Sunday 23 June 2019

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Sega R&D2
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1991

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a platformer that was also released on the Sega Game Gear in 1991.

The evil witch Mizrabel has kidnapped Minnie and in your quest to rescue her you'll need to obtain the seven Gems of the Rainbow from the castle. There's six stages and to attack Mickey can either bounce on enemies' heads, or pick up objects to throw at them. The gameplay is similar to the 16-bit version (1990, Mega Drive), but the level design is entirely different; it's equally impressive in its own right too, with thoughtfully designed stages and plenty of variety. It's always throwing new enemy types, hazards and items into play, and there's even some auto-scrolling stages to mix things up. There's many whimsical moments, such as when you run across a piano, only for some of the musical notes to turn into bad guys! Unlike many platformers that are predominantly left-to-right affairs, this game is full of twists and turns, and never keeps you moving in the same plane for very long in each stage; this adds up to some captivating gameplay and makes you feel like you're really on an epic adventure. Interestingly, the developers clearly took inspiration from various NES titles, especially Mega Man (1987, NES); this is no more apparent than the Dessert Factory's chocolate boss which detaches itself into chunks and launches them horizontally (similar to Mega Man's Yellow Devil boss). Also, the large blue weights in The Castle are similar to Thwomps in Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990, NES). Mickey controls with precision and although the game isn't difficult, there is some challenge in later levels. To top things off, the music is instantly catchy and the graphics / animation are some of the best on the system.

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse features the perfect combination of playful and intriguing level design coupled with outstanding controls that make the game a joy from start to finish. It oozes charm around every corner and while the 16-bit version is frequently praised, this unique 8-bit game is worth just as much of your attention.

Random trivia: Sega's 8-bit console was home to two other games in the series, Land of Illusion (1993) and Legend of Illusion (1998).

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