World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publishers:
    • Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    • US 12/17/1992
    • JP 12/18/1992
    • UK 12/19/1992
    • Brazil 1993
Score: 90%

This review was published on 04/14/2017.

World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive. It was originally released in North America on December 17, 1992, Japan on December 18, 1992, Europe on December 19, 1992, and Australia in 1992. Tec Toy also published the game in Brazil in 1993. This is the third game in the so-called Illusion series, following Land of Illusion, which originally came out in 1992 and 1993 on the Sega Master System and Game Gear. Land of Illusion is the sequel to Castle of Illusion, which was released for the Genesis in 1990 and the Master System and Game Gear in 1991. Licensed by Disney, most of these games were developed by a team within Sega that used to be named AM7. That same team also worked on World of Illusion, but they changed their name to Illusion Shot Pictures by this point. In any case, all of these games range from good to great, but World of Illusion is far and away the best of the bunch.

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In this game, Disney's two most iconic characters, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, take on the role of traveling magicians who do shows together. One night, Mickey and Donald were practicing for their next big magic act. During this practice, Mickey performed a magic trick that startled Donald, and he fell backwards into the stage, tipping over some scenery. This revealed a mysterious magic box with a drawn curtain. Upon spotting the eerie box, Donald perked up with excitement and told Mickey that they could use it in their magic act if it works. Mickey expressed concern about doing such a thing, as he noticed a strange glow behind the box's curtain. Unfortunately for Mickey, he was too late, because Donald had already stepped inside. Suddenly, Donald disappeared! Mickey stepped inside the box to see where his pal went, and then he vanished, too. As the two fell through the darkness, an evil magician told them that they must find and defeat him in order to escape the world within the magic box. It's now up to Mickey and Donald to get out of this predicament.

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Prior to starting the adventure, you're presented with a dazzling menu screen that'll let you select a character, listen to the sound test, input a password to continue, and configure the controls. These menus appear in the form of cards that turn over to reveal different options, further adding to the game's stellar presentation. Speaking of presentation, this is one of the best looking games on the Genesis, hands down. Some stages have three graphical layers: the background, foreground, and the portion in between the two that the characters walk on. All three layers scroll at different rates, giving the game an incredible amount of visual depth. This is demonstrated in the first stage, where you see a caterpillar crawling onto a leaf in the foreground, and its large appearance gives off the impression that it's very close to your viewpoint. The color palette is also downright breathtaking, resulting in vibrant vistas that will simply blow you away. Everything is very well animated, too. Donald's animations are particularly good, as they perfectly capture his brash and ill tempered nature from the cartoons. There aren't many other Genesis games that look this good.

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The sound design isn't quite as impressive as the visuals, but it's still worth mentioning. The music ranges from upbeat to eerie, and it's all got a fantastical quality to it that perfectly matches the magical tone of the game. Stylistically, the compositions are more about generating atmosphere via ambient tunes, though there are still a fair amount of catchy tracks. There's plenty to say about the sound effects, too. Whenever the characters crawl around, there is a strange sound to accompany the activity that invokes a sense of curiosity, which goes well with their facial animations. Climbing ropes emits a different sound effect that is uncannily apt. Mickey and Donald also have a bunch of voice clips for when they perform various actions, and these sound surprisingly crisp given the Genesis' limited audio hardware. According to the credits, the sound producer was nicknamed "Lotty" and the composer went by "MAGURO." Sadly, their real names have never been publicized, so nobody knows the true identities behind these talented individuals.

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Regardless of whether you're playing as Mickey or Donald, the basic controls are the same. Both characters are capable of walking, ducking, crawling, and jumping. To crawl, you have to hold down on the d-pad and press the jump button. Unlike the previous games, this game actually has a run button, which you hold while moving to, well, run. Another thing that's unlike the previous titles is the fact that you can't jump on enemies and there's no butt pound attack. Instead, Mickey and Donald are armed with magical cloaks that they swipe to transform enemies into harmless things, such as flowers, butterflies, and pigeons. Tougher enemies take multiple swipes to transform, and some disappear entirely. Once an enemy has been transformed, it basically counts as having been "defeated." The cloak also gives off a sparkly effect when swiped, and while the sparkles don't hurt enemies, they do briefly stun them. While functionally not that different from a typical melee weapon, the cloak attack is visually very creative.

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Each stage is divided into multiple sections, all of which are varied and unique. For example, one stage has a segment where you walk on a rapidly disintegrating web string that's being generated by a spider, and you have to keep up with the spider to not fall to your doom. Then there's a section where you dash across a piano made out of clouds, triggering musical notes to pop out as you step on each cloudy key. A few portions of the game also deviate from the standard platforming protocol, like one part where you ride on a magic carpet in the sky. There are also nods to some Disney films, like a stage set in an underwater kingdom reminiscent of the one from The Little Mermaid, in addition to countless references to Alice in Wonderland. Some areas in the game are inspired by stages from Castle of Illusion, like the place with massive spider webs, the giant library, and a confectionary world. However, these familiar locales have been radically redesigned, so they're quite different from the source material. There are also plenty of new environments, like a Christmas themed area with falling tree ornaments and a sunken ship with saw sharks. The game doesn't stick to any one formula, which prevents things from ever going stale.

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While Mickey and Donald function nearly identically, there a few areas exclusive to them in every stage. Generally, Donald gets the harder routes, whereas Mickey's paths are more lenient and focus on raw platforming. As a result of that, Donald basically acts as this game's "Hard Mode." For instance, one challenging area exclusive to Donald has him riding rapid waters on a leaf, and he must quickly dodge obstacles that get in the way without falling off his leafy surfboard, otherwise he'll be a sitting duck. Elsewhere, Mickey goes down a path with a flower field, and he must jump onto giant flowers to cause them to shoot out big petals that can then be used as makeshift platforms. Another Donald section has him trapped within a giant deadly popup book where he must frantically avoid paper based dangers. Mickey also ventures into some dangerous territory, however, like a thunderous mountain where lightning strikes cause wildfires. Due to these exclusive areas, it's worth beating the game as both Mickey and Donald individually.

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Two players can play this game simultaneously, with one taking control of Mickey and the other Donald. Players share lives, but have separate life bars. While players can't actually damage each other with the cloak swipe, they can temporarily stun each other with it, complete with an amusing animation. However, the main point of playing with two people is to cooperate. To that end, there are a couple of things that can only be done with two players, like players being able to stand on top of each other to reach higher areas. In the event that players get separated, one player can use a rope to pull the other player upwards. To do this, a player must simply press the run button while near a ledge. If either player loses all their health, they'll be revived on the spot at the expense of a life. On the other hand, players that die by way of bottomless pit don't come back until a certain point is reached in the current area. You never have to wait too long for the other player to get back, though. These mechanics make playing with another person a delight rather than a detriment.

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Just like how a couple of areas are exclusive to each character, there are a bunch of places that only appear when two players are present. These sorts of stages usually place an emphasis on teamwork. A good example of one of these two player exclusive areas is this mine cart section where each player must jump up and down on the mine cart to get it moving, all the while avoiding stalactites. Also, because Donald's behind is a bit bigger than Mickey's, he'll sometimes get stuck when crawling into tight spaces. Whenever this happens, Mickey will have to pull Donald through the tunnel in a humorously animated manner. Of course, this only occurs in the two player exclusive areas. Some of the single player areas also get slightly modified when playing with two people. A change of this caliber occurs in the very first stage, where both players must use seesaws to propel each other to higher ground. Normally, these seesaws have extra logs for solo operation, but these logs are absent when there are two players, forcing them to work together to make progress. All of this results in one of the best two player cooperative experiences out there.

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This is an excellent game in every way imaginable: graphics, music, stages, bosses, and controls. The game also has some replay value in the form of character exclusive areas and two player only zones. It's at least worth beating thrice: one time as Mickey, another time as Donald, and a final time with both of them together. On that note, this game has one of the best cooperative modes in the business. World of Illusion is a colossal improvement over Castle of Illusion, which was already a good game. Without a doubt, World of Illusion is one of the finest games on the Genesis.

Word Count: 1,798

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