Multiplayer focused platformers have their own particular brand of chaotic delight. Players often find themselves shoving and smacking each other in pursuit of points, or racing to clear certain things first. Those elements are there for a reason – they’re pretty dang fun. Just ask the likes of Super Mario 3D World, Little Big Planet, Rayman Origins, and plenty more.
But what if those elements were pulled out completely? What if any sense of combativeness was trimmed, up to and included interactions with enemies? Would you have a game with a missing piece or an opportunity to work on new things? And what sort of world and characters could carry the experience?
We had that question answered when demoing Disney Illusion Island at Summer Game Fest. In many ways it’s one of the purest exploration based platformers I’ve experienced in a long time. Getting through its Metroidvania-esque map was all about timing and spacing your jumps without much else in the way of actions or flow. Despite how that all might sound though, the Switch exclusive experience is carried particularly well thanks to multiple factors.
For one, the game is an absolute treat for the eyes, especially if you’re an animation fan. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy are all here with unique visuals most comparable to The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse cartoons. Their movements are fluid and expressive, with each of them having their own unique animations. Donald’s come off as surly and exasperated while Goofy stumbles along more carefree – true to their established personalities but rendered fantastically in the game’s style.
Despite the lack of attacks there are still ways players are able to interact with each other. It’s possible to leapfrog off of your allies for some added distance over gaps. Your player two’s having a rough time with a wall jumping route? Drop a rope for them to climb up and bypass the obstacles. The best of these though was the ability to hug your partners, which grants an extra hit point on top of your existing stock of hearts. Again, all of these are eye-catching and distinct across the playable cast – Donald’s stance when waiting for a hug might’ve been my favorite thing in the entire demo.
That’s not to downplay the action by any means, as certain portions of the portion played were fluid and rewarding. Where things faltered though were in a boss encounter punctuating our half an hour with the game. By jumping on triggers we were able to combat it without actually attacking, using the instilled skill sets and environment to our advantage. It works, but went on a bit too long, with not much distinguishing one phase of the confrontation with another.
Minor gripe aside, I’m excited to see more of what Disney Illusion Island has to offer. Developer Dlala Studios is taking what they learned making Battletoads and applying it to one of the biggest cultural icons of all time, rising to the occasion with something that stands out among its genre contemporaries and Mickey Mouse media as a whole. Time will tell if it can live up to this strong first impression, but I can’t wait to gather up some friends and pay this island another visit.