I remember reflecting about how the nature of content marketing was blurring, following the release of The Lego Movie back in 2014.

Content marketing is loosely defined as a marketing strategy to attract and engage audiences with content, to prime them to purchase or buy into something. I marvelled at this 100-minute piece of marketing for the global block juggernaut and its ability to get me to buy into Lego again.

disney illusion island

It also made me reflect on other media I’ve consumed or in Disney’s case, ravaged, over the years, including the movie tie-in video games. Loved Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, or rather, the Golden China which was our counterfeit version in South Africa – even though we didn’t know it; Aladdin and Lion King on the Mega Drive and even recent hits like Disney Dreamlight Valley, which my wife has invested over 80 hours on the Nintendo Switch.

With Disney celebrating its 100th anniversary, Disney Illusion Island, a Nintendo Switch exclusive is part of the commemorative festivities. A tribute to the company’s history, the game welcomes players into an environment that’s reminiscent of classic Disney cartoons.

Mickey Mouse, the poster child of the Disney empire, is back in action, spreading his timeless charisma across Disney Illusion Island. It’s as if the developers have managed to bottle up a lot of the essence of Mickey’s charm and pour it into every pixel.

Incorporating the popular Metroidvania genre (which draws its name from the combination of two iconic series: “Metroid” and “Castlevania,” these action-adventure games typically share specific gameplay elements and design principles that emphasise exploration, non-linear progression, and often character development) to create a unique blend of exploration and nostalgia.

The game introduces a sprawling interconnected world that encourages, or more truthfully, forces players to revisit previously explored areas armed with newfound abilities. While the core gameplay mechanics remain familiar, the exploration offers a fresh perspective on traditional Disney platforming games.

Sections of the map do get a little overwhelming at times, as the game occasionally falters in guiding players while balancing exploration and discovery. I wish there was more accessibility built into the map and navigation – without having to jump into a menu all the time – as other areas of the game are more thoughtful, especially when it comes to balancing difficulty to appeal to different skill groups and an abundance of checkpoints.

There’s very little visual and colour palette diversity, especially in the early hours which is such a missed opportunity for an intellectual property powerhouse like Disney. You just can’t help but bemoan its wasted potential, especially while comparing it to older games like Rayman Origins, which is still a joy to play today, as it was on the Nintendo Wii back in 2011.

This feeling of wasted potential extends to the characters; while you can choose Mickey, Minnie, Goofy or Donald, they all control the same, and to the plot and writing, which simply isn’t as charming as you’d hope for it to be.

While perfectly enjoyable as a single-player adventure, the game really plays into Nintendo’s strength by offering up a co-op mode, allowing up to 4 players to team up; love that the Nintendo Switch V1, V2 and OLED come with two Joy-Cons.

It was wonderful initially handing a Joy-Con to my four-year old and guiding him through bits of the game – he was awful so that joy ended up just feeling like parenting; I’m sure he will be useful soon, but it was refreshing that violence is not an option in the game. You can’t butt-stomp enemies or kill them, so you have to avoid them touching your character.

One of the standout features of Disney Illusion Island is the price and subsequently, value for money. While the campaign will likely take you about eight hours to finish – more if looking for secrets and collectables, which isn’t that long, the game is priced at a reasonable R729 on the Nintendo eShop, much cheaper than the average triple A game.



  • Accessible, well-balanced game that appeals to many skill levels
  • Great nostalgia for older gamers
  • Safe to play with and in front of kids
  • Reasonably priced


  • There are better games out there for fans of the genre
  • Can’t help but feel it could have been so much better
Value for money

Final Verdict

At a time when sprawling narratives and overwhelming action often take centre stage, Disney Illusion Island ventures into a different dimension. With its Metroidvania mechanics and nostalgia-fuelled charm, it emerges as a quirky entry in Disney's gaming catalogue that’s worthy of your time if you are a fan of the mouse, have young ones who can navigate to Disney + on your TV and enjoy chilled games. Recommend picking this up when it’s on sale.