Developer: SEGA Studios Australia
Platform: PS3 (PSN), XBLA
Release Date: Out Now
ESRB: E for Everyone
This game was reviewed using a PSN digital code provided by the publisher
It's a strange time for Mickey Mouse. The last decade has seen Disney's mascot step back from the limelight somewhat, with his role in games mostly limited to a supporting one in the ever popular Kingdom Hearts series. Epic Mickey, itself a critical mixed bag, its even more controversial sequel (its poor reception led to the closure of developer Junction Point), and a somewhat less-than-stellar 3DS sequel in the Illusion series were pretty much the only games where he appeared in a starring role. This is a stark contrast to the '90s, which saw some of Mickey's best games, and one above all was considered the very best by many - Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
SEGA was apparently aware of this as well and put SEGA Australia Studios to work on a remake of the game, complete with new bells and whistles. Not only has the game been recreated with entirely new HD visuals, but the in-game engine is all-new and certain aspects of the game have been expanded, altered, and modernized. What results from this is possibly one of the best remakes of a classic game in some time.
Castle of Illusion begins with a cutscene in which Micky and Minnie are having a picnic, only for it to be interrupted when an evil witch named Mizrabel kidnaps Minnie in order to steal her beauty. Of course, Mickey won't stand for this and tracks Mizrabel to her Castle of Illusion, but it's soon made known that he'll have to explore the castle's illusions and areas in order to find 7 rainbow gems that will create a bridge to the tower where Minnie is being held captive.
While the original game was strictly a 2D platformer, this remake is mostly 2.5D with some areas that feature full 3D gameplay. In fact, when you first start out in the castle, the main hub area is similar to Peach's Castle in Super Mario 64, where different rooms house different levels. In Castle of Illusion, each room houses a different illusion world consisting of three stages, with the third being a boss stage. The worlds you traverse range from a forest to a toy land to a library and more.
Despite the move to a more dynamic camera that will shift around the level (much like Klonoa) and sometimes turn the playing field from 2D to 3D, this new remake retains the same spirit of gameplay as the original. You'll run, jump, bounce off of most enemies to defeat them, and also throw different items you come across such as marbles and other projectiles.
For the most part, the game plays pretty spectacularly. It genuinely feels like an old-school '90s era platformer that was given modern visuals and gameplay conventions without sacrificing what made the original so special in the first place. Each of the different worlds and levels feel different enough in their layout and mechanics to where you don't feel as if you're just going from left to right with different backgrounds. Some levels are designed like a giant U, some have you traversing up or down, some have 3D elements to them, and yet others are designed like mazes. There are some great action sequences built in as well, including chase sequences where Mickey is running toward the screen away from a giant rolling apple, a jaunt through ruins with collapsing platforms and swinging ropes, and more.
As far as visuals go, Castle of Illusion looks stunning for a remake. SEGA Studios Australia really gave the game a nice sheen to it, with attractive 3D character models and layered backgrounds as well as dynamic camera shifts that twist and pan as Mickey traverses each level. And of course, it's chock full of color and really stands out in certain levels such as the Candy Land-themed area in one of the worlds. As a remake, it really sets the standard for similar games in the future that look to recreate older, classic titles.
Taking over the reins for the music in this remake is none other than the legendary Grant Kirkhope, who is famous for his work with Rare during the late '90s and early 2000's. Kirkhope's influence is immediately felt as soon as you enter the Castle of Illusion, with its whimsical overworld lobby music sounding like something straight out of Banjo Kazooie. It's classic Kirkhope through and through. Also of note is the fact that Richard McGonagle (voice of Sully in the Uncharted games) lends his soothing voice as narrator throughout the story, creating sort of a bedtime fairytale vibe.
In all, Castle of Illusion is a great throwback to an era when Disney games were among the best out there. It's got enough action and platforming to it to satisfy kids as well as adults, and while it's not the most difficult game, it never comes across as too easy. However, the game's biggest fault is that it's way too short; you'll likely finish it in 2-3 hours in your first playthrough. And though it has a little bit of replayability in the way of some collectable items, it's a shame that such a great remake has to be cut short like that. Still, if you're pining for the old days when Mickey's games were great or you're looking for a good platformer to play, definitely check out Castle of Illusion; it's a short but sweet experience.
+ Attractive visuals
+ Simple yet fun platforming
+ The switch from 2.5D to 3D areas adds more flavor to the gameplay
- Extremely short
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
Castle of Illusion is a great remake that unfortunately is a bit hampered by its short completion time.