It has been a pretty solid couple of months for platformers. The Smurfs 2 turned out way better than any rational human being could have ever expected, Duck Tales Remastered turned out great, and now we have another HD update with Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. I have no clever way to lead into the review so please click onward so my time spent writing this wasn’t for naught.
I hadn’t played the Genesis version of this game for years, probably since not long after it was first released. Thankfully PSN pre-orders got a digital copy of it for free so I was able to refresh my memory with a playthrough of it before diving into the remake. It turns out to still be a fun, innovative and reasonably challenging platformer. I still prefer Genesis’ World of Illusion, primarily because of its coop play where the second person controls Donald, but Castle is certainly a classic in its own right. I didn’t realize it had enough of a following to create an HD update, but after playing it I’m certainly glad they made the decision to do so.
Castle of Illusion comes from a time where platformers didn’t bullshit around with complicated narratives, or really any plot whatsoever. Here, Minnie gets kidnapped and you have to save her. It’s all the game provides, and it’s really all the motivation that we need. There is an added element here where Sully from the Uncharted series provides narration for the story, usually at the beginning and end of each stage. There’s also the occasional bit of dialogue during the course of a level, but I never found that it became intrusive, despite a few complaints that I’ve seen around the Internets. Plus if it’s really bothersome, you can always turn the voiceover off completely. I personally enjoyed the narration and thought it added a lot of charm to the proceedings. Though at one point Mickey encounters living suits of armour and proclaims “These suits are not suitable at all”….so the audio still has its issues.
The game looks fantastic and clearly a lot of effort was put into the overall look. The amount of detail in each level is pretty amazing, retaining the same feel as the original stages but updating them in a lot of impressive ways.
The stages themselves follow the Genesis game very closely and anyone who is familiar with that title will recognize just about everything they will encounter here. There are of course plenty of tweaks to the proceedings. One example is in the first world, where in the Genesis game you are chased by an apple and have to avoid being crushed. It’s a very short sequence, lasting perhaps five seconds and not shifting away from the standard side scrolling perspective. In the HD update, the camera shifts around to show Mickey from the front (think the moose chase from Mickey Mania or the stampede from The Lion King game) and the apple chase is made into essentially its own mini-stage. There are lots of touches like this that alter your expectations so that even though the game is familiar; there are still surprises to be had.
The boss fights have of course been updated as well, with the bosses following the same basic patterns as the Genesis game, with also some added moves in their arsenal. The fights themselves though are still remarkably easy. The patterns the bosses follow are simple and you will get a sense of exactly what to do almost immediately. From that point forward you just have to repeat the same steps four or five times, and you’re in the clear. Granted that is exactly how many platformers play out their boss fights, but I recall hearing the producers of this game saying they were going to be upping the level of challenge so I was a little surprised to find out how simple these fights were. It’s not just the boss fights though; the entire game is a breeze to get through. I only died a handful of times from start to finish, and most of those were on the last boss, who still isn’t all that difficult once you get the hang of things.
The low difficulty gives the game a very relaxing feel. It plays great, with the controls feeling just as good as they did in the original. Jumping, shooting, it all feels solid and you’d be hard pressed to blame any deaths on shoddy controls. I found it to be the perfect game to just kick back to. I could enjoy a solid platformer, get a nice nostalgia fix, and not have to worry too much, if at all, about dying.
As expected, being based on a Genesis game, this is not a long experience. It will take you longer than the Genesis version since they do extend the levels and add in some additional content, but you could probably burn through this game in about 90 minutes to 2 hours or so. There are some collectables scattered throughout each level, which admittedly I haven’t finished acquiring so I can’t say for sure whether the incentive to get them all is there. I believe it’s mostly about unlocking additional costumes. So getting all of those will add some extra time, but this is still a 3-4 hour experience tops. To me, this is fine. It feels like the perfect length as it is and I really don’t think you would want any extra padding in there as it would start to get old.
Castle of Illusion HD is a solid remake and remains a very fun platformer. There is a lot of creativity on display in the levels, and it’s clear a lot of care and attention went into the visuals and game play. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Duck Tales Remastered, as I hold a lot more nostalgia for the original Duck Tales game, but this title went far above what I expected and I would easily recommend it.