Friday, 13 September 2013

REVIEW - Castle Of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (PS3)

16-bit Magic for 2013

Nostalgia is big business these days. We have seen many HD re-imaginings of fondly remembered games of yesteryear hit the modern platforms in recent years, from Spelunker HD and Elevator Action Deluxe, to the more recent Superfrog HD, the excellent (albeit, flawed) DuckTales Remastered and the disappointing Flashback HD, now it is the turn of sublime Mega Drive title Castle of Illusion. The original game from 1990 was a cutesy platformer that was a runaway success due to its gorgeous cartoon visuals, catchy music and well designed levels that saw you navigating a library, forest and worlds made of sweets and toys. It was excellent, deserving all the praise and attention it received and it still holds up well today. Now 23 years later Sega have seen fit to produce a modern reboot, but can a simple cartoon platformer hold its own in this day and age, especially with competition from original titles like Rayman Legends?

Well I am happy to say that, yes, it can. Castle of Illusion takes everything that made the original such a spellbinding experience and gives it a new lick of paint and some new additions that help it feel fresh, yet also old school at the same time. Firstly, the visuals are beautiful. The environments that Mickey has to traverse are full of colour and charm, but with a much less sugary look to them, making it feel like starring in your own cartoon adventure - something the original did so well all those years ago. The music is far less twee than before, employing a more cinematic style that feels perfectly suited to the new, darker, visual style. All the familiar locales are reproduced here, from the lush forest, candy world, stormy mountain, flooded temple and library, to the final castle and even a quick dip in a coffee cup. Many stages are practically identical in layout, while others are heavily altered to include new areas and 3D sections. Yes, 3d - Castle of Illusion doesn't just stick to the 2D platforming, occasionally throwing you into the third dimension for some Mario 64 style action. I mention Mario, not just as the first example of a 3D platformer that came to mind, but also because Castle of Illusion employs a central hub world that is a complete rip-off of Peach's Castle from the Nintendo 64 title. While the 3D sections are slightly trickier to control they are fairly short and always feel like a breath of fresh air when they occur. Even better are the wonderful 2.5D sections that stick to a 2D plane, but with 3D environments that pan around you - the clocktower section and the final rotating tower stage are the best examples of this.

It is extremely enjoyable stuff, and will fill those familiar with the original game with waves of nostalgic glee. However, it is not without its problems. Firstly, I was disappointed with the removal of Mickey's bottom bounce attack - here you just jump on enemies, no need to tap the attack button to ready your rump in mid-air. The game is also pretty easy and extremely short. I whizzed through the game in under two hours, with only the final section and boss giving me any trouble whatsoever - it felt as though the game was finally ramping up the challenge, and then it was over. You can play through again to find collectibles that award you with extra costumes and pictures, and there is a time trial mode for each stage, but it would have been nice to have more levels, or at least a harder difficulty setting.

Thankfully, unlike Wayforward's DuckTales reboot, Sega avoided breaking up the experience with intrusive cutscenes, instead having a narrator tell the story as you play. However, there are some short unskippable cutscenes before the bosses, which are tolerable except for the overly long final boss encounter which has to be sat through again and again if you should die - a poor decision by the developers. A second playthrough removes the storytelling, and it feels much more like a retro platforming experience without it.

Overall, I am really happy that Sega went ahead and remastered such a classic title, and don't think they could have made a much better re-imagining of the original game. I had a wonderful time playing it and have come back for repeat playthroughs. Castle of Illusion is a must-buy for fans of the original Mega Drive game, and a magical experience for everyone. Sega... Quackshot next please!

The Good
  • New visuals and music are a treat for the senses
  • Very faithful to the original source material
  • Extremely enjoyable while it lasts
  • 2.5D and 3D sections are a nice addition

The Bad
  • Very Short & Easy to finish

Title : Castle Of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
Developer : SEGA Australia
Year : 2013
System : PS3
Also on : Xbox 360 / PC
Price : £9.99