Platform games were easily my genre of choice back in the old ‘retro’ days of the SNES, Master System, NES and Genesis. Cool to stare at, tricky to play and even more difficult to master. A true gamers game that, at the time of course, it made me feel like a king amongst kids (I later discovered this fact not to be true).
One of the classics way back when, came from none other than Disney, who took that eponymous mouse and threw him into a colourful and devious Castle of Illusion. Almost twenty-four years later, Sega Studios Australia have taken the well-loved plat-former and completely remade it and using HD visuals along with a brand new 3D engine, Mickey has never looked so good or played so well.
For those who haven’t had the chance to get acquainted with the original, Castle of Illusion sets Mickey on a quest to save the love of his life, Minnie, from the grasp of Mizrabel. An old and evil hag who, out of jealousy, planned to steal Minnie’s youth and beauty. In order to get to Mizrabel’s tower, Mickey must collect seven rainbow diamonds guarded by Mizrabel’s guardians – standard fare then really!
A faithful remake of the original, fans who remember that far back will feel at home immediately, with all the game worlds maintaining their overall theme as well as some familiar design points with how the level will play out. The original enemies are back, with a brand new perspective and lick of paint, ready to prove to you just how dangerous a jelly dolphin can be. They may be sweet, but they come with an aftertaste of rage. Mickey isn’t entirely unarmed though, packing the usual noggin bump simply by jumping as well as a handful of throw-ables to knock out distant foes. These change for each themed area, moving from apples to toy balls and so on. Castle of Illusion sticks to its side-scrolling roots while adding in some dashes of 3D, with moments blending and balancing well from one moment jumping on pesky vowels heading your way, to then rotating around and giving you a multi directional path to play with. Even the classic apple-boulder chase switches seamlessly from 2D into 3D.
Some games fail to mix elements of 2D and 3D gameplay, often crowbarring the changes in with no finesse. On this occasion however, everything fits well, handled with a keen eye and careful hand you can plainly see the attention to detail that has been afforded. This care translates to almost every part of the game which sees some beautiful presentation poured into its recreation. From the simplicity of the main menu to the gorgeous cut scenes, everything looks great with no over-baked ideas.
Feeling like a storybook , the game pushes things along with a narrator who tastefully grumbles off Mickey’s every move, plight and decisions which genuinely never feels out-of-place or gets annoying and with some great writing you’ll genuinely enjoy the journey to saving Mickey’s beloved. Think Bastion with a softer tone and more care free intent.
The game’s soundtrack is stunning, with a classical score that is expansive and diverse while remaining everything you would expect and could hope for from Disney, serving to push the adventure forward and accent every victory or failure.
Failure is probably a key word when talking about Castle of Illusion however, as true to its roots, this remake has stuck with its frustrating and taxing platforming elements. Castle really tests your mettle, requiring you to utilise some serious rhythm and precision to stick your landings and time your jumps. Quite often I found myself stressing over gaps that required me to chain a serious of jumps, double jumps and direction changes which more often that not resulted in total failure due to a slight miss step. This is a tough game underneath its innocent exterior, so don’t be fooled.
The game controls can exacerbate the situation of course, while they feel well-balanced and smooth to use for 99 percent of your play time, the jump command can feel a little bit lost through running, meaning on occasion you’ll get a slight delay. On top of this, the movement is really quite sensitive, something which you’ll have to get used to when playing – every incremental movement made by the thumb stick is recognised. My downfall on more than a handful of occasions was assuming that drastic movements were needed.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mickey and exploring the worlds Mizrabel cooked up to foil Mickey, it’s a shame that the experience was oh so short, with it being completely feasible to clock the game in just over 3 hours. Sure there’s time attack mode along with a host of collectibles ripe for discovery which will bolster out the longevity but all the same, some more levels wouldn’t have gone a miss.
While there’s nothing entirely new here, Castle of Illusion showcases a classic game brought up to date while maintaining its roots and platforming mechanics. It does what it sets out to do and does it extremely well.
If you can spare the diamonds then go for it!