Sega and Disney Interactive recently revived, remade, and released an HD version of the beloved Genesis classic Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. Does it hold up to the fan-favorite game everyone knows and loves, or is greatness just an illusion for this high definition Mousecapade? Keep reading to find out!
Developer: Sega Studios Australia
Publisher: Sega/Disney Interactive Studios
Platform(s): Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC (via Steam)
Released: September 4, 2013
ESRB: E for Everyone
This review is based on the PSN version
Before I start this review, I need to be honest - I've never played the original Genesis version of Castle of Illusion. Or, more specifically, I have played it, but only the first few levels. There's certainly nothing wrong with the game, but something about it just never captivated me. Still, due to an unhealthy obsession with all things platformer, I knew I had to give the HD remake a shot. Surely, with the graphical prowess of current-gen consoles, they could capture the whimsy and wonder that the original version always should have had but couldn't process?
The good news is, yes, they did, very much - this is, through and through, a vibrant, wonderful journey through Disney-inspired lands starring everyone's favorite mouse in red shorts. The journey starts with Mickey and Minnie, having a serene picnic, as one often does in the bright and happy Disney universe. Their picnic, however, is ruined when a witch named Mizrabel snags Minnie away with plans to drain Minnie of her beauty, which will then be transferred to Mizrabel to make her attractive, because apparently there are a lot of warlocks out there that need courting. Anyway, Mickey naturally responds by following Mizrabel to her Castle of Illusion, where he must traverse several distinct areas in and around the castle in search of the Rainbow Gems, which will form a bridge to Mizrabel's tower where his dear Minnie is being held.
Mickey's quest takes him to a number of strange locales, aptly demonstrating the "Illusion" part of the castle name. Mickey runs, jumps, and bounces his way through forest trees, crumbling temples, and lands made of candy and sweets in his search for the Rainbow Gems. The mechanics work much like the original game, where enemies are dispatched by bouncing off of them - which has been tweaked to only require a regular jump rather than two button presses - or by throwing items collected through the levels at them. Thrown items are tied to the theme of the level, such as apples in the forest, which is a nice touch. Still, the bounce is the main method of dispatching enemies, mostly because bouncing off enemies is the only way to reach higher ground, resulting in simple level progression or even finding secret areas of the level. One place where the remake really deviates from the original are sections where the camera shifts to allow MIckey full 3D movement throughout a certain area. This is used to great effect in some boss fights, as well as the Castle itself and small sections of other levels.
If you have any experience with platformers, none of this will be new or even particularly challenging, at least at first. Some of the secret areas do throw some curveballs at you, but failing to navigate these areas usually just results in getting booted back to the main area of the level. It's not really until the later levels that the challenge ramps up pretty considerably, which is a bit jarring, but admittedly a welcome change for those who found the early stages lacking. Of course, the reason that the change in difficulty is so jarring is because the game is so short - it can be beaten in as little as 2-3 hours, with only the challenging final levels and possibly the quest for secret collectibles (which unlock new costumes and statues depicting enemy characters) adding a little extra playtime. There is also the option of running each level in Time Attack mode with leaderboards, though this will really only appeal to a certain subset of players.
But, while the adventure may not last long, it certainly provides a host of great visuals along the way. While the game is rendered in full 3D, it's done in such a way that most everything looks like it's out of a particularly detailed cartoon. Mickey himself appears like he was plucked straight out of a drawing, looking quite like the mouse we all know and love rather than the serviceable but slightly off-putting rendition from the Epic Mickey games. The soundtrack is also wonderfully whimsical as well, with newly re-arranged music by Grant Kirkhope (composer of numerous soundtracks for Rareware games) complementing the visual stimuli with some great tunes. Or, if that doesn't take your fancy, you can always revert back to the original Castle of Illusion soundtrack at any time, to give your adventure a more retro feel.
All in all, the game comes together to form a package that is sure to appeal to not only fans of older Mickey Mouse games, but to anyone who has an itch for a light-hearted platformer that needs scratching. While the game is short and offers limited reasons for replayability, this is one of those games that players will want to come back to again and again, whether to challenge themselves to complete the game 100% or just to have another fun romp through the Castle. Where most developers are content to simply port an older game to new systems and call it a day, the developers at Sega Australia have done an amazing job crafting the game with love and reverence to the source material while updating it for a modern audience, and the end result is no mere illusion - it's bona-fide magic.
TL;DR comments: If you're looking for a fun, whimsical platformer, look no further. The $15 price tag may be a little hard to stomach for such a short game, but it's highly unlikely you'll want to just play the game once and forget about it - you just might find yourself returning to the Castle of Illusion to deliver another bouncing beatdown on Mizrabel, just for the fun of it. The game looks great and plays great, and offers tribute to its past not only in the original Genesis game, but classic platformers in general.