Disney Illusion Island feels like watching a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon. The characters we all know and love are here, and they're exactly how you'd expect them to be. We've got reliable Mickey, sweet Minnie, hot-tempered Donald, and well, goofy Goofy.
Here, you'll play as one of the 'Fab Four' (that's Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Minnie), or multiple if you play the game in co-op, as they head off to what they think is a quaint picnic but is actually the start of a quest to find and recover three magical Tomes used to protect the island. To do this, the group will need to navigate through the mysterious and magical town of Monoth, which is where all the platforming gameplay comes in.
During my preview of Disney Illusion Island, I got to see the game's opening cutscene as well as a couple of its gorgeously-designed levels. As I watched the developers at Dlala Studios hop onto platforms as Minnie, swing from vines, and interact with other magical creatures, I was charmed by the world the developers have created. Each area in the world of Monoth is themed differently and appears more magical than the last, and I was blown away by just how vibrant and colorful each part of the level was as well as how fun the platforming in this game looks.
The main thing I was impressed with though, is just how familiar the main characters are – to the point where it felt like each of the playable characters had stepped out of a Mickey Mouse animated short. This just shows how well the developers know the characters they're working with, and that this is a game for Mickey Mouse fans by Mickey Mouse fans. The humor, the interactions between the characters, and their personalities were so spot on during that opening cutscene, I couldn't help but compliment the devs for the game's writing during the preview. All of this was helped by the fact Disney legends Bill Farmer and Tony Anselmo have returned to reprise their roles as Goofy and Donald in the game.
Nailing these characters' personalities was really important for the team, as AJ Grand-Scrutton, CEO and creative director at Dlala Studios, tells me: "These characters have got decades upon decades of personalities and stuff that has come before us. We want people to come into the game and feel like they're getting to embody those characters that they love."
In fact, the team at Dlala had over 90 years' worth of Mickey history to take inspiration from. "A lot of Mickey's heritage has influenced us," Grand-Scrutton says, before reeling off well-known Mickey Mouse animations such as Steamboat Willie, Lonesome Ghosts, and the more recent Disney+ series, The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse – not forgetting to mention the Paul Ruddish cartoon it was based on. "I think there's also common inspiration points that [Rudish] had that we had as well, which is why we both went for those designs that are very much the classic influence-feel," Grand-Scrutton explains, "There's definitely some nods to Mickey's heritage including that modern series in our game."
It's not just cartoons that have inspired the team at Dlala either. Disney's other games, including the Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion games, also played a huge role in the development of Illusion Island. "They were a massive influence, especially for us older members of the team – we grew up loving those games," Grand-Scrutton says, "so whilst we're not necessarily a continuation of that series, I think you can see a lot of the influence that series had." Giving me an exact example, the company's CEO says: "When you play multiplayer, for instance, there's a rope drop mechanic, which is very much World of Illusion. I mean, we probably wouldn't be making games let alone this game if it wasn't for those games."
I also made sure to ask about the other notable Disney characters I didn't see during the preview and rest assured fellow Daisy Duck and Pluto fans, they haven't been forgotten about. After telling me that they get regular complaints from the rest of the team for not including the pair in the game, Grand-Scrutton tells me: "I think very much for this story, this was about the fab four – it was about Mickey Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. It was harking back to some of the 'Hawaiian Holiday' [Mickey Mouse short film from 1937] stuff, those classic adventures. But those characters definitely exist in this universe like that."
I may have only seen a glimpse into Disney Illusion Island, but I can already tell that this is a game Disney fans will enjoy. The passion I saw from the developers, as well as all the Mickey Mouse references dotted throughout the game, have been enough to get me excited to explore more of Dlala's magical world when the game releases exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on July 28, 2023.
Want to know what else we have to look forward to? Take a look at our upcoming Switch games list.