The recent Disney and Marvel Games Showcase and Ubisoft Forward gave video game fans a lot to think about. Properties ran the gamut of licenses from a surprise remaster of the 1995 Gargoyles game on Genesis to a new Trackmania. The Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope segment in Ubisoft’s show even revealed that Rayman will eventually arrive as a DLC character, marking his first major appearance in years. However, one of the most surprising announcements was the co-op platformer Disney Illusion Island coming to Nintendo Switch, which stands out from the rest of the Disney presentation.
Rayman’s last console game, Rayman Legends, was at the forefront of many viewers’ minds even before the Mario + Rabbids reveal thanks to the Disney and Marvel showcase. Developed by Dlala Studios, the team behind the Battletoads reboot, Disney Illusion Island is a sid scrolling platformer that supports up to four players and uses the art style of The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse. It’s rare for a major publisher to announce a 2D platformer these days, and stranger still is Disney Illusion Island‘s close resemblance to some of Rayman‘s most acclaimed games.
2D Couch Co-op Platformers Have a Strong Legacy
Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends are the last two major entries in the Rayman franchise, marking a return to the 2D platforming of the very first Rayman title. These came after a period where it seemed like the Rabbids were overriding Rayman’s presence in his own series, so fans received them with open arms. They were both made using the UbiArt Framework engine, which allowed art assets to be scanned directly into the game at a higher quality. The result was a pair of beautiful and tightly controlling platformers that fused speed with the secrets and clever design of Mario‘s best levels.
It’s appropriate to compare Rayman Origins and Legends to Super Mario Bros., as that is exactly what they were inspired by. The games take after New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. U, allowing for up to four players to run through stages at once. So much inspiration is taken from these games that the multiplayer system is almost identical, with defeated Rayman characters turning into bubbles for living players to rescue. While all of these games present opportunities for mischievous friends to grief one another, it’s all part of the fun, and helped make chaotic play sessions memorable.
Disney Illusion Island Could Revive a Dormant Style
With all of their multiplayer shenanigans, hidden collectibles, and a focus on tight 2D platforming that encourages speedrunning, it’s clear that New Super Mario Bros. and the UbiArt Rayman games are cut from the same cloth. Many have nostalgia for these titles, which is why Disney Illusion Island stands out so prominently from Disney’s upcoming game. While the mechanics and level design have yet to be outlined, Illusion Island’s basic gameplay strongly resembles Rayman Legends. The game uses a flat 2D art style and allows for players to navigate any surface similarly to those aforementioned titles.
Multiplayer-oriented 2D platformers like Guacamelee 2 have come out on ocassion, but the niche has largely been vacant. To keep what New Super Mario Bros. Wii pioneered alive, fans need something truly original. With several abilities advertised that can only be done in co-op like a Rope Drop, Leap Frog, and a healing hug, Disney Illusion Island seems to be leaning into its multiplayer side more than ever. If executed properly, this game could be a great addition to Mario and Rayman‘s co-op legacy.
Disney Illusion Island will be released in 2023 for Nintendo Switch.