Why are all the “kids” games the toughest and most infuriating? Seriously, first Duck Tales and now Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion. I digress however: much like Capcom’s recently-announced Duck Tales revival, Sega’s remake of Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion comes with all the charm and difficulty that I would expect from a 1990’s platformer. Even in lieu of some issues I had with the game’s controls, it was one of the few surprises I experienced at this year’s E3.
Castle of Illusion was originally developed by Sega and released for the 16-bit Sega Genesis in 1990. The story follows Mickey Mouse on a journey to rescue Minnie Mouse, who has been kidnapped by an evil sorceress by the name of Mizrabel. Mickey must venture to a variety of worlds and collect gems from each world so that he can build a rainbow bridge to the castle-tower in which the damsel-in-distress is being held. I had a conversation with one of the game’s developers both on and off-camera, in which he described how painstaking the selection process was before they ultimately settled on Castle of Illusion – the developers even slogged through the original game to get a handle for it. I cannot say that my experience was any different.
I only played through a couple of stages in the demonstration, many deaths were had – though I noticed that I resisted my natural urge to rage-quit after the first 10 or so, because while the game is a severe challenge, it is rewarding when the puzzles and platforms are solved correctly. Unlike Duck Tales which is strictly conforming to its 2D counterpart, Castle of Illusion is remaking its stages in the 2D, 2.5D, and 3D variety. A lofty goal which seemed to mostly pay off in the demo I played. This particular design not only added to the overall liveliness of the worlds, but helped to make them more challenging as well.
The controls were one aspect of the game that proved to be a nuisance, primarily when it came to jumping and landing on platforms. Like any classic platform game, going all the way back to Super Mario Bros., negotiating and timing your jumps is key. It was simply way too easy to slide off the edge and die, land too close or too far from an enemy I was trying to smash, and more. I could not tell if it was the way the controller was calibrated with the game or if it was simply hardwired that way, but the jumps were way too loose, and I was constantly fighting the directonal-pad to land Mickey where he needed to be. This was a glaring problem in a game where the design is predicated on enemies that are plentiful and platforms that are narrow. I spent as much time negotiating and renegotiating jumps as I did when I was defeated by an enemy – more often than not, that was due to the problems I am describing now. The game is a lot more treacherous than it looks.
Minor shortcomings aside, Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion failed to disappoint, even though as my demonstration was brief compared to others. The voice-acting and the graphics are all on point for what you would expect in a remake of a Mickey Mouse game from the 1990s. Hopefully the issues I had with the controls were limited to that one demonstration and my own experience. If they are not however, then it is surely something that needs to be addressed prior to the game’s release. Castle of Illusion represents a page in the nostalgia book for most, a brand-new adventure with Mickey Mouse for those who never originally experienced it, and a potentially memorable experience for all.