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

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

"Everything that Castle of Illusion does, Land of Illusion does and does it better. Gone is the absurdly elementary difficulty level, kiddie looks and sounds, and short game length. In its place is something that appeals to a gamer of any age...a golden platformer that stands as one of the testaments to the system."

Quick Info
Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a Sega Master System (SMS) one-player platforming game developed and published by Sega in 1992. This game was licensed by Disney and is the next step in the Illusion series, being the sequel to Castle of Illusion. Land of Illusion features many improvements over Castle and is one of the best platformers on the console. Everything from the progressively scaling challenge of the levels, to the fun, quirky items, to the puzzles and level design mixes together nicely to formulate a memorable gameplay experience.

Land of Illusion Screenshot

===> Storyline = (cameo carried) 7/10
The storyline itself is forgettable and unoriginal. However, the multiple cameos from Disney's iconic cast as well as the periodic cutscenes progressing the story keep it a relevant piece of the game.

The Story
Tis a dark and stormy night, a nightmarish mix of poor weather. Yet, Mickey Mouse didn't mind, he was cozily curled up in a chair reading his favorite book, "The World's Best Fairy Tales." His favorite book must have been about as entertaining as a math textbook explaining bar graphs, because soon Mr. Mouse was fast asleep. When he next awoke, Mickey was in a foreign world...nay I say a fairytale-like world? In this foreign fairy land, Mickey is quickly alerted by a scream from a girl. After heroically rescuing the damsel in distress, the girl, Daisy Duck, tells Mickey that evil is afoot! A phantom has stolen a magic crystal which has removed all the good magic in the village leaving only the bad magic to turn happiness into nightmares. Our stoic mouse takes the hero quest to return the crystal!

Story Progression and Analysis
As Mickey journeys through the world he encounters some familiar faces like Goofy or Donald Duck...who is apparently a king in this land. Featuring some of the Disney favorites really adds to the game. I enjoyed rescuing Goofy in his Toy Workshop or seeing King Donald. It is a bit interesting this game Minnie Mouse is a princess. If Donald is king, then Minnie is his daughter, right? Exactly how did that work...who was the queen? Without delving too deeply into a potential genetic mishap between Disney characters, it still is fun to see them...although, I would have enjoyed seeing Pluto as well. The cameos are really the meat of the story since it doesn't develop past the "save the land from the bad guy" premise. While the story is somewhat shallow and linear, this doesn't really serve to detract too much from the experience and the game gets along fine in-spite of it. Anyways, most platformers of the time were not really known to have the most involving of stories.

===> Gameplay = (the illustrious Illusion) 10/10
The clever inclusion of fun items, interesting puzzles, challenging platforming sequences, and variety all help to make this one of the best 8-bit platformers around.

> Game Mechanics - 10/10
The controls for Land of Illusion are both easy to learn and responsive...both key aspects of any solid platformer. The only minor issue is the slight delay that occurs when going to grab an object or preparing to cliimb a wall (after acquiring the rope). Other than that everything seems spot on, easily allowing the player to perform the action desired with no problem.

Magic Items
The addition of magic items in Land of Illusion is one of the main improvements over Castle of Illusion. There are 5 items to find, total, which generally allow you to progress further in the game. However, 2 items in particular, the rope and the shrinking potion, deserve some special mention. The rope allows Mickey to climb up walls while the shrinking potion allows him to shrink to about half of his size. Both of these items really add a ton of enjoyability and variety to the game. The rope's ability to have Mickey climb walls encourages the player to backtrack and explore to find all the hidden passages and treasures strewn throughout the game. On the other hand, the shrinking potion is a ton of fun and really changes how Mickey interacts with the environment. When Mickey is a mini-mouse, he cannot pick up items, kill or destroy things with his bounce attack, or climb walls. Being a mini-mouse puts a lot of limitations on the player, but is necessary for some areas and is just plain fun to run around with. One fun fact about being a mini-mouse is that, since your bounce attack doesn't kill enemies, you can bounce around on them indefinitely...I had some fun with that. There just something fun about being a mini-mouse and continually "butt-bombing" (my name for Mickey's jumping bounce attack) the various baddies in the game. Overall, the inclusion of magic items really added a level of depth, enjoyability, and a sense of reward and progression to the game.

Star Power
Much like Castle of Illusion, Land of Illusion includes a star-based lifebar. Mickey starts off with 2 stars, and you can find more to extend your lifebar up to 5 stars. The best part about these stars is that there is one hidden in each level (so 14 total), and you get a large point bonus for finding all the stars in the game. Even if it doesn't do anything more than show you the stars you have found (or not), simply putting these stars in the game gives it a level of extended replayability for all those completionists out there...which I, admittedly, am. Some of these stars require quite a bit of exploration and inventiveness to find without a guide and some you will only get one-shot at attaining (in the handful of levels you cannot replay). The inclusion of these stars not only encourages the player to explore and backtrack, but also gives the game a simple upgrade system to reward the player for doing so.

Land of Illusion Screenshot

> Design - 10/10
Aesthetic Variety
One of the strongest points of Land of Illusion is the fact that there are 14 stages each featuring different environments, enemies, and challenges. Expect to adventure through everything from a forest, to castles, to craggy cliffs, to even a beanstalk! The enemies in each level are rarely re-hashed palette swaps and fit the environment that they are found in. The variety gives each level a freshness that keeps the player interested in playing and seeing what the next level has in store.

Solid Level Design
The core of the game is certainly based on the content packed into the 14 levels in the game. I'm happy to report that every single level exhibits great gameplay design with each one featuring different platforming sequences and puzzles that build into the deviously designed last level...The Phantom's Castle! The game doesn't cross any genre boundaries, however, it does feature a lot of variation within the platforming umbrella with new, exciting trials each level. As Mickey, you will do everything from swim through dangerous waters in the Lake to race against living flames and battle a dragon in the Blacksmith's Castle to even climbing a beanstalk and walking on clouds in the Island stage. There is everything from moving platforms, to the dreaded auto-scrolling screen, to hidden treasures and passages to play through and discover in the game. Some levels even feature multiple paths to choose from, with each route presenting unique challenges for the mighty mouse. Overall, the levels are fun, varied, and smartly designed...which allows the player to truly enjoy the Land of Illusion.

Overworld Map
It deserves to be mentioned that the game features a very Mario-esque overworld map. This map allows the player freely move between the levels that they have already beaten or are attempting. The ability to move around the world opens the door for backtracking and exploration. It also helps to immerse the player in the game world.

Castle of Illusion was a fairly easy game to play through and beat...the game's difficulty was certainly tuned to a younger audience. Land of Illusion, on the other hand, is much more challenging than Castle while stopping short of being maddeningly frustrating. The increased challenge helps for it to appeal to all audiences. Another notable aspect of the difficulty is that it increases at a reasonable pace throughout the game. The game doesn't just throw you out to the wolves nor feature any sequences that absurdly spike the difficulty up (or down).

Game Length
This game is roughly double the length of its predecessor, Castle of Illusion. It is one of the longer platformers that I have played on the SMS, and that is, definitely, a great thing.

> Fun Factor - 8/10
Land of Illusion is a ride that starts a little slow, but ends up being great fun. Just make it past the first couple of levels and the game really starts to shine. All of the factors really come together to make an extremely satisfying platforming experience. One of the most fun pieces of the game comes after the player gets the shrinking potion. From there on the player is left with the freedom to shrink (or become normal sized) at will. The majority of the game presents enough action and variation to keep everything fresh and enjoyable. The only tedious part is the underwater battle against the crab boss...during this battle you have to dodge a whirling current while managing your breathe meter. This wouldn't be so bad, but swimming is pretty sluggish which just makes for a frustrating and boring battle. Yet for this to stand out as perhaps the only unenjoyable portion of a somewhat lengthy game is pretty darn good.

> Replay Value - Moderate
The addition of the hidden power stars and encouraging the player to seek them at the end of the game bolsters the replay value of this title. On top of that, its just a solid platformer to play through whether it is your first or fifth time playing.

===> Visuals = (colorful, fitting, and varied) 9/10
Colorful and cartoony, the well-animated visuals won't fail to impress.

> Graphics / Art Style - 9/10
Strictly based off of graphics, Land of Illusion is actually not as impressive as Castle of Illusion, which was made two years before it. However, the appeal of the art style to encompass a slightly older audience coupled with the exceptionally large variety of environments and enemies really makes this game notable. Expect to run through everything from a cartoony forest stage, to moody castles, to craggy cliffs, to pyramids in the sand. The diverse slew of bad guys in each level are unique to each stage and fit the setting. This game has it all and it all looks great.

> Animation - 10/10
Castle of Illusion featured animations so fluid, well done, and fitting to the game and the overall themes and settings that it couldn't be topped. Land of Illusion topped the untoppable. Whether you are running, jumping, or just standing still Mickey and his adversaries will exhibit animations that are unparalleled on an 8-bit console.

===> Sound = (decent but unmemorable) 7/10
The game sounds okay, not good but not bad with nothing really standing out as notable.

> Music - 7/10
The background music in Land of Illusion sounds adequate. The musical tracks fit the stage they they are set to with some that you may even hum along to. However, once the console is turned off you will forget anything you heard from the game.

> Effects - 7/10
All of the sound effects do their job in accentuating the action on screen...they don't seem to do much more than that, however.

Land of Illusion Screenshot

===> Reviewer Opinion = (an improvement in every way over its predecessor) 9/10
Many people laud Castle of Illusion as one of the best games on the system...however, everything that Castle of Illusion does, Land of Illusion does and does it better. The levels feature a wider variety of challenges, there are more clever puzzles, more hidden treasures, more stages...just more game. To put it in perspective Castle of Illusion all takes place in a castle...Land of Illusion has FOUR different castles on top of the other 10 stages. I was really surprised by the game. It had everything you could ask for in an 8-bit platformer. I'd say that the two largest improvements are the inclusion of usable magic items and broadening the target audience for the game to an older generation. Gone is the absurdly elementary difficulty level, kiddie looks and sounds, and short game length. In its place is something that appeals to a gamer of any age...a golden platformer that stands as one of the testaments to the system.

===> Overall Impression = (one of the best SMS platformers) 9/10 <===
The Sega Master System features an extremely strong line-up for 2D platformers for your 8-bit gaming enjoyment. Land of Illusion is, undoubtedly, ranked among one of the best on the system...even with such strong competition. The game looks good, sounds good, plays good, and is good fun. Whether you'll enjoy running around as a mini-mouse and butt bombing enemies (like I do), or searching every corner of a stage for those well-hidden stars, or figuring out some of the not-so-simple puzzles, or teetering on the edge of a platform during some of the hair-raising platforming will not be disappointed. The game does start out a bit slow, the game doesn't feature 2-player capabilities, and the game doesn't really tie in at all (storyline wise) to Castle of Illusion, but those are relatively minor flaws in comparison to the excellently designed levels, exciting magic items, and enjoyment garned by playing this long lost Land.


ThoughtFool1's avatar
Community review by ThoughtFool1 (December 03, 2013)

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