As I was finishing my DuckTales Remastered review, I was surprised to see yet another old Disney game remake ready to be downloaded and waiting for my money budgeted for nostalgia. Castle of Illusion:Starring Mickey Mouse is a Sega game from back in the Genesis days that is largely well-remembered; it soon became a series, with Donald backing Mickey up in a few titles to make people who prefer the eternally-miffed foul (like me!). The original game is so loved that a 3DS spin-off, Power of Illusion, came out in 2012 to less-than-stellar reviews. Perhaps lieu of Power of Illusion’s failings, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a 2013 remake of the Sega classic by the Sega Australia team that improves upon the original in many ways. For purists, however, these changes could be irksome, and the game is not without faults: some new and others a result of the new format.
The story is as simple as the original with all new dressings. Mizrabel, a witch that looks inexplicably similar to Snow White’s homicidal mother-in-law, captures Minnie as the two famous rodents are picnicking. Not missing a beat, Mickey pursues them to Mizrabel’s Castle of Illusion, which comes to no surprise to anyone who bothered to read the title. Mizrabel’s motivating factor, like her Queen look-alike, is jealousy. She wants to steal Minnie’s beauty for herself. Mizrabel even says that she wants to be the fairest of them all at one point, which really drives the Snow White similarity to an infuriating place. The story is narrated in the opening scene and throughout gameplay, making the game feel like a storybook.
The narrator is a welcome addition to the game and is far less intrusive than halting gameplay with cutscenes, a trope in games we should squelch and a trope that pulled down my score for DuckTales Remastered. Narration can only get irritating in the more challenging levels since he will continue to speak as you fail to reach a platform and restart a level. Most of his dialogue is charming, and some of it funny. The combination of the narrator’s classic Disney voice and Mickey’s faithful heroism made me feel like a kid again. The Castle of Illusion itself is a home base, and each door leads Mickey to another world of Mizrebel’s imagining. In a more involved game, perhaps the narrator would delve into Mizrabel’s world-creation escapism which, in a way, mirrors the escapism of the player. The pictures and art of the castle hint that these worlds and monsters of Mizrabel’s creation were, at times, happy. Perhaps it is best not to think of it too much.
The gameplay aspect of this adventure has and hasn’t strayed from the original. Similarly, Mickey needs to stomp on the heads of enemies to vanquish them. Apart from the original, the player does not need to press a button to ready Mickey for an enemy-aimed landing. This is an improvement, but makes the game less challenging. Mickey retains his float-like jumping like the original Genesis game, which can be a positive or a negative. For veteran gamers who love platforming, Mickey is not tight, but consistent at least. In the small sections of play where the game moves to a 3D-like 2D, it can cause some serious problems. In that way, it suffers from many of the N64’s awkward-like-puberty platforming. The game does not innovate platforming-wise, if you’ve played a platforming game, you have dodged obstacles, fallen to your death, and been enraged when the thing you are standing on crumbles and falls away. Today, when there are some masterpiece platformers out and upcoming, it is hard to make a case for Castle of Illusion to those who don’t have a special place in their heart for it already. The bosses are reinvented and fun, but most are too predictable and easy. In fact, all but two of the bosses hurt themselves, giving Mickey a chance to strike. At the very least, they have more flair than their Genesis counterparts.
The reason that this game is better than the original is because it encourages exploration more and adds some new twists to the familiar levels. There are many crystals, statues, and chili peppers to collect and each require some interesting jumps to attain. The bonuses for replaying the game are costumes for Mickey, but at least it is fun to collect everything. New areas of each level provide more challenge from the original, to surprise veteran Illusion players. One gripe I had about the game was its exclusion of many of the original game tracks. It is a nitpick, yes, but it was disappointing nonetheless. While the game is not too challenging, and far too easy for veterans, this is a game for kids, something severely lacking from the Xbox and Playstation libraries and may lead those kids to new and more difficult platformers. That said about overall difficulty, the last level and final boss will require a bit more effort.
All in all, The Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a solid remake. Yes, the game is perhaps too easy, predictable, and short, but it is more deserving than DuckTales Remastered as a remake because Castle of Illusion builds upon the source material to create something better while DuckTales Remastered appreciates the original too much to move forward. Castle of illusion feels like a piece of Disney history because it is a rich and beautiful world with an over-the-top villain, a cheese-filled ending, a lovable hero, and some fun gameplay. In this way it is everything a good, but not fantastic, Disney production can be. Now, why isn’t this Disney game on WiiU?
Vinny Orsillo | @VinnyOhGames