Disney Illusion Island is out now, and it serves as an excellent gateway to Metroidvania to get new players into the genre and gaming as a whole. As I highlighted in my three-and-a-half-star review, there’s still a fair bit in Disney Illusion Island to entertain more experienced players. I’m not just saying that’s the case in terms of game mechanics, but for references to other games as well.
From an enemy to some vital game mechanics, these three references in Disney Illusion Island stuck out to me the most. They show a reverence for the industry and pay homage to some great games that might’ve influenced aspects of Disney Illusion Island. Keep an eye out for these and more Easter eggs while playing through it yourself.
This Disney Illusion Island reference is unavoidable. There are points where you’ll want to heal yourself, and through the game’s world, you’ll find some boxes that contain hearts. Upon closer inspection, these boxes look like the companion cubes from Portal, as they are white with a heart in the middle. You won’t be carrying around these boxes, though; you simply jump on them, and a couple of hearts for players to collect with pop out.
Naturally Portal plays quite differently than Disney Illusion Island, so there’s not much of a deeper connection there. Still, it’s pretty funny that one of Disney Illusion Island’s core intractable objects is a reference to another game and something that will likely fly right over the heads of the kids playing who have never heard of Portal.
Sonic the Hedgehog
One of the enemies you’ll come across during your adventure bears a striking resemblance to a well-known gaming mascot. Called a Spindle, this creature is a blue hedgehog with a spikey back that rolls around while attempting to hit players. “Who’s blue, spikey, and spins? Spindle!” its Tokun description reads. “This critter loves nothing more than to perform a buzzsaw-like spin back and forth over small stretches of ground. It is highly recommended you wait until it gets dizzy and then avoid it.”
If you couldn’t already tell, Spindle is a spoof on Sonic the Hedgehog. While Disney Illusion Island doesn’t play much like any Sonic the Hedgehog game, it’s still a way that the game pays respect to one of the platforming genre’s greats. It took me by surprise while playing and shows a deeper appreciation for the genre Disney Illusion Island is a part of.
This one’s more of a mechanical reference that’s reminiscent of one of the best modern 2D platformers out there. When you’re playing Disney Illusion Island with someone else, you can press down and Y to lay down a rope for other players to climb up. This is not only a mechanic that will help less experienced players but also a reference to another platformer. Anyone who has played Spelunky or its sequel should recognize it. Co-op rope dropping is one of that game’s defining multiplayer features.
The main difference is that Disney Illusion Island is a significantly easier game than Spelunky, so this mechanic is meant more as a way to help struggling players than as a way to create shortcuts to get back where you already came. Still, it’s neat that Dlala Studios found a helpful mechanic from another great platformer and found a creative way to recontextualize it within their adventure.
What do these references mean?
Disney Illusion Island is not a perfect game, but it does show a massive amount of love not just for Dinsey’s properties but for gaming as a whole. These three references are what stuck out to me the most, but I’m sure there’s more I missed hidden in some of the game’s gorgeous artwork (I think there’s an enemy that looks like an Imposter crewmate during one animation, but I don’t know if that’s intentional or just sus).
Regardless, keeping an eye out for these references is fun side activity to the simple platforming of Dinsey Illusion Island. Older players will get a kick out of them as they venture through Monoth, while any of these references could potentially give younger players a reason to look into and learn more about a variety of entertaining video games.
Disney Illusion Island is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.