This week’s Nintendo Direct was one of the best we’ve had in recent memory, with highlights including a tantalising new look at The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the sudden shadow drop of Metroid Prime Remastered, and a friendly reminder that Pikmin 4 still exists, hasn’t been delayed, and looks all kinds of adorable.
As great as all those announcements were, none of them captured my heart quite like Disney’s Illusion Island, a 2D platformer starring Mickey Mouse and friends that was previously revealed back at D23 last year. Now we have new gameplay to admire and a release date set for July 28.
As a Kingdom Hearts fan, I’m naturally a mark for anything Disney, so I’ve been on board with Illusion Island from the off, but the in-depth gameplay trailer presented last night took me to a whole new level of excitement. Illusion Island is the Rayman Legends sequel we’ve been waiting for.
Everything about Dlala Studios’ Disney platformer screams Rayman to me. From its unique, stunning art style filled with colour and personality to its focus on four-player cooperative action. This feels like the closest thing we’ll ever get to a new Rayman game, given Ubisoft is too busy sitting around delaying Skull & Bones instead of doing anything interesting or original.
The only stark difference between Illusion Island and Rayman Legends is that it stars Disney characters instead of a bunch of eggplants without limbs and his froggy best mate. Considering it looks to be inspired by the Paul Rudd era of Mickey Mouse and its bizarre meme humour, that can only be a good thing. Sorry, Rayman - I have a new best friend now.
Even its platforming mechanics feel similar to those Rayman Origins first introduced. All four characters have the same moves, albeit with different animations, there’s a focus on speed thanks to its boost mechanic, and combat doesn’t seem to be a priority - all things Origins and Legends pushed as well. This could be my Rayman copium making me see things, but there are even some elements that remind me of the original beta for Origins, such as being able to piggyback off friends for longer jumps.
I’m sure that Illusion Island will end up being quite different from Rayman Origins and Legends-, but there’s a big part of me that’s hoping it isn’t. Although, that’s mostly because I’m a shameless Rayman fanboy, but also because we just don’t get enough games like this anymore.
There are tons of great platformers from the past decade like Celeste, Ori, Cuphead, and Shovel Knight, but the gems of the genre are few and far between. As fantastic as all those games are, I don’t think any of them hold a candle to Rayman Legends, even a decade later.
Maybe it’s unfair to set Disney’s Illusion Island up against such lofty expectations, but everything we’ve seen so far seems to be living up to them. Even if it doesn’t end up matching Legends and Origins, the world needs more colourful, charismatic platformers in it, and Ubisoft sure as hell isn’t going to be helping us there.
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