Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publishers:
    • Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    SMS
    • US February 1991
    • UK February 1991
    • Brazil June 1991
    GG
    • JP 03/23/1991
    • US June 1991
    • Brazil October 1991
    • UK 1991
Score: 80%

This review was published on 04/04/2017.

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Master System and Game Gear. The Master System version was originally released in North America and Europe in February 1991, and Tec Toy published it in Brazil in June 1991. The Game Gear version was released in Japan on March 23, 1991, North America in June 1991, and Europe in 1991. Tec Toy also published the Game Gear version in Brazil in October 1991. This game is an 8-bit counterpart to the 16-bit Castle of Illusion on the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive, which originally came out in 1990. However, while the Master System and Game Gear versions are nearly identical, the Genesis version is completely different, featuring unique stages, enemies, bosses, and items. I've already reviewed the Genesis version of the game, so this review will exclusively be about the 8-bit one. Anyway, the 16-bit version of the game is considered a classic, but not too many people mention the 8-bit release. They should, though, because it's almost as good.

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As its title implies, this game stars Disney's most iconic character, Mickey Mouse. One day, Mickey was hanging out with his beautiful girlfriend, Minnie Mouse. The lovely couple was spending some time together in Vera City, a peaceful place filled with joy and happiness. However, Vera City contained a single joyless resident named Mizrabel, a wicked witch who lives up to her name by always being miserable. Mizrabel became jealous of Minnie's beauty and popularity, so she flew in on her magical broom and kidnapped her. Taken by surprise, Mickey did the only thing he could and chased after the evil witch. Eventually, Mickey arrived at the titular Castle of Illusion, the home of Mizrabel. Shortly after arriving at the castle gates, Mickey meets a mysterious old man who gives him some helpful advice. The old man tells Mickey that he must find the seven gems of the rainbow, as they will give him the power to overcome Mizrabel's miserable magic. Unfortunately, the gems are guarded by Mizrabel's henchmen, the Masters of Illusion. It's now up to Mickey to beat Mizrabel and save Minnie.

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Mickey is the mouse you control in this game. The controls are fairly straightforward: you walk left or right by pressing those directions on the d-pad, pressing down while on the ground makes you duck, you press up or down to climb up or down ladders, and you press the 2 button to jump. Like the Genesis version, Mickey can't harm enemies with his normal jumps, but he can with a special butt pound attack. In the Master System version, you do the butt pound by pressing the 1 button while Mickey is in the air, but you press the 2 button to do it in the Game Gear version. Unlike the Genesis version, Mickey doesn't have any projectiles to throw, but he can throw other things; more on that later. Mickey's movements and jumps are a bit faster than they were in the Genesis version, so he controls much tighter in this game. It's surprising that this downscaled version of the game actually does something better than the Genesis original, but it's the truth.

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Something Mickey can do in this game that he couldn't do in the Genesis version is grab and throw objects that are lying around in the environment. In order to grab an object, you must walk towards it and press the 1 button, and then you press the 1 button again to throw it. You're still able to freely walk and jump around while holding objects, but getting hit by an enemy will cause you to drop it. Speaking of enemies, throwing an object at a foe will usually damage or outright kill it. Objects you can grab include, but are not limited to, rocks, apples, balls, and barrels. Most of these objects are destroyed once thrown, and you can also clear them out with a butt bounce. There are some notable exceptions, however, such as the barrels. Barrels remain even when thrown, and are primarily used as stepping stones to reach higher ground, but can also be used to weigh down switches to solve simplistic puzzles. There are also lanterns you can hold to light dark areas and keys to open doors. The grabbing and throwing mechanic is used really well here, giving the game a little more depth.

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Along the way, Mickey will encounter some items that will help him out on his journey. Many of these items are contained within treasure chests, which can be opened either by butt bouncing on them or throwing them. Items include slices of cake that replenish one health point, whole cakes that replenish two health points, Mickey ears that give extra lives, and gold coins that boost score. Points might seem pointless, but getting enough of them nets you extra lives, so they're still worth going for. There are also red stars that increase Mickey's maximum health. These red stars are particularly important, and there are only two of them in the whole game. Since Mickey begins the game with three health points, this means that he can have an absolute maximum of five after gathering all the red stars. They can easily be missed, so you'll have to thoroughly explore the stages to find them.

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While each stage technically takes place behind a different door in the Castle of Illusion, they all still contain radically different environments. These environments consist of an enchanted forest, a toy land, a dessert factory, a large library, and a clock tower. The stages differ in more ways than just their themes, though. For instance, the forest stage has multiple paths, one of which is an underground area accessed via ladders. On the other hand, the dessert stage begins in a section where the screen scrolls automatically, forcing you to stay on the move. In the toy stage, there are several bits where you must use the aforementioned barrels to weigh down the aforementioned switches to open gates that block your path. It's these differences that give each stage a unique feel outside of their visuals and music. On the subject of graphics and sound, this game certainly looks and sounds good for an 8-bit title, though it's by no means comparable to the 16-bit original. This is inferior hardware, though, so that's to be expected. At any rate, the stages in this game are neat.

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Another thing that's unlike the Genesis release is the fact that the first three stages in the game can be tackled in any order. After completing those, another two stages get unlocked, and they can also be done in the order of your choosing. Then, the final stage becomes accessible, beckoning you with untold challenges. The amount of stages you play also differs depending on the difficulty you selected at the beginning of the game. If you pick "Practice," you'll only play truncated versions of the first three stages and there are no bosses. However, selecting "Normal" will put you through all the stages and bosses. The Genesis version was similar in this respect. Regardless of the chosen difficulty, each stage has a time limit, which is another thing that wasn't present in the Genesis release. Due to that and the higher prevalence of bottomless pits, the 8-bit incarnation of Castle of Illusion is much harder than the Genesis original. The final stage is especially difficult.

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This game suspiciously shares many similarities with the Capcom developed DuckTales game that originally came out in 1989 on the Nintendo Entertainment System, which is another fantastic Disney game. However, Sega developed this one, not Capcom. Either way, Castle of Illusion on the Master System and Game Gear is good. With this fabulous title, you'll be getting good graphics, good music, good controls, and good stages. It may not look and sound as good as the Genesis version, but it does play nearly as good. Even if you've already played the Genesis release, the 8-bit version of Castle of Illusion is still worth checking out.

Word Count: 1,359

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