The original Castle of Illusion, released in 1990 for Sega Genesis, remains a timeless classic for a lot of gamers who grew up playing it. It was never the hardest platformer, nor the longest or the best, but it was fun and it had a certain charm to it even for those of us who aren’t fans of Mickey Mouse. Now, thanks to SEGA Studios Australia, the game has been remade largely by the team who made the original. To their credit, they didn’t just slap some HD graphics on make a quick cash-in. This is a largely different game, inspired by the original.
The worlds are the same; you’ll instantly recall jumping over walking stumps, swinging on vines, running from an apple, and jumping from leaf to leaf avoiding spiders. That’s just in the first act too. It’s all there in its nostalgic glory, but the levels themselves aren’t exactly the same. They’re a little longer, certainly better looking, and there’s a good bit going on. It’s also not a straight 2D platformer like the original; the remake does add in some 2.5D and 3D sections that help add life to the game.
The castle itself is now in 3D and is almost reminiscent of Super Mario 64 (although you’re walking through castle doors and not jumping into paintings… but there are paintings to look at).
Around the castle you’ll find a couple of extra lives to help you out as well. As you play through the game, each level contains 75 diamonds and maybe another couple of collectible pieces (a playing card, statue piece, or chilli pepper). Collecting the two statue pieces in a world (one in each level) unlocks a illusion statue in the castle; it’s just a statue of that world’s boss and a quick little blurb about him/her. Playing cards and chilli peppers unlock additional outfits for Mickey to wear.
Plot wise, there isn’t much here; you’re not going to play the game for its story. The story is told through a narrator throughout the levels (although not in time attack mode) and a couple of cutscenes (that can’t be skipped). Basically, Minnie has been kidnapped by the witch Mizrabel because Mizrabel wants to steal Minnie’s “beauty.” So Mickey has to go through five acts or worlds, each of which consist of two levels and a boss fight, to grab the seven rainbow gems and open up a rainbow bridge to Mizrabel’s tower.
As you can see, there’s only 15 stages plus the final boss fight. Like the original, this isn’t a long game by any means. In fact, it’s much too short for asking price. I beat it in just under three hours and died quite a bit (usually missed jumps) and only briefly explored for collectibles (I saved that for mop up duty).
Depending on how good or bad you are, you can expect to spend anywhere from two and a half hours to a little over three hours playing through the game’s story. That is incredibly short, especially for a game that is as relatively easy like this one. There’s just simply not much challenge here. Yeah, you’ll die, but it’s going to be the result of missing a jump or something like that and most of the time that won’t even be your fault.
The main problem with the game is that Mickey is a little floaty, and that simply isn’t good for platformers. This is more noticeable when the game switches to 3D stuff and requires you to have precision in your jumps on moving platforms. It doesn’t become frustratingly bad like we’ve seen in platformers before, but it will definitely cause you to miss a few jumps that you’ll be thinking you should have made.
Nothing about the game gets even remotely challenging until the very end though. The final battle with Mizrabel requires some timing and coordination. It did take me a few tries to beat her, but even she isn’t really that hard all things considered. It’s just too bad that the game waits until the very end to even begin to offer any sort of a challenge.
Once you beat the story, Castle of Illusion offers little replay. If you’re a completionist and care about some trophies/achievements, you’ll run back through the levels and mop up all the collectibles that you missed. Once you beat a level, you also open up the time attack mode for that level, which is just you being timed to see how fast you can complete the level and your competition is yourself. There are leaderboards for scores within the level, but I don’t consider that reason enough to continue playing the game after getting all of the collectibles.
If the original Genesis game holds a special place in your heart, then yes this one is worth playing. Likewise, if you’re a parent looking for a charming little harmless platformer for your kids, Castle of Illusion is a good choice to keep them occupied for a few hours. It is ultimately a fun platformer with some neat tricks, but at $15 there simply isn’t enough value here to label it a must buy game even with the nostalgia goggles on because there are better games available that offer way more value and at a cheaper price.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse gets a three out of five: GOOD.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.