Among the best-remembered Disney games are Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion on the Genesis/Mega Drive. In an era when you could expect most Disney games to be of pretty good quality (with some outliers–I’m looking at you, Mickey Mousecapade and Fantasia), these two titles stood out for being solid platformers with fun mechanics that also integrated that trademark Disney whimsy and wonder into the mix. The developers of the cartoon-themed action platforming title Disney Illusion Island have said that it chose the word “Illusion” for its title because it conveys a sense of high-quality adventure based on those games’ legacy. That’s a pretty high bar to shoot for and there are a few major flaws that keep it just short of legendary greatness. But, in many ways, Illusion Island manages to hit the mark.
The premise of Illusion Island sees Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy getting invited to an off-the-grid location for a charming summer picnic. This turns out to be a ruse to bring them to the island of Monoth, which is reeling from having three magical tomes stolen. The cartoon crew needs to recover these books to both prevent impending disaster and get that tasty outdoor outing they were promised. It’s a simplistic story but it’s presented well enough: Important events are depicted in lengthy animated cutscenes, while more gameplay-focused happenings are usually delivered through text boxes. If there’s any real fault in the narrative, it’s that it often tries to be a bit too witty.
Ultimately, though, the plot is just a means to set our heroes off on an adventure through Monoth, a bright and colorful world featuring a multitude of different biomes ranging from forests and farmland to cloudy, star-studded gardens to mechanical mailrooms to ocean depths. Everything’s connected through a massive but tightly-designed map in a way that keeps load times to a minimum and allows one area to visually flow seamlessly into the next.
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