About the Game:
In Castle of Illusion, Mickey Mouse must save Minnie from the evil witch Gruntilda before she steals Minnie’s beauty by teaming up with a wise-cracking bird and wait now I think I’ve confused myself…
I played Castle of Illusion a lot as a kid. Or, maybe I did… My mom was a Disney NUT back then and honestly I can’t remember if it was me playing or me watching her play. What I do know is that as soon as the game is mentioned it’s entire musical track takes front and center in my brain and I’m a kid again!
Gameplay here is about as straightforward as it gets in the “Move right, jump and throw” sense. Your enemies are dispatched either by throwing a projectile based on the world you’re in, or by tapping the jump button while you’re in the air to perform a combative butt stomp.
Stages are varied, each adding increasingly difficult obstacles for you to deal with, and it never feels too difficult. Enemies are generally pretty simple to deal with, and most worlds end after two to three stages and a boss fight.
Controls are tight and responsive, and generally everything handles really well. One inconsistency is in regards to bouncing off enemies. One of the greatest joys in Castle of Illusion is flying off enemies’ heads onto another enemy, and basically bouncing your way through most if not all of a single stage. Sometimes, however, you’ll inexplicably “fall” through an enemy that you defeat rather than bouncing off them. This can do a lot to ruin a good run you’re having, or at least severely throw off a planned jump. This is especially irritating when certain secret areas actually require you to use this bounce mechanic.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
When it comes to the 16-bit console generation, I feel like they really had it together from the outset. Sega knew they wanted to make a splash when they hit the scene in the late 80’s, and as a result even their earliest titles looked fantastic. Castle of Illusion, despite it’s dated UI, is no exception. Mickey is well animated with great little touches like the ledge animation, and the environments all look distinct and well drawn.
Another thing that most early Genesis games all had in common was their sound design, and when you play a lot of titles from 1989 to 1991 you’ll start to hear a lot of similarities. That said, what Castle of Illusion manages to do with those sounds is pretty spectacular. The music from this game is still with me, and I could hear the tracks playing even before popping it in my Genesis for the first time in 20 years. The dream track from the spiderweb level in World 1 or from in the Tea Cup in World 4 is a standout. The sound effects are equally as, well, effective.
Fun & Relevance:
From Chip ‘n Dale and DuckTales on the NES to Castle of Illusion on the Genesis, there was a time when licensed, particularly Disney licensed, games were simply the best. Case in point, this is the first of six Disney games we’ll be playing before setting off to the 32-bit consoles!
Castle of Illusion is still a lot of fun to play, though ultimately it’s fairly average in the scheme of things. I’ll openly admit that the enjoyment I found here was heavily tinted by nostalgia, though I think that’s fine. This is also the first game I got to watch my Disney-obsessed four year old beat (on Practice) so for that it will always be special… it also means I’ll have to pick up another copy having fried mine…