Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis) – Retro Game Review


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
time.

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100 Comments
  1. Penguin Revolution

    I like the fact you have Plainscape Torment next to you on a shelf, it's probably been there in past videos but this is the first time I noticed. But Castle of Illusion is a great game I liked playing it when I was younger 😀

  2. Donnie Russell II

    I hope I live to see the day some company starts making Mickey Mouse stuff by the truckload while Disney looks on in horror. Not that China doesn't already.

  3. mark holtzen

    I want to go play this game, now that I’m done looking up the definition of “pastiche”

  4. MisterK812

    I had a Master System 2 with a copy of this game, that version is quite good. But the Genesis game is better overall. I suggest reviewing Quackshot next.

  5. LinkVsGanon

    Cracking bird!

  6. Sinahy Ruiz

    You have very cute cheeks 🙂

  7. C. Coyle

    Great review, the Master System version is very good too, it's also quite a bit faster.

  8. thepalalias

    I was having a rough day but your video cheered me up. Great work as usual and I loved the deadpan delivery on the social commentary. 🙂

  9. Arrowdodger

    I love how much sass you packed into this one. I can't recall playing this platformer, I ought to sometime.

  10. dvd return

    SAUDADES DESSA ÉPOCA !!!!

  11. Arrowdodger

    I am very happy to hear the director got to stick with Disney video games. She really seems to get it, so that seems like a perfect fit for her.

  12. Dane of Halves

    I like this game.

  13. Pieter Naude

    This is so cool, I just bought the remake of Castle of Illusion. Hopefully Sonic is coming soon!

  14. Erin Plays

    It took me an embarrassingly long time to learn about the butt bounce move.

  15. Zebbe

    Spot on! I also miss the days when Disney wasn't monopolizing the entertainment media.

  16. Venoix

    This was a fun review. It reminds me of the Super Nintendo game, Mickey and the Great Circus Mystery, which I had a lot of fun playing with a friend as a kid.

  17. Marcus Alexandre Leitão Guedes

    You should also take a look at the Master System version… that's a lovely game. In fact, I kind prefer it to the Genesis version.

  18. Glozwell

    Let's see, who should I kidnap in order to steal their youth and sex appeal… oh I know, a goddamn mouse

  19. Vincent Video

    The animators worked with disney sprites and designs made by Disney animators, Sega was Disney's direct video game collaborator, not even the games on the Snes had that help from disney. Disney chose Sega to make their games and not the other way around as it was accustomed

  20. Rob Moye

    Lol at "backside brutality" I want to make a bunch of dirty jokes with that one, but I'll refrain. Alot of cool disney platformers back then. Check out Mickey Mania, and Quackshot also.
    Can't believe everyones not tired of Marvel movies. I know I am.

  21. Ghost

    If I were a witch and needed someone to steal their beauty, I probably wouldn't go for a talking rat.

  22. M Adams

    best reviewer voice keep up the great vids

  23. james woodard

    I grew up with the Sega Master System version of Castle of Illusion, which I actually prefer, solely for nostalgic reasons.

  24. Feenix

    Hmm, I think I had this on the Game-gear. I remember it fondly. :o)

  25. Bert

    You know you've got a good review when you can use both 'backside brutality' and 'pastiche' and make it work. I like the cut of your jib.
    Good shit Pam! Keep kickin' retro ass!

  26. killersheaven82

    I remember Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse it was one of the first Sega Genesis games maybe even the first Sega Genesis game i´ve ever played.

  27. Marcus Hicks

    Fantastic review…..clearly I missed a lot of games by graduating straight from a C64 to the 286DX 😉.

  28. Per Börjeson

    It must have been one of the first 16-bit games I played. Back then around 1990, there were three games commonly used as demos at our local toy store; Sonic, Golden Axe, and this! Later replaced by Quack Shot. Man, I can even sense the smell of that store as I watch this! It wasn't until some years later that I actually played through Castle of Illusion, after a friend got it for the Game Gear. I have a hard time keeping the actual game content apart from Disney's Magical Quest, since I played that around the same time as the GG version of Illusion. But that magical feeling you got from those early 16-bit, and Capcom-era, Disney games, that never goes away.

  29. Cok Toe

    I liked this game, but it wasn't a favorite. The main thing impressed upon me was the quality of graphics and art, which was an almost shocking step up from the NES. Not that this was my first Genesis rodeo, but I was in awe of the disparity in general for a good spell, and this game was among the early graphical heavy hitters to be sure. Cool to see it again. It's been almost 30 years.

  30. Darko1226

    Some of these levels look like Castlevania levels.

  31. markdaspark auto

    One of my top five greatest Sega Genesis games of all time the only game I play with headphones on

  32. None of Your Business

    Love the jab against Disney's copyright hypocrisy.

  33. Ace Hardy

    📝

  34. Mike Ascione

    Lol yea let's see how fast you run through unfamiliar worlds not knowing what's ahead of you

  35. Ekolite 82

    This was the first game I completed on the Sega Genesis Mini. Just beat Quackshot on my mega sg yesterday. Very similar games but quackshot is longer and more challenging. Looking forward to trying the other mega drive Mickey Mouse Games and Donald in Maui Mallard next.

  36. adriano fangueiro

    I really like how music switches from peacefull in the first level to urgency in the boss battle.Really a great game.Pam,have you ever reviewed rocket knight adventures for the genesis?Great game and one of the best boss themes in my opinion of course.Keep making more 16 bit reviews

  37. James

    Great review. I love when you review older games from my childhood. I have a lot of great memories playing this. Maybe next time you can review the remake.

  38. CheapestGamer

    Have you tried the 2013 remake? I got stuck on the dragon boss and kept saying I'll go back to it. I never did though.

  39. OL_91

    I remember playing this when I was younger…dont remember beating it though.

  40. Conundrum

    I never got too into those games because they're so simple, and the Game Gear one I primarily played was kind of too easy.

  41. ViddyOGamesForFun

    Good review. This is on the Genesis Mini [or Megadrive Mini in Australia where I am], so I have no excuse not to play it.

    Also, after a comment thread on one of your previous videos, I played the demo of Plague Tale: Innocence [the game you mentioned] and I'm going to play more of it soon.

  42. ChronoArcaile2019

    Oh man! THis really takes me Back,This Game and Capcom's The Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse (Which was the first game in Capcom's Disney's Magical Quest Trilogy) were some of the best 16-bit Mickey Mouse Games ever Made:P

    This game was defentially ahead of it's time especially the Forest Stage and the Boss theme music is one of the Best Boss Themes in any 16-bit Sega Genesis Game ^^ this game blew my mind which was one of the first Sega Genesis games I've ever played in my childhood along with Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle and Phantasy Star 2

    speaking of 16-bit games,An Anime style Alice in Wonderland video game that came out the same year in 1990 on the turbo grafx 16 called "Fushigi no Yume no Alice " had Levels/Stages very Similar to Castle of Illusion:P

    https://www.mobygames.com/game/turbo-grafx/fushigi-no-yume-no-alice/screenshots

    anyways,another great review as always pam:P

  43. akmunchkin

    This was a fun and challenging game

  44. tw1tch09

    why is it so weird to see Mickey in a platformer? Great review as always!!

  45. Glen Galloway

    I used to play this a lot along with Donald duck quackshot still great games. Great video

  46. Christian Vasquez

    Please review world of illusion.

  47. omer porges

    would you think this game is suitable for a 5 yr old? My daughter is very fond of Disney and when I played kingdom hearts she was ecstatic while watching me play. She doesn't know English yet and I want to let her in the world of video games and looking for a nice game to start with.

  48. Captain Vladmir

    "Oh hey look, a new Pam video, I've never heard of that game bu…god damn those glasses look good on her." — me, when I clicked on the notification. Beyond that, great review as usual, but I can't help thinking that Mickey looks like he's tripping hard on some interesting party drugs in all the footage provided.

  49. rakim

    yo, i played the android version, its a decent platformer

  50. Johnny Parrot Joe

    This was one of those games that made me buy a Genesis when I was a kid back in 1990. Thanks for this! So many beautiful memories!

  51. Wade Mikunda

    great game, world of illusion was better!

  52. Stefan Kristoffersen

    Now that you played this, I'd recommend you to give the Master System version a spin to compare them. Sure, the MS version doesn't have the visual or audio pizazz of the Mega Drive version, but in terms of level design and gameplay, I prefer the MS version (I'd say the final boss is even a tad cooler than the one in the MD version).

  53. Sir Vivor

    How do you find time to game with all the nappy changing?

  54. Matthew Mohri

    Sounds like Mickey was tripping balls and never left his self warming lazy boy.

  55. Tobey Starburst

    This was before you were born?

  56. Phil McCool

    Great review as always. I played this recently and found it annoying, particularly the way the defeated enemies reappear so quickly. I gave the amphibian boss a free pass though because he's so cute.

  57. Lord-JP

    I've always found this title atmospheric. Great audio and visuals.
    The Master System title of the same name is also recommended, but whilst also a platformer, is completely different.

  58. Perihelion74

    Remember this being reviewed in A.C.E Magazine in around 1990 I think? It got a massive score! I had an Amiga but none of my mates with MegaDrives had this so I never saw it running. Great game 🙂

  59. TopSpot123

    Very good review, Pam! I can't recommend trying out the 2013 remake enough it you enjoyed this one enough to consider it. I think that remake was unfairly overshadowed by Duck Tales Remastered, and not enough people know how good, beautiful, and faithful (but still updated) it is. Lastly, I just beat the 8-bit Master System version last night, lol. That was also a very enjoyable time, even if it's probably the least of the versions.

  60. Big News Morgans

    Review Quackshot and Taz In Escape from Mars next!

  61. Paul Bowland

    This was a really good review… Now I gotta get a copy for myself!

  62. RDJ 134

    Great game, lol hints to Disney 😉

  63. battra92

    In some of Mickey's first cartoons he beat up animals, chewed tobacco and forced himself on Minnie so what's a little butt bouncing?

  64. Thiago

    Good review, but you should not really use a scanline filter. It looks horrible.

  65. Round2GamingChannel

    Totally thought I had already played this game, but after watching your video, I don’t remember any of this! So weird!

    This was a terrific episode as always, Pam. Thanks for the Monday morning smiles on my way to work. 😊

  66. Volcanic47

    You should check out and review the Sega Master system (8bit) version of Castle of illusion as a comparison. In terms of playablitiy its better imo. Plus Land of illusion the sequel, awesome game.

  67. Cj Armour

    THE MAGICAL QUEST STARTING MICKEY MOUSE FOR SNES IS MY FAVORITE MICKEY VIDOE GAME. IT WAS FUN. IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED THAT ONE PAM U SHOULD TRY IT.

  68. Connor Lehane

    Very cool backgrounds, I can put up with mechanics that are lacking for some cool scenery, good tunes, and a story that hits home in games.

  69. drbeavi5

    This brings back a lot of nostalgia, from when I was 8~10 years old. Great video once again!

  70. risk603

    Wish Micky Mouse was me, and I was saving Pam instead of Minnie, perfect game

  71. Jonathan Curran

    Why does this video keep pausing if I watch it on my Virgin Media Tevo Box Google? Why does Nitro Rad's video also keep pausing when playing on the the Tevo cable box? How come some stuglr to play while Jimmy Fallon is always OK? Explain Google. EXPLAIN? (Nes Manga)

  72. eS Te

    That pink dragon boss, the facial expression, reminds me alot of Grisus father Fumé. Kind of a rip off.
    https://youtu.be/3F2I3nG-zgc

  73. P cj

    So many fond child memories ! I love this game! thanks for taking ur time in uploading it!

  74. James Gordon

    😍 i love the game and she too

  75. GarethNIreland

    Great video, thanks Pam 🎮

  76. Vipor29 Gaming

    my favorite platformer for the genesis

  77. Joseph Silva

    I feel illused, that's another Disney take-over right there. I'm sold..

  78. esteban138

    Great video as always… and I appreciate that those little digs at Disney… it was as much a part of my childhood as anyone else’s, but that company terrifies me.

  79. BenM87

    Love that you reviewed this – many fond memories!

  80. Dr.JoshDaRealGamer

    I can tell you that this game is fun. But tough to beat.

  81. Milos Kaurin

    Wait a second… What's that other game with Mickey where he uses a carpet as an attack? I never played this one, it looks pretty dope.

  82. underwaterlady

    i've been playing this A LOT on the genesis classic

  83. The PreQurrent Gamer

    I remember the toy world was one of my favorite levels in a game as a kid.

  84. Daniele Sai

    What a new wonderful and compelling video of yours, dear Pam! I share with great pleasure on social networks. I also love the always fascinating worlds of retrogaming and retrocomputing. My best greetings and wish to spend a nice day. 😍 😘 😀 😉 👏 👍 🕹️

  85. yourthesecret

    I had this game as kid. Very hard but the graphics were great.

  86. VADER GAMER

    I love this game .
    I still play it to this day.

  87. David Blum

    I played this game when it first came out. I remember it well because I was living in an apartment (not to expensive) right on the beach in Venice (L.A.), and about that time the first Iraq war started.

  88. The notorious buu

    Dude this game was fire. The dragon was super fun to play.

  89. Vibes of Truth

    awwww man I love this game its like the only Sega Genesis game I lost over the years . I always game up around the world where you get flipped upside down . then in 1996 my babysitter from Quebec was finally able to beat the game so I got to see the ending good times

  90. Broken Controller Club

    I've got great memories of playing this and Quackshot with my family. The remake is gorgeous but the original still looks good to this day.

  91. Iraqi sonic

    احب هذه اللعبة

  92. Jeff Bailey

    Great game and nice review! subbed

  93. schrecknet

    I used to play this on the Game Gear all the time.

  94. rimmersbryggeri

    We had this on Master System it was actually almost as good i a little less crowded.

  95. Infinity2z3r0

    Across every platform and generation it's very rare for Disney stuff to end up in a bad/broken/poor quality game. Most are worth playing.

  96. Linda aka the gamergirl

    😂 at some of the stuff you said. Such a good video!

  97. TheSudouser

    I do remember playing this back in the day! Thanks for rekindling those memories. And the Mickey “butt bashing” comments had me rolling. Well Said! 😂

  98. Bryan Truong

    Enjoyed another good video review and analysis. Also liked the snarky commentary

  99. elfergos

    I had this on game gear, but they must have made an entirely different game as the level design looks completely different. It was a great game though.

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