It’s been 23 years since the original Castle Of Illusion first appeared on the Sega Mega Drive, pitting Mickey Mouse against the evil witch Mizarabel in an attempt to save love interest, Minnie. I remember playing a bit of it when I was younger, and reminiscing that I wasn’t great at it, but I was only around six years old. Under the guidance of the original’s director, Emiko Yamamoto, Sega Studios Australia have brought Castle Of Illusion into the modern age.
The first thing you’ll notice is the narration and initial cartoon story images. The images have been drawn excellently, and the artwork would not look out of place in a Mickey cartoon. The opening slides, in conjunction with the narrative skills of Richard McGonagle, the voice actor behind characters such as Victor Sullivan from the Uncharted games, help set up the game’s story in an unmistakable Disney way. Add in full voice acting for Mickey, Minnie and Mizarabel, and you have some real magic.
Castle Of Illusion plays similarly to its predecessor in that the majority of the game is a platformer, though there have obviously been major changes. First, the game has a 3D style to it, and looks fantastic. The character animations are great and there’s just so much colour on the screen, from the subdued tones of the Library stage to the amazingly bright Cake Land level.
Cake Land was my personal favourite, even though it was hard, because of its style. I don’t think a game has ever made me feel hungry before, but seeing the cakes and cookies swirling around a milkshake whirlpool certainly elicited that feeling.
That level is just one out of a total of fifteen, which are broken into 5 different stages. Each stage holds three levels with two platforming pieces, and then a boss level to complete the stage. Exploration in the levels is also recommended as you’ll find hidden areas which hold extra rewards, such as playing cards or chilies to unlock artwork and costumes.
The purpose of the boss levels is to collect a gem that will help on the path to rescuing Minnie Mouse. They generally follow the same formula: wait for the boss to attack, dodge, and then jump on the boss to weaken it. Again, they look great and the enemies are diverse, but some variation in how to defeat the bosses would have been nice.
I’m also not entirely sure who the game is really aimed at. As it’s a Mickey Mouse title I’d expect it to be aimed at young children, but some of the gameplay can be incredibly hard and at some points frustrating too. In some levels, such as Library, jumps have to be timed perfectly or you could get shoved off the screen and lose a life.
Losing lives isn’t a major penalty, as when you run out of lives you’ll have to start a level again instead of spawning at a checkpoint. However, losing a life and having to repeat a section that was tough to do the first time around can be a bit disheartening.
There was something about jumping that felt a bit off to me when I played through, and it was only after that I realised that it felt quite floaty and slow in some places. There were points where I was willing Mickey to reach a ledge faster than the speed he was actually going.
Outside the main game you can revisit levels and do timed runs. Levels are accessed by going into different rooms of the castle, which acts like a hub where your unlockables are displayed. If you’re the score-chasing sort there are leaderboards, both global and friends-only, available to see who can get the most points in a stage and who can complete a level the fastest.
- The game looks beautiful, with Cake Land being a real treat.
- The narrative work and the character voices are very well done.
- Leaderboards & collectibles add an incentive for replaying.
- Some stages may be too difficult for a younger audience.
- Jumping felt a bit floaty and slow.
Overall, Castle Of Illusion is a decent platformer which really does look great. It will cost £9.99/ €14.99/ $ 14.99 and can be completed in about four hours, though there is some replay value if you want to get the collectibles. If the jumping was tightened up a bit, and the difficulty spikes not so big then this could have been one of the best platformers of recent memory.