Review: Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
It’s difficult to decide whether the gaming industry is starting to dry up on its original ideas; for every Dragon’s Dogma we get an 8th iteration of Call of Duty. For every ‘new’ FPS, some developer decides that rehashing a classic and prettifying it means that the game will sell well and, due to the pedigree of the original, will still have the same elements that made the first one so good at the time. Newsflash; go back and play Goldeneye on the N64 and you will realise that it has aged horrifically. What was innovative back then doesn’t translate as innovative now. Adding elements to a ‘new’ old game that either complement the first iteration or bring it up to date with current generation techniques is the only way that remakes can stand on their own two feet with Tomb Raider and XCOM: Enemy Unknown being the two that come to mind. Castle of Illusion doesn’t fall into the terrible category but just doesn’t offer enough of anything, whether it be gameplay or actually hours to invest, that really makes it a standout.
Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse, other than winning the award for one of the most unnecessarily long titles in gaming history, is (which you may have guessed), a remake of the 1990 Sega Genesis version. Storyline isn’t remotely important here and, as it was stated back when it first came out, seems to have been ripped straight from the story of a certain Italian plumber and a wayward princess. Mickey and Minnie are traipsing around a forest when Mizrabel, another wicked witch in Disney lore, takes her away and Mickey must save her. All cut scenes jump between stills, narration and a fair amount of text; hardly captivating stuff.
From what I can gather from the reviews of the original, the first game felt like a rip off of Mario and co but seemed to revel in it. It still offered sound mechanics and good gameplay to make it decent in its own right, think of Saints Row ripping off the GTA series. What differs between these two comparisons is that Saints Row branched off into its own territory, whilst Castle of Illusion doesn’t. ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ doesn’t cut it here when even Mario has received slow evolution and added nuances over the years, making Mickey’s adventure seem a bit dull in comparison.
Mickey now has a hub castle to go through each area of the game, with other areas opening up only when the requisite amount of gems have been collected. The worlds are colourful but lack polish, and each has Disney’s input all over it, which can only really be considered a good thing. What really lets the whole scenario down is that the package just feels nothing more than standard. Enemies have no variation and are of no challenge. Jumping, one of the main ways Mickey gets around and avoids/attacks enemies, feels ridiculously floaty and you will find at times that trying to explore the areas given to you just simply isn’t worth the trouble. The 2.5D perspective does work very well however, and further enhances Disney’s unique touch and nods to films, both in and out of the Mickey universe.
The endgame doesn’t take very long to get to either, with perhaps 4-5 hours of standard gameplay before a mildly challenging boss fight. There is very little to make you want to come back to the game, if you really want nostalgia go and pick up a Genesis, and the difficulty level is pretty pitiful. The main target audience is likely to be the older generation who remember the game when it first came out; considering it was only 20 odd years ago, it would be unfair (read: stupid) to infer that all of these gamers are now geriatrics.
To sum up
Regardless of its pedigree, Castle Illusion isn’t that fantastic, and firmly falls into the nostalgia camp. It is by no means a bad game but it just doesn’t offer anything particularly outstanding to recommend it as a must buy.