Sometimes it’s nice to just sit down, relax, and have some good old-fashioned video game fun. In Disney’s Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, it’s easy to jump right in and do just that. Castle of Illusion is a remake of the 1990 game of the same name that was available on Sega Mega Drive. The original game was a simple side-scrolling platformer, and this HD remake doesn’t stray too far from that; they’ve upped the graphical quality, added some 3D-platforming sections, and revamped the musical score. Aside from that, most of the game seems almost lifted directly from its source material.
The plot of Castle of Illusion is that Mizrabel, the witch from Snow White, kidnaps Minnie and holds her hostage in her castle (of illusion). Of course, Mickey sets out to find Minnie before Mizrabel can perform her spell. Along the way, Mickey finds himself in seven different areas in and around Mizrabel’s castle — an enchanted forest, a library, a storm, and so on. All of these levels are connected to a central hub, the castle. You can return to the castle whenever you want, and exploring it rewards the player with some extra goodies.
Each level has its own unique enemies and puzzles, making each area feel fresh. There’s not much repetition here. The world feels alive and dangerous, with platforms crumbling without warning and elements of the background changing unexpectedly. The story is told mainly through an off-screen narrator, who chimes in every so often with tidbits about Mickey’s adventure. And, while there isn’t much voice acting aside from the narrator, what is present is done fairly well. The musical score has been updated, sounding more modern yet still maintaining that classic video game sound. If you prefer the “real” classic music, there’s an option in the settings to have the original music play instead of the new — a nice touch for fans of the original game.
It’s clear that a lot of effort went into this game from the folks at Sega Studios Australia — the world is beautiful and crafted in the familiar Disney style (birds, backgrounds, etc. look like they could belong to a hand-drawn Disney feature). Incidental animations, such as when Mickey reacts to an event that happens while playing, were also a nice touch. Another neat detail for keen-eyed Disney fans: several hidden Mickeys are scattered throughout the game–finding them is an added a bit of fun. The graphical quality isn’t as good as huge blockbuster games, but that’s not what this is supposed to be. What is presented here is gorgeous for a downloadable title.
Simply put, Castle of Illusion is fun to play. There are clever puzzle sections and tricky platforming moments that require you to think and plan out your jumps. The platforming was forgiving most of the time, but of course, there are those moments where the platform you’re standing will break, you die, and then you have to restart the level from the beginning. For the majority of the game, however, platforming never seemed overly hard — planning out my jumps and timing them just right was part of the fun.
While much of the game is set in a 2D side-scrolling plane, the perspective will sometimes shift to reveal a path along a different plane. The boss battles at the end of each level are mostly played in 3D, allowing the player to move freely in any direction. There are also the occasional “cinematic” moments where you’ll be required to run toward the screen away from an object that’s chasing you. These moments weren’t overused, and they were a welcome relief from the constant side-scrolling/jumping on enemies formula.
The controls were OK, but not without their flaws. Controlling Mickey felt awkward and not as responsive as it could be. Jumping on enemies to defeat them wasn’t that accurate, and if you don’t land perfectly on top of them, you’ll just injure yourself and waste some of your health. Another mildly annoying element was the camera. It performed well throughout most of the game, but there were times when it wouldn’t show you everything that you need to see. For example, during some fast-paced running sequences, the camera worries too much about showing Mickey and what’s behind him; it doesn’t show you enough of what’s coming up to give you time to react on time.
The majority of the game was fairly easy, able to be completed in about 3 or 4 hours. The seven “Masters of Illusion” bosses didn’t present that much of a challenge — the only thing required of the player is avoiding their attacks (which are easy to tell when they’re coming) and then jumping on the boss when it somehow knocks itself out. The only real challenge I had when fighting one of these bosses was the final boss, Mizrabel. There didn’t seem to be much skill required, but rather more of a “memorize the attack pattern after several tries and hope you don’t die.” This final boss took me longer than any of the other sections of the game. Having several easy bosses and then one so hard makes it seem like it doesn’t belong in the game at all — it would have been better if the bosses increased in difficulty gradually over the course of the game.
Upon completion of the game, the player is encouraged to go back in and find all the collectibles that you missed the first time around. Some of these collectibles will unlock outfits for Mickey to wear during your next play-through, such as the Explorer and Magician outfits. This will take you only an extra hour or so, rounding the total playtime out to about 5 hours.
Overall, I had a great time sitting down with this game. It blends the traditional 2D side-scrolling and 3D platforming seamlessly. Combine fun (albeit, occasionally frustrating) gameplay with simple mechanics, lovely visuals, and a nostalgic music score, and the final package is simply a delightful 4-5 hours of good old-fashioned fun. For $15, I would recommend this to any Disney or video game fan. Castle of Illusion gets 4 stars out of 5.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is available on the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and PC digital download for $14.99 US.