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It can be hard to think of what existed on the SEGA Mega Drive before the days of Sonic, but there are many games which are still regarded as classics today.
One such classic was Castle of Illusion; an enchanting little platformer featuring Disney’s Mickey Mouse. Released back in 1990, it received unanimous praise from critics, thanks to it’s catchy music, wonderful art style and animation, and – most importantly, the gameplay.
“Help me Mickey. You’re my only hope”
The game opens with Mickey and Minnie having a nice stroll through the meadows, when suddenly a jealous evil witch named Mizrabel (nice!) swoops down and whisks her away. Sure, the “save the girl” storyline sounds like just about every other adventure game at the time, but like Super Mario, there is a lot more on offer here.
The main quest requires you to collect 7 gems hidden within the castle. Each door leads through to a unique world with sub-areas full of variety, collectables and secrets. You must traverse a creepy woodland, toy land, enchanted library and more to reach your beloved Minnie, with a memorable and stylised boss to greet you at the end of each one.
The platforming is spot on, with responsive controls similar to what you would expect in an 8-bit classic, although at a slightly slower pace. What you have here is something that presents challenge, but not with quite the same level of required precision.
One thing worth noting here is the “bum-bash” move… or whatever it’s called. Those of you who play a lot of Mario games may take a while to adjust to the method of pressing jump twice to kill an enemy. Pressing it only once results in Mickey clumsily stumbling onto an enemy and taking damage. So remember to press it again when you’re in the air! Then everything should be okay.
That Disney Magic
So what makes this game so special? To answer that question you really need to look back at the famous Sega vs Nintendo console wars and what else existed at the time. Remember, Castle of Illusion came out in 1990. We didn’t have Sonic until the following year or Super Mario World until 1992!
This Sega exclusive title, developed by their own team, displayed a huge advancement in the quality of presentation, thanks to the power of their 16-bit system. With detailed and authentic Disney characterisation, a vast and beautiful colour palette, and some of the best parallax scrolling seen to date, it featured a level of graphics and animation that still look great today.
Overall, Castle of Illusion is an ideal adventure game whether you are a Disney fan or not. This title has a reasonable challenge factor and should entertain just about anyone who enjoys these types of games.
There is a practice mode to give a younger audience a taste of the game without being too difficult, or the usual normal and hard difficulties to suit your tastes.
Once you’ve finished this game, there is a limited immediate replay value if you are seeking more in the terms of alternate routes and hidden areas, but I guarantee over the years you will come back to it time and time again to re-live the experience as it is a real joy to play.