Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publishers:
    • Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    SMS
    • UK 1992
    • Brazil 1994
    GG
    • JP 03/26/1993
    • US May 1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 85%

This review was published on 04/08/2017.

Land 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 Europe in 1992 and was later published by Tec Toy in Brazil in 1994. The Game Gear version was released in Japan on March 26, 1993, North America in May 1993, and Europe in 1993. Besides the Game Gear's smaller screen resulting in a lower resolution, both versions of the game are nearly identical. This is the second game in the Illusion series, following Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, which previously came out on the Sega Genesis, Master System, and Game Gear in 1990 and 1991. Stylistically, Land of Illusion is a lot closer to the Master System and Game Gear version of Castle of Illusion than the Genesis one. One thing all versions of Castle of Illusion had in common is that they're all good. Land of Illusion is also similarly good, as this review will attest to.

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Despite being a sequel to Castle of Illusion, Land of Illusion's story makes no reference to the previous game. The story in Land of Illusion begins with Disney's main mascot, Mickey, falling asleep one evening while reading a book of fairy tales. When he woke up, he was no longer in his home, but in a strange and gloomy village. Shortly thereafter, Mickey meets a villager who looks an awful lot like Daisy Duck, and asks her what's going on. The villager tells Mickey that an evil phantom emerged from a castle in the clouds and stole the magic crystal that protected everyone in the village. Without the crystal, everyone in the village has become despondent. She then informs Mickey that a good princess living in the northern mountains can tell him the best way to reach the phantom's castle. Determined to retrieve the crystal, Mickey begins his journey across the land of fairy tales.

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The game's controls are very similar to the 8-bit incarnations of Castle of Illusion. Left or right on the d-pad makes Mickey walk in those directions, down crouches, and you press up or down to climb up or down ladders and other ladder-like objects. The 2 button is used to jump, but like all versions of Castle of Illusion, Mickey can also do a butt pound attack that destroys most enemies and objects. In the Game Gear version, you press the 2 button again after a jump to activate the butt pound, but the Master System version has you press 1 instead. Additionally, Mickey can grab various small objects in the environment, like rocks, apples, barrels, and so on. To grab something, you walk towards it and press the 1 button, and you press it again to throw the object, which will damage or defeat most foes. Swim controls have also been refined, allowing you to swim along the surface of water by pressing left or right. If you press down, you'll dive, and then pressing the 2 button causes you to swim upwards. Unlike before, Mickey now has limited air when underwater, and he'll drown if you stay submerged for too long. Other than that, the controls are pretty good.

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The objective of almost every stage is to grab the key at the end and then enter the nearby door that appears. Stages now have signposts to visibly indicate checkpoints, which is a nice touch. Speaking of nice touches, the stages are full of them. The first stage has a giant tree with a massive snake wrapped around it, which you use as a makeshift staircase to scale the tree. Upon reaching the top, you'll be face-to-face with the snake's head. He'll block your path with his gaping mouth, and if you get too close, he'll eat you. To get past him safely, you have to throw an apple into his mouth. At that point, he'll begin munching on the apple, allowing you safe passage. Earlier on in the same stage, there are tiny tornadoes that blow you away, and getting past them requires that you hold onto some vines. A similar concept is used in an underwater stage, where you hold onto seaweed to prevent the current from pushing you away. Almost every stage has unique elements like this, making them all quite enjoyable to play through. There are far more stages this time around, too.

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This game introduces a couple of new features that weren't present in the previous ones, like the map screen. Previously, stages were either done in a strictly linear order or were selected by way of doors, but this game has a beautiful map screen from which you pick a stage. Some spots on the map lead to friendly locales like towns for a bit of dialogue from a specific character. Overall, the game is still mostly linear, but you sometimes have multiple paths on the map to choose from. Furthermore, you're able to revisit most stages to find things you might have missed on the first trip there. This is occasionally necessary to progress the game, as beating one stage may unlock a new path in a previous one. The game generally notifies you where to go, though, so this doesn't change the overall progression in the grand scheme of things. Still, it's an interesting form of progression for an otherwise straightforward platformer.

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Another new feature this game has over the previous ones is the presence of permanent items that help you progress to new areas. Occasionally, completing certain stages will reward you with an item that'll forever remain in your inventory. This typically happens after beating a boss battle. These items include a rope for climbing walls, a magical potion that shrinks Mickey down to the size of a real mouse, shoes that allow him to walk on clouds, a flute that lets him exit beaten stages at any moment, and more. Such items are often used to unlock new areas in old stages, almost adding a Metroid vibe to the game. It's a pretty neat concept, though there aren't too many of these items.

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Initially, Mickey has a measly two points of health, but he can increase his maximum vitality by acquiring Power Stars. Each Power Star increases his maximum health by one point, and they're hidden all throughout the game. Some of them are very deviously hidden, whereas some are found in plain sight. There are times when you'll need one of the aforementioned special items to get Power Stars, which usually necessitates revisiting a stage. While Mickey's health can only be increased up to a maximum of five points, there are fourteen Power Stars in the game. If Mickey gets a Power Star after his health is already maxed out, he'll get an extra life instead. As a result of that, it's always worth going after Power Stars, even if Mickey's health is at its absolute maximum. You also get a much higher score if you beat the game after having acquired all fourteen Power Stars, but that's purely for bragging rights.

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On top of graphics and sound that get the most out of the Game Gear and Master System, this game has good controls and great stage design, two components that are essential to any good platformer. If you enjoyed Castle of Illusion on the Game Gear and Master System, then you'll undoubtedly enjoy this game. It provides more of what made the previous game good, plus it introduces a couple of new features to help keep things fresh. The only real issue it suffers from is that it's a bit long for a game that lacks saving or even a password feature. There are infinite continues, though, so that sort of balances it out. That relatively miniscule issue aside, this is easily one of the finest games on the Game Gear and Master System.

Word Count: 1,320

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