t involve a very fast blue mammal. However, the Illusion series never continued beyond that console generation, and though Disney Illusion Island is technically not part of that classic series, its influence is felt everywhere in Dlala Studios’ new release. Whether you want to consider it an official Illusion sequel or not, Disney Illusion Island is indisputably an excellent new platformer starring the famed mouse, and we’d highly recommend you give it a go.

Disney Illusion Island Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Illusion Island picks up with Mickey and friends arriving on the titular island to have a picnic together, but once they get there they realize that all of them were duped. The letters they received, supposedly from each other, were actually sent by a rabbit-thing named Toku, who desperately needs the heroes’ help to retrieve three magical books that are crucial to the continued existence of the island. Though they’re a little skeptical at first, the good-natured group quickly agrees to help out the island’s inhabitants, setting out on an adventure into the dangerous realms of Monoth to get the books back.

The narrative feels like the plot of an episode of a cartoon in the best ways, and this is helped tremendously by the handful of animated sequences that could easily be mistaken as snippets from The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse. Each of these cutscenes is fully voice-acted and features a perfect blend of action, humor, and movement, yet none of them overstays their welcome. You’re given just enough of a show to understand a new plot development or where the group needs to go next, and then the controller is passed back to you so you can start exploring again.

All four characters in the core cast are just as likeable and distinct as you’d expect, and the interplay between them in brief dialogue sequences with other NPCs is on point. Donald, for example, always plays the ill-tempered sailor who gets pushed around by the others, while Goofy is just as airheaded as you’d expect and nearly always has his mind on food. Though most of your time with Illusion Island is spent platforming, Dlala Studios did a great job of sprinkling in just enough character interaction to keep things from feeling stale.

Disney Illusion Island Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

As for its gameplay, unlike its retro predecessors, Illusion Island is structured like a Metroidvania. Levels seamlessly connect to each other, checkpoints are generously spread all over the place, and after picking out your playable character, you’re let loose on a sprawling, interconnected map rife with collectibles, side paths, and plenty of ability-gated sections that you’ll have to return to later. Though there’s nothing here particularly innovative in terms of the upgrades you get—it’s just standard stuff like a double jump or a ground pound—we were pleased with how well the level design utilizes your expanding kit. As you radiate outwards from the starting areas, you’ll come across more complicated sections that demand advanced techniques, and though the difficulty never gets to the point of being challenging, this is the kind of game that feels like it just keeps getting better as you go on.

It's important to note that despite the huge map and Metroidvania structure, Illusion Island is still firmly focused on platforming antics first and foremost. There’s no combat to speak of here—even the boss fights are just tougher, self-contained platforming challenges—and the upgrades you get are all ultimately focused on adding to your movement capabilities. All the playable characters have exactly the same moveset; everyone has their own tool they use to do something, such as using a fork or a toilet plunger to cling to a wall, but the upgrades across all four characters are functionally identical. So what’s the point of exploring, then? Well, instead of finding something like missile expansions or a new Charm, all the collectibles here are fun cosmetic trophies that add to the overall charm.

Glimts are dotted all around the island and act as the ‘coins’ of Illusion Island, and hitting ever-higher thresholds as you collect them will unlock portions of concept art paintings. There are also ‘Tokuns’ which detail the backstories of various characters and enemies and memorabilia pieces that are based on classic cartoons like Steamboat Willie and Thru the Mirror. These usually require a sharp eye to find the hidden pathways leading to them, and you’ll typically have to overcome a slightly tougher-than-usual platforming gauntlet to nab the prize at the end. Later on, you also unlock a camera for taking pictures of the famous ‘hidden Mickeys’ cleverly hiding in plain sight in the background.

Even if there are no direct gameplay benefits from it, we appreciated the reward system used here. Collectibles are never pushed on you or used as a means of gating progress, but there’s almost always something interesting to find if you’re willing to step off the beaten path. It feels good to get a piece of concept art or similar as a trophy for overcoming a challenge room, though we’d argue that the real reward is the joy of the platforming itself.

Dlala Studios perfectly nailed movement in this game—characters are slightly floaty, yet responsive, and it feels consistently great to put them through the paces. Illusion Island is the kind of game where you can’t help but constantly pull off jumps as you’re moving from one place to another, simply because it just feels nice to control these characters. There’s a kind of freedom in bouncing off walls or sailing over enemies that never outstay its welcome, though it does need to be said that these great controls feel a tad wasted by the difficulty.

Disney Illusion Island Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

For all its charm and genuine fun, Illusion Island’s biggest problem is that it’s a bit too easy. This is understandable given that Disney doubtless wanted this to have broad appeal, and you can make things tougher on yourself by opting to give yourself only one health, but it felt like we were constantly waiting for the game to get out of first gear. There are precious few instances where it feels like you’re in genuine danger of even taking damage, let alone being sent back to the last checkpoint. There’s nothing wrong with a chill platformer where you can just mindlessly collect things, bound off trampolines, and chuckle at the odd “Gawrsh!” here and there, but we couldn’t help but think that Illusion Island would be just a little better if it wasn’t afraid of putting up more of a fight every now and then.

Though it feels complete when playing solo, Illusion Island can also be played with up to four players locally if co-op is more your thing. Everyone shares the same screen here, so there needs to be some coordination, but characters don’t bump into each other or get in the way like in New Super Mario Bros. Instead, collaboration is highlighted through a couple of ways you can boost each other. If someone is low on health, you can adorably hug them to grant both players an extra heart. And if somebody misses a jump, their partner on a higher platform can drop them a rope so they can clamber back up. We appreciated this focus on a frictionless co-op experience, as skill gaps between players feel like they can easily be bridged here.

Disney Illusion Island Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Visually, Illusion Island sticks very closely to the art style that debuted with The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, and every inch is stuffed to bursting with that timeless, zany Disney charm that’s captured the hearts of millions all over the world. Whether you’re going through a trippy forest or a wacky workshop, each biome has distinctive color palettes, obstacles, and theming to set it apart. What really sets Illusion Island higher than the average platformer, however, is the detail in the background and foreground. Things like singing leaves and sock puppets decorate the fringes of every frame, which goes a long way towards selling the magical feeling of a weird, dreamlike world. Every screen looks like it jumped right off a page of a concept artist’s notebook in the best ways, and this visual splendor is a big part of what makes Illusion Island such an alluring experience.

Meanwhile, the music sticks with a mostly symphonic collection of playful and lighthearted tunes that do a great job of contributing to the upbeat tone. The soundtrack here is quite reminiscent of the kind of music that would play in the old Mickey Mouse shorts, punctuating the action and keeping things moving. It’s not exactly a soundtrack that feels memorable, but it fits the overall aesthetic like a glove.


Disney Illusion Island is a magnificent return to form for Mickey and friends. Though we wish that it was a bit more challenging, the excellent controls, relaxing vibes, whimsical world, and oodles of collectibles all come together to make for a cozy and enjoyable experience you won’t want to miss. We strongly recommend you pick up Illusion Island if you’re looking for another quality 2D platformer to add to your library, it’s full of that elusive Disney magic and is one of the best platformers to release on the Switch this year.