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  1. It's a bit surprising to think that, across the whole history of video games, Mickey Mouse has starred in relatively few titles as a main playable character, or at least hasn't very often in recent years. Disney Illusion Island seeks to change that though, with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy all playable in classic side-scrolling platformer action with a Metroidvania structure. Rather than stretching the limits of the genre though, this is a game made for easy-going or new fans to enjoy a breezy, colorful adventure. As the game begins, Mickey and friends have arrived on Monoth Island, each having received an invitation to a picnic that they thought was sent by the others. In reality, a local creature named Toku gathered the four heroes together to help him recover the three lost tomes and save the island. The plot itself is fine, if pretty straightforward, but the writing is elevated by the Disney influence. The cutscenes and dialogue feel like something straight out of a quality cartoon show, meaning there are enough silly jokes to keep kids entertained but enough clever wordplay that the whole family can enjoy it as well. The characters have the recognizable personalities that they've had for years, and the combination still works wonderfully to make some goofy and entertaining cutscenes. Illusion Island is essentially a Metroidvania without any combat. It's focused entirely on platforming and exploration, with each new ability you unlock allowing you to explore more of the island. The game's controls are pretty tight as well, giving characters just enough weight that your jumps have to be purposeful but with enough fluidity that you're not stuck mastering every single little hop to progress. The abilities are pretty standard platformer fare—double jumps, gliding, etc.—but each character gets their own fun animation. Goofy's abilities, for example, all revolve around food, so his grappling hook is actually a chain of sausage links. Again, the Disney personality adds a lot to this game. Which is good, because the core gameplay is actually pretty repetitive. Illusion Island is a solid platformer but it rarely tries to distinguish itself in any way. The long paths of wall jumps, double jumps, etc. feel like they could have been taken from any platformer. More annoyingly, this game has trouble finding the right balance of content. The story itself is only about six or seven hours long, yet it will feel much longer due to the long, repetitive platforming sequences. There's not much to break up the gameplay—there are obstacles/creatures but you can't fight back, and the platformer content stays decidedly basic throughout most of the game, so it's just the same gameplay over and over. That said, Illusion Island is clearly tailor made for young or novice players. With so much repetition even newbies will be able to pick up the platformer gameplay and get the basics drilled into them. There are also a ton of checkpoints so failure isn't very punishing (curiously enough, recovery items are exceedingly rare, so oftentimes dying is the easiest way to recover health). You can also choose your difficulty when you load the game, giving yourself more health—or just plain invulnerability—to make things easier or harder on yourself. Finally, the four-player co-op means veteran players can help sheperd novices through the game, sometimes quite directly. Allies can help each other recover health or even drop a rope to help someone climb up a ledge if they can't quite make it on their own. While the easy difficulty of the game might make it a bit boring for experienced players, these little touches ensure the whole family can easily progress together through the adventure. In Metroidvania fashion, there are plenty of things to collect here, many of which will require you to backtrack for them once you have the requisite ability unlocked. Only Glimts, the shiny blue energy balls, actually provide any gameplay benefit—collect enough and your max health will increase—but scanning each area for trading cards, Mickey memorabilia and hidden Mickeys is still a naturally addictive challenge. The only real complaint here is that the ability to "collect" hidden Mickeys only unlocks a few hours into the game, so you'll definitely need to backtrack a ton if you want them all. Visually and aurally, Illusion Island captures the modern Mickey Mouse aesthetic wonderfully. The characters feel like they've come straight out of a cartoon show, and while the environments get awfully repetitive and can fluctuate quite a bit from delightfully detailed to surprisingly barren, the overall feel is fun and colorful. The character animation in particular is just plain charming and nicely brings out each character's personality. The music is also bright and jubilant in a way that feels right at home with Mickey Mouse cartoons. It is perhaps not the most catchy soundtrack, but as a background setting it works nicely. Disney Illusion Island works nicely as an introduction to new or young players to the art of side-scrolling platforming. Its all-ages approach to gameplay, including repetitive sequences, simple upgrades, and zero combat, makes for a somewhat monotonous experience for veteran players but a charming introduction for children. Ultimately the game plays it a little too safe by not challenging players with more variety, but it's still a charming and colorful experience, especially for kids. Rating: 7 out of 10 Hidden Mickeys
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