Review Date: 9/24/23
Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy are mysteriously invited to a picnic on the island of Monoth, where they are tricked into stealing the Tomes Of Knowledge under the pretense of being heroes. With the help of an eccentric inventor named Mazzy, the players are able to traverse the various biomes of Monoth and reach their goal. Special abilities include a double jump, wall jump, ground stomp, flying, and diving. Floating blue flames can be collected to increase vitality, and there are also cards and Disney memorabilia that can be found. Secret areas exist throughout the island and there are a bunch of hidden Mickeys that can be photographed. The hidden Mickeys are a nice touch, and some of them are truly difficult to spot. It took me ten hours to realize that a certain sound effect indicated that one was nearby, which helped a lot.
The game offers three difficulty levels along with an "invincible" option. An additional super hard option is unlocked after completing the game, if you really want to punish yourself. I played on the easiest mode, which offers little to no challenge until the last third of the game, when you run into new enemies that are literally unavoidable. By the time I reached the climax, I was forced to switch to invincible mode to defeat the final villain. I'm glad that the invincible option is available, since I was never able to finish the other notoriously difficult Illusion games ("Castle Of Illusion" and "World Of Illusion"). Fortunately, a generous checkpoint system ensures that you never get sent back too far when you fail, but the game does require a LOT of backtracking, which can become tedious. Fast travel isn't enabled until right before the end of the game, but I wasn't able to take advantage of that because my obsessive nature had already found all of the island's secrets. On the plus side, the map is extremely helpful in tracking things down, and some graphical glitches even help you locate hidden areas.
The game is a joy to play for the most part, and the controls are simple and forgiving. The music is cheery and innocuous, but the sound effects can become grating after a while. The character animation is delightful, although it uses a more modern art style. The background characters and environments are colorful and zany, but the art direction is a little too abstract and chaotic for my tastes. I prefer the more classical stylings of the previous Illusion games. The writing is very clever and snarky, and Donald is delightfully grumpy and cynical. However, I was disappointed by the amount of reading that was required, especially since some conversations are overly long. It would have been more enjoyable if the characters had been voiced instead of just having a handful of exclamations and giggles. The story features a couple of surprising twists, and it's nice to see Mickey and his friends stepping up to do the right thing. The game preaches friendship, understanding, and non-violence, but that doesn't keep the misguided and misunderstood villains from getting a whooping. Games like this can be a tricky minefield of morality to navigate through.
Overall, I enjoyed my time spent in "Illusion Island," which was a little over fifteen hours. I probably could have cut that down to twelve if I hadn't been impatient and taken advantage of fast travel instead of exploring every nook and cranny during the initial quest. It's a fun and colorful adventure with low-stress gameplay, until right at the end. The art direction is loud and crazy, which can make it difficult to understand what's going on at times, and made me long for a simpler and more classical look. But other than that, it was a charming experience that left a smile on my face.