A few months ago Disney knocked a home run out of the park with a downloadable remake of a fan favorite Duck Tales. This month they have done the same thing, only this time their mascot Mickey Mouse is the headlining act. Sega decided to remake the Sega Genesis classic with all new HD graphics and gameplay. Sega also adds more of a story to the game along with a narrator who tells of Mickey’s quest as it is happening. The story follows the lines of the original, Minnie and Mickey are picnicking and suddenly the evil witch Mizrabel swoops down and kidnaps Minnie. Mickey then begins his quest into the Castle of Illusion to find the 7 Rainbow Gems so that he can create a Rainbow Bridge to Asgard, I mean to Minnie. To find the Rainbow Gems Mickey must go through level after level to defeat the Masters of Illusion that hold the gems. That’s the premise in a nutshell, and even though it may sound somewhat weak, it doesn’t detract from the game at all, it is a stellar plat-former.
The level variety is amazing, you go through a forest flying around on vines, go battling little tree stumps, fighting the letter “A” in a library and fighting a giant dragon in melted ice cream. The hub world looks great, exactly like a spooky castle one would fight evil in. The developer was smart enough to go the Super Mario 64 route with the levels. As you progress through the levels you find diamonds, the more and more diamonds you collect the more that certain floors and doors will open to new levels. It’s a smart way to make a plat-former and not make getting to each level confusing. The levels also let you enjoy it in 2D until they throw in a mechanic that pops it into 3D and makes the world even more glorious. Instead of going the hand drawn route like Ducktales did, they went full CG and it was the right choice. Hand drawn would not have worked well at all with the 3D scenes and with certain boss fights, so it is very good that Sega Australia went the CG route. Mickey is of course the star of the show in Castle of Illusion and his animations are great, if you get him too close to a ledge he teeters off attempting to stay on the ground, he’ll look scared when the time is right. It’s just great, they totally captured his cartoon antics and turned them into a great 3D model.
Sound effects and voice overs can make or break a game, if they don’t fit the theme of the game they can break it, however the folks at Sega picked all the right sounds and voice overs for this game. Mickey and Minnie both sound just like they fell out of an old Walt Disney short. The narrator is perfect for the tone of this game, not too camp, not too creepy, but just right as he moves the story forward without being unnecessary at any time. The effects are great too, Mickey jumping and thrashing foes sounds great, like it came right out of Fantasia. It isn’t overdone either, some cartoon inspired games go overboard with the effects and turn what would be a great experience into an annoying couple of hours. Sega hit the median right on and captures the cartoons perfectly without a single sound being misplaced. The musical score is also an amazing accompaniment to the levels. Grant Kirkhope, from Banjo-Kazooie penned the score and did a magnificent job with it, not once is it overpowering and it feels right as it progresses with you throughout the level.
The game-play is tight, tighter than I thought it would be to be honest. Recent plat-formers have had loose controls that cause death, not once did Mickey fall to his demise due to a shoddy control scheme. The jump button is precise, when you have to grab on a swinging rope to overcome a deadly fall the automatic grip is instant and accurate. If you have to jump quickly from platform to platform you aren’t hindered by a bad directional control and Mickey’s shadow tells you exactly where you need to land. These controls are amazing and you won’t be cussing them out if you die, you’ll be cussing yourself out for missing such an easy jump.
Due to the fact that re-playability is extremely important to gamers now-a-days, Sega was nice enough to add some trinkets to find in the levels. The true OCD gamer will spend a few more hours looking for all 800 diamonds, or finding all five of Donald Duck’s chili peppers and magical playing cards. Let’s also not forget that each level has two statue pieces in and once unlocked the statue is displayed in the castle hub-world, in an attempt to make it feel more homely. Also if you acquire all the collectibles you are granted different costumes for Mickey by looking into the mirror in the castle hub world, just more great Easter Eggs that Sega has blessed us with.
Sega could have used the nostalgia opportunity to really cash in quickly on this game by giving gamers a sub par product. They didn’t do that at all, they were even nice enough to package the original Sega game in with the download should you pre-order the game. Everyone should have taken this option just to see where Sega came from, but if you didn’t you still are in-store for a treat. Instead of going in halfway, Sega went in, remade the original game, stuck with the levels and the story and just made it more massive for the gamer of today. They were also nice enough to make it bone-crushingly difficult like the original version. It plays as a nice semi difficult plat-former that won’t have you throwing your controller all over the room. Castle of Illusion is definitely worth the price of admission, even if you didn’t play the original. If you are a fan of good, licensed plat-formers, then this game definitely needs to be on your hard-drive and that’s no illusion.
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