Hi I’m Pam and I’m here to talk about
retro video games. Today I’m looking at one of the early platformers
on the Genesis. It’s not Sonic, it’s Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse.
Castle of Illusion was developed by Sega and released in on the Genesis 1990.
The evil witch Mizrabel has captured Minnie Mouse in order to steal her youth and beauty.
Mickey has to travel through various worlds of illusion to gather seven magical gems in
order to defeat the witch and save Minne from becoming less attractive.
When I first put this game on, I was struck by two things.
First, it’s beautiful. The levels are gorgeous and colourful and the sprites are really well
animated. Second… Mickey doesn’t seem to be in much
of a hurry to help Minne. At first I was convinced there was a run button I was missing, but
this is the pace things stay at. A nice, confident saunter.
The gameplay mechanics are quite simple. You can jump and you can throw the limited use
items you come across in each level. Or, you can butt bash things by jumping then
pressing down to defeat enemies and bounce off them for extra height.
I never would have taken the Disney mascot for a mouse who would use his rear-end to
commit violence. Use his vast fortunes to lobby for copyright
extensions that would prevent his likeness from ever entering the public domain while
building an empire by plundering the expired IPs of others, sure.
But not backside brutality. The UI at the bottom of the screen shows your
power, which would more accurately be called health.
You can have up to 5 hit points, though unless you’re playing on Practice mode, you won’t
start will a full five. Picking up stars will replenish your health.
Your tries will show how many lives you have before you get a game over, and you can get
extra by picking up Mickey Mouse ears. Items are the things you can throw at enemies.
These can be apples, candles or marbles depending on the level, but they all work the same.
There are three difficulties to the game, Practice, Normal and Hard, but this really
just impacts how much health you start each level with and how many continues you get.
Castle of Illusion is quite short, with 5 different worlds to explore.
Almost every 80s or 90s platformer starts in some kind of forest, and this is no exception.
Each level is split into a few segments and they all look fantastic.
You’ll face enemies as well as obstacles like falling platforms and swinging ropes.
Besides the forest you’ll also visit a world made of toys, a dangerous cliff that features
some underwater passages and of course, a castle.
The most impressive level to me was the library where Mickey would run across hard-cover books,
fight bookworms and letters that have come to life and even end up in a cup of tea.
Levels aren’t strictly linear. There are often side paths where you can find
bonus items and you might have to do a little exploring to find the way to the exit.
Mickey’s moveset throughout is quite small. There’s really no new abilities you gain
or new mechanics introduced. However, each level does have some unique challenges to
shake things up a bit. In the middle of the Enchanted Forest, there’s
a segment where you’ll be riding moving leaves through spiderwebs.
Part of Toyland has switches which will flip the world upside down and The Storm has places
where rising water will wash you away if you’re not careful.
The seven gems you need to collect come from the bosses you’ll fight throughout the game.
In terms of design and the patterns they use to attack, they are all quite different from
each other. I really liked fighting a dragon in a bottle
of milk in the Library world, and the final boss was an impressive spectacle as well.
Though the mechanics of the game are simple, I wouldn’t call it easy.
The later levels do have some precision platforming and tight timing and the bosses can take a
few tries before you pick up on what you need to do.
The boss from The Storm level was the hardest for me as he just seemed so much quicker than
Mickey. It’s no Ghouls and Ghosts but there is some
challenge to be found here. For such an early Genesis game, the art and
animation in Castle of Illusion is really quite remarkable.
The art team studied Disney’s animated movies to get Mickey’s movement just right. He
has more frames of animation than most platforming heroes do, really bringing him to life.
I love the expressions Mickey makes when teetering close to the edge of a platform, and his happy-go-lucky
idle animation is very cute. Due to the extra animation frames, he can
also jump much further than you’d expect. Game Director Emiko Yamamoto really wanted
to embody Disney with this game. Not by monopolizing all entertainment media,
but by drawing on all the lore created through decades of movies and creating a “positive
world of dreams, peace, and imagination”. I can definitely see some influences from
other Disney properties in this. The witch Mizrabel looks very similar to Snow White’s
Evil queen, in both her forms. I get some It’s Small World vibes from the
enemies and backgrounds found in Toyland. The game was certainly successful in creating
a pastiche of Disney’s style. The soundtrack also fits well. It’s not
one I would listen to outside the game, but it does what it needs to do.
Yamamoto would stick with The Mouse, and go on to direct the other games in the Illusion
series for Sega. In the mid-90s she joined Disney Interactive
where she would eventually go on to produce the Kingdom Hearts games, and was involved
in the remake of Castle of Illusion which released in 2013.
That game had some licencing issues which caused it to be taken down from storefronts,
but as of the making of this video, it is available again.
Castle of Illusion is very impressive from a visual standpoint. It looks amazing for
such an early 16-bit title and each world is fun to explore because of how great it
looks. In terms of gameplay, it’s a little on the
simple side. I had a good time playing it, but it’s probably not something I’d go
back to often. Still, if you’re a fan of Disney, or platformers
that don’t ask too much of you, I think it’s worth a play.
If you want to see a review of another fun Genesis platformer, check out my review of
Aladdin. If you want a less positive review, check out my video on Kid Chameleon. I have
a Patreon if you want to support my videos. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next