Written by Twisted Ideas
Disney is reaching deep into its vault for this one. It’ s not a movie but a video game. Not just any video game but arguably the best Disney game of the 16-bit era. Released in 1990 on the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive), Castle of Illusion was a simple but challenging platformer. It had innovative level design and platforming mechanics and the some of the most memorable music on the Genesis. 23 years later Mickey revisits the castle once more. Will his adventure be just as enjoyable as his first?
What is it
Castle of Illusion Starring Micky Mouse is an HD remake of the Genesis Classic. Mickey has to save Minnie from the evil witch Mizrabel who captures Minnie to steal her youth. Mickey has to travel to the Castle of Illusion and collect the 7 rainbow gems in order to reach Minnie. Mickey will bounce, climb and slide his way through the diverse dungeons of the castle, which somehow contains forests and ice cream lakes inside milk bottles.
What did they change?
Instead of a simple graphical update, Sega used the original game as groundwork for something new. The levels and the controls are similar but it isn’t just a 2D platformer anymore. A better part of the gameplay in 2D but in a 3D world. You can see different parts of the level in the background even interacting with you at times. Pathways will twist and turn giving levels a more dynamic feel. Each level has a few 3D sections to take advantage of the technology and allowing for gameplay impossible in 2D.
Each area is divided into three levels, two stages and one boss. Each stage takes the most iconic elements of the original and improving when necessary. The game adds a collectible aspect emphasizing the game mechanics and level design. Gems are found throughout levels and a certain number are required to unlock the next area. Special collectible items are used to unlock new costumes. Sub-levels offer new gameplay variety and challenges. Once a level is completed, time trials are unlocked to challenge the world.
Bosses act similarly to their original counterparts but have a few new tricks up their sleeves. Originally, bosses were very one-dimensional. The fights lasted longer than they had to considering that it never changed. Now the bosses will change their attacks catching you off guard if you’re expecting the same old attacks.
How does it look?
Castle of Illusion takes every character, enemy, level and sub-level from the original and gives it a complete makeover. They look fantastic and some of the levels are given new function in the 3D environment. This does more than your standard HD remakes and uses the existing level designs as references rather than the be all end all for the game’s design. The level design hides a lot of its collectibles in the environment. Most of the time it uses subtle visual hints that something might be hidden but you aren’t always sure.
How does it sound?
The original music has been remastered to great effect but it is underplayed. It’s played too softly and has to compete with the sound effects and the narrator, voiced by Richard McGonagle. In the original game the music was the focus of attention in terms of sound. There weren’t many sound effects but it never too your attention away from the music and it probably added value to it. However, can listen to the 16-bit original soundtrack in place of the remastered tracks.
Should you get it?
Castle of Illusion is a very good platformer. It uses the simple gameplay mechanic of bouncing off your enemies to maximum effect. The level design is great and improves on what made it famous. The game gets progressively harder and is quite difficult if you want to find all the collectibles. The big sticking issues is the length of the game. I finished the game 100% in about 3-4 hours causally. Sega respects the original but they could have added more content after the game was finished.
This isn’t like old-school platformers where you always start from the beginning. You can go to any level unrestricted by the end, reducing replay value. Time attack is fun but probably doesn’t appeal to too many people after a few attempts. The game is $15 which is reasonable for the amount of love and work put into the game. This is a hard sell for gamers on a budget as it may not last them an evening. I do recommend Castle of Illusion to lovers of platforming games even forgetting about nostalgia but if there is something else you’re saving your money for then it should probably go to that instead.