I’m not usually a fan of platforming games. Yes, I’ve played my share of New Super Mario Bros. and Rayman Legends, but this was always begrudgingly at the request of friends. Rather than challenging gameplay, fun, and discovery, my memories of these iconic titles mainly consist of chaos and frustration.
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Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience, multiplayer platformers don’t tend to foster friendly interactions. Being picked up by other players and thrown off cliffs in New Super Mario Bros. Wii was the bane of my gaming existence. Timed objectives and limited power-ups didn’t warm me to multiplayer platformers, either.
Luckily, none of these features are present in Disney Illusion Island. Enticed by the concept of a cooperative, combat-free platformer, I found myself encouraging my friends to join me for a round of Disney Illusion Island via couch co-op.
Disney Illusion Island is an exploration-focused game, in which each platforming challenge links together to form a complex overworld map. Progression is tied to a series of key items you need to hunt down. There’s very little focus on combat — you can’t stomp on enemies to get rid of them. Instead, you have to time your movements carefully to stay out of harm’s way.
The simple controls make Disney Illusion Island easy to pick up and play, which is a plus for inexperienced gamers… or casual gamers looking to relax, like me. There are some trickier maneuvers to pull off as you progress, but each new move is introduced gradually, and most of the time all you need to remember is to run left and right and jump.
If you’re struggling to jump over enemies or keep falling into hazards, you can adjust the game’s difficulty to give yourself more health. I highly valued having this feature in multiplayer sessions — if someone runs out of health, they get sent back to a checkpoint, meaning they can’t play anymore until the remaining players revive them. Giving less skilled gamers unlimited hearts means they don't have to sit out while others complete the level without them.
Disney Illusion Island’s presentation is stunning. Each frame of animation exudes personality and charm, and the backgrounds look like illustrations straight out of a picture book. Given how detailed and bright these backgrounds were, I was worried that the characters would get lost in the noise. However, Mickey and friends stood out well thanks to their bold black-and-white silhouettes, and I never lost sight of where my avatar was during my playtime.
The most fun part of the experience was searching for collectibles. Certain collectibles are tied to progression, but there are just as many that unlock extra goodies like concept art. It felt really satisfying to fill out my library of Mickey Memorabilia, and I was determined to search every corner of the Island until I’d found them all. Hidden Mickeys are also dotted about the landscape, and I loved shouting out that I’d seen one and racing to get to it before my friends did.
Unfortunately, the game isn’t all perfect. There’s a lot to explore in Disney Illusion Island, but the map is laid out like an intricate labyrinth. Different sections of the world are uniquely themed (think beaches or jungle settings) but within each area, there’s not much to differentiate one set of corridors from another. This meant that I had to pause the game and bring up the map every couple of seconds to reorient myself, which interrupted the flow of gameplay. I also wish there was a quick way to change the number of players, so friends could hop in and out on the fly rather than having to exit to the main menu every time.
But ultimately, my love of the game wasn’t diminished by these minor gripes. This is the first time I really enjoyed a multiplayer platformer with other people, and I see that as a huge achievement. I’ll be coming back to Disney Illusion Island whenever I want to take in the game’s beautiful visuals and have fun with a group of friends.