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Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Master System) artwork

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


"That isn't to say that Castle of Illusion is a bad game...it certainly delivers a solid platforming experience. There are not any real glaring bad points to the game. On the other hand, there are not any eye-opening or really memorable moments to the game either. Overall, it falls short of a genre or generation defining adventure that many remember it to be...coming in as more "good" than "epic". "



Quick Info
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a Sega Master System (SMS) one player platforming game developed and published by Sega in 1990. This game was licensed by Disney, is the first in the Illusion series, and features marked differences from the 16-bit version released for the Sega Genesis. It follows Mickey Mouse on his quest to rescue his captured girlfriend, Minnie, while running, jumping, and butt-bouncing his way through the Castle of Illusion! This game is critically acclaimed and is generally thought of as one of the better games that the SMS has to offer. With that said, Castle of Illusion ends up being a well-designed funfest targeted towards a younger gaming audience with its forgiving difficulty and happy-go-lucky visuals and sounds.

Castle of Illusion Screenshot


===> Visuals = (magnificent for the Mouseketeers) 8/10
The visuals in this game are certainly oriented for a younger audience, but feature enough crispness and detail to impress all.

> Graphics - 9/10
Well-lauded by many, Castle of Illusion graphically proves itself as one of the strongest contenders of its time. From Mickey, himself, to the array of playful, but harmful bad guys to the slew of objects for Mickey to pick up, everything in the foreground is filled out with elaborate detail and a bright color palette. For example, Mickey wears a happy expression for the majority of the game (amazing detail in itself to be able to discern a character's expression in an 8-bit game), however, certain actions such as ducking or standing on the edge of a ledge will change Mickey's expression to one of worry. This is just one of many examples of the detail that the game not only paid attention to, but was able to illustrate with the wonderful graphics. The only downpoint to the graphics displayed in Castle of Illusion is the fact that sometimes the designers were lazy and resorted to solid color backgrounds for some boss battles and levels. However, this is mostly excusable due to the high level of action graphically portrayed in the foreground.

> Animation - 10/10
The animations present in this game are extremely fluid and tend to add a bit of fun to the game while also accurately carrying out the action that they simulate. From a technical standpoint, I can say many animations Mickey performs that, in other 8-bit games, would only have 1 or 2 frames of animation, can end up being 3 or 4 frames. The extra frames add to the fluidity or the flavor of the game without creating any apparent slowdown or flickering issues. It is quite fitting for a Mickey, who started out as an early, animated character to star in an early, well-animated game.

> Art Style - 7/10
The art style in Castle of Illusion certainly befits a Disney licensed game targeting a younger gaming audience. On the other hand, it does take away from some of the enemies that could have perhaps been a bit more menacing (at one point you must make your way past smiling ice cubes). Also, the drive of the game artists to paint the most friendly visuals imaginable usually led them to a brighter, pastel dominant color palette to utilize. While this does help to contribute to the overall feel of the game, it also makes some of the worlds in the game blend together. Specifically, out of the six environments in Castle of Illusion, only one, The Enchanted Forest, really stands out as unique. The Clock Tower and The Castle environments blend together with their more neutral, greyish tones while the remaining worlds (Toyland, The Desert Factory, and The Library) also aren't memorable from one another due to their pastel heavy shades. Overall, the art style certainly works well with the game, but caused some coloring decisions that end up detracting from the experience.

===> Sound = (super happy sounds) 7/10
While it fits the mood of the game, the overtly happy-kiddie music detracts a bit from the game for older gamers.

> Music - 7/10
The music in Castle of Illusion is notably higher-pitched and upbeat. While this certainly accentuates the mood of the game and hits home on the target audience, it becomes a bit much for any older gamer. Most of the tunes are pleasant, but the only one that really stands out as memorable is the theme to The Clock Tower...which was a departure from the more merry music of other levels.

> Effects - 7/10
All of the sound effects do their job in accentuating the action on screen. Nothing pops out as off-beat, unfitting, or especially annoying...on the other hand, nothing really wows by sounding spectacular.

===> Storyline = (Mizrabel originality) 6/10
Well, it begins with Mickey and Minnie mouse happily dancing in a meadow (who does that?). All of a sudden, the evil witch, Mizrabel, kidnaps Minnie and whisks her away to the Castle of Illusion (probably shouldn't be playing in random, obscure meadows)! Mickey heroically follows her to the castle and learns from a mysterious old man that he must collect the seven gems of the rainbow in order to rescue Minnie (odd how reliable the information from old men is in games). Nothing really surprising here...just another 8-bit platformer with a "rescue the damsel in distress" backstory. The only twist is that you must collect gems to go over the rainbow to do so. It works, but, at this point, it has gotten old.

Castle of Illusion Screenshot


===> Gameplay = (mouse-tastic) 8/10
Castle of Illusion is obviously designed with the younger gamer in mind. With that understanding, everything from the difficulty to the somewhat straight-forward nature of defeating most enemies and navigating the game itself is well-tuned to the youthful target audience while not being so overtly simplistic as to be unenjoyable for the older generation.

> Controls - 8/10
Button 1 acts as the action button, allowing Mickey to perform his (butt) bounce attack and pick-up / throw objects. Button 2 is the jump button. Simple controls that are easy to learn and not overly complicated. The controls are responsive, however, there is a slight bit of slipperiness to handling Mickey...but not too much, and it is easy to get used to. While pretty solid overall, one noticeable issue with the controls comes with the throwing mechanic. To throw, the player must stand next to an object and then press the Directional Pad (D-Pad) towards the object to hold it. After holding the object, the player must then press Button 1 to pick the object up, and Button 1 again to throw it. It would have helped the flow of the game to just have Mickey automatically hold objects he is next to. Similarly, the (butt) bounce attack forces the player to take seemingly frivolous action by hitting Button 1 while Mickey is jumping in order to perform an attack. There is no good reason why Mickey shouldn't just be able to perform this "attack" without any additional input by the player...especially considering that this game's aim is to a younger audience...so simplicity is key. Mario jumped on enemies just fine without some sort of special "attack" button...why can't Mickey? Anyways, even if there are some slight issues with the controls, overall they are both responsive and intuitive creating a solid base for the gamer to adventure through the Castle of Illusion.

> Design - 8/10
The first thing you will notice about Castle of Illusion is that you are prompted on which mode to play...Practice or Normal? Most 8-bit platformers only have one difficulty or game mode, so the initial choice between two different modes is certainly a plus. However, practice mode ends up only entailing extremely shortened versions of the first three worlds...causing the player to question why the developers even chose to include such an insultingly short and simplistic mode...but at least it was a good thought and does allow extremely young gamers with little to no experience a chance to "beat" a mode of the game before embarking on the real journey. Other than the initial choice between Practice or Normal, there are few design choice made in Castle of Illusion that are innovative or incorporate different genres into the straight-forward action-platforming gameplay. The only other out-of-standard design choice of note is the fact that the game incorporates a simple upgrade system by allowing Mickey to find more stars to extend his life bar.

Even though there is not much deviation from standard platforming, that doesn't mean that there isn't variety. Most of the enemies found in the game are unique the the environments they are found in while also fitting in nicely with the given level. For example, you can expect to find annoying letter "A" enemies in The Library while finding coo-coo clock baddies in The Clock Tower. There is also enough variety within a level to where the gamer will not get bored with defeating the slew of different enemies thrown at them. Another nice thing about Castle of Illusion is the fact that there are many hidden rooms and treasure chests to be found within the game. While none of these are actually necessary to complete the game nor provide any meaningful power-ups to Mickey, they are nice finds that slightly encourage exploration. The most pointed design choice is, again, the decision to target a younger gaming audience with the gameplay experience. This has definitely ended up limiting the game in some aspects for more mature gamers, but the design choices following that decision all line up quite well for the youth.

> Difficulty / Game Length - Great for New Players, Short and Easy for Long Beards
The game length here is tied in greatly with the difficulty of the game. The game, itself, is not really outside of the realm of how long it takes to beat an average platformer...taking 30-40 minutes to beat the game on an average run. However, there is not much practice required to get to the skill level necessary to beat the game without issues. The player is given multiple chances to attain extra lives on top of the fact that you are allowed to continue nine times! Additionally, the basic difficulty level of the actual game is certainly attuned to the younger audiences, making much of the game a breeze with few sticky points. Overall, the difficulty and game length greatly depend on the experience of the player. Newer players will find the game "just right" for them with its low base level of difficulty and slow learning curve. More experienced players will find that Castle of Illusion ends a bit earlier than desired with not enough challenge to really get their gaming skills tested.

> Fun Factor - 7/10
Whether you enjoy (butt) bouncing and (butt) sliding using the Disney star or just wanted to pick up and play through a quick game, Castle of Illusion delivers a fun experience. There aren't really any mechanics in the game that promote frustration or tedium. On the other hand, there aren't any features or parts in the game that stood out as outstandingly fun. Castle of Illusion is like rowing down a calm river...a steady current of enjoyment.

> Replay Value - Moderately Low
The game is a fun ride for sure, but without multiplayer, alternate endings, or the like...there is not a lot of reason to pick this game back up unless its for a trip down memory lane.

Castle of Illusion Screenshot


===> Youthful Gamer Score = (made for you) 10/10
From featuring the famous Disney star, Mickey, to catering everything from the music to the difficulty towards a younger audience...this game goes all out to deliver one of the best gaming experiences for the young gaming demographic. This is, without a doubt, one of the must-play SMS titles for any new player...perhaps an extremely small market, but a true statement nonetheless.

===> Reviewer Opinion = (tad bit overrated) 7/10
I had exceptionally high expectations for this game. From what I've seen, it has been consistently listed as one of the best games for the Sega Master System. After playing it, I'd have to say that it did not meet my expectations. That isn't to say that Castle of Illusion is a bad game...it certainly delivers a solid platforming experience. There are not any real glaring bad points to the game. On the other hand, there are not any eye-opening or really memorable moments to the game either. Overall, it falls short of a genre or generation defining adventure that many remember it to be...coming in as more "good" than "epic".

===> Overall Impression = (worth a play) 8/10
Castle of Illusion is a solid platformer that is worth playing. It certainly targets a younger or newer gaming audience...and for that audience it excels as being one of the best games on the system. However, for the broader market the ease of the game and blatant catering towards the younger audience may alienate some...leaving the game to still be a worthwhile adventure, but not the epic ride the target audience experiences.

Rating: 8/10

ThoughtFool1's avatar
Community review by ThoughtFool1 (October 28, 2013)

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holdthephone posted November 10, 2013:

Never really agreed with the categorical style of game reviews, though it does make me a bit nostalgic. I like that you put your own spin on it and cover a more tailored rubric. Still, you could probably hack away at a few to only cover the most essential information. Keep dishing these out and this simplification will come naturally, I think.
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ThoughtFool1 posted November 11, 2013:

Ah yes, the sectioned review was certainly par for the course when I was growing up and really heavy into games and reading reviews for them. I think that, opposite of most people nowadays, I try to focus on giving as comprehensive and fair of a review as possible rather than composing a fun, entertaining piece. Since I realize that I may write some dry stuff, I try to section it off so that whomever reads the review can skip to the parts they feel are the most important and get what they want out of what I wrote.

Anyways, that is the reasoning behind keeping a sectioned review...but honestly its probably just because that is what I was used to reading when I grew up and what I started off as using when I reviewed a fair bit of games way back in my youth. I appreciate the feed back, I will certainly try to cut some of the fluff down while keeping the substance.

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