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Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

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Reviewed by Michael LoCascio Most of us veteran gamers can look back at our "wonder years" and identify a few select titles that, for some reason or another, will remain in our memories forever (I feel like Kevin Arnold here). One of those momentous carts for me is Castle of Illusion, a side-scrolling platform game starring none other than the legendary Mickey Mouse. Well, at the time that Sega released the game for the Genesis, I wasn't exactly the biggest fan of run-and-jump Mario-type games, and I certainly wasn't into Mickey Mouse (why would I like some puny mouse when there were ninja turtles available to root for?). No, Castle of Illusion didn't appeal to me right off the bat, but it did captivate someone: my little sister. She played this game for hours on end every single day (this somewhat explains why I have so many Turbografx-16 reviews posted on this site; the Genesis was never available to be played in my house). I still vividly remember the music in level one that greeted me every day when I got home from school. "Do dum deedly-do, do dum dum" would have been the most popular song in America had my sister had her way. While the game was constantly being played, I vowed that it would be a dark, cold day when I would give in and give it a chance. Mickey Mouse was no Samus Aran, and I didn't think that Mickey would have any machine guns or katana blades at his disposal (which were my deadly weapons of choice at the time). The worst part of the whole experience was that I had to listen to that awful level one music non-stop (you didn't think that she ever got to level two, did you?). In any event, a dark, cold day eventually did roll around, and there was no one playing the Genesis at the time (she must have been grounded or something), so I decided to give Castle of Illusion a try. Well surprise, surprise. I'm sure you can guess how this story turned out, but indulge me anyway - Castle of Illusion turned out to be one brilliant little adventure game. As mentioned above, you play Mickey Mouse, and your goal is to thwart the evil plans of Mizrabel the witch (I'll give you one chance to guess who she's kidnapped). Mizrabel makes her home in the mysterious Castle of Illusion. As you make your way through the castle, you also must find seven gems, each one representing a different color of the rainbow. Most of the gems magically fall from the sky after you defeat a boss. I'm not quite sure why they're so significant, but they do form a little rainbow bridge near the end of the game that allows Mickey to cross over to the tower that Mizrabel resides in. Of course, the gap in between you and the tower is so small that Mickey probably could have just jumped right over it, but I guess that they wanted to add another element to the typical "save the girl" story. Most of the enemies that Mickey comes across can easily be defeated by jumping on top of them. You do have to press the jump button again while Mickey is in the air just to make sure that he plants his butt right square on their noggins - simply falling on top of them Mario-style won't work. You can also collect various items such as apples and marbles that can be thrown at enemies that are far away. Castle of Illusion is just as much fun to play as any other run-and-jump game that was ever released for the Genesis (I'd take this title over Sonic the Hedgehog in a heartbeat). Mickey controls extremely well - even jumping from vine to vine is a cinch in this game (I can think of plenty of platformers that could have learned a few lessons from this title). Swimming can be a bit of a problem, mainly because you usually have so little room to maneuver during the underwater sections. But there are very few instances where Mickey is actually required to get himself wet; put him on dry land and he'll respond to your every command. As much fun as it is to play, what really makes Castle of Illusion a special video game are its visuals. Almost every level is incredibly colorful and beautifully drawn, and the game makes particularly good use of multilayer scrolling, which is what the Genesis specialized in. I'm not kidding when I say that the graphics in this game will blow you away, even if you've been spoiled by your technologically advanced Playstation and N64 systems. There's plenty of beautiful scenery to look at during your quest to save Minnie. Even though the game is only five stages long, you'll traverse a wide variety of locales along the way. Mickey will have the opportunity to explore ancient ruins, a large library, a beautiful forest, and even a delicious-looking candyland. Each levels concludes with a boss fight, and while the game is basically very cute and tame, these big guys don't mess around. Mr. Evil Log will go down easily, but Bouncing Clown Man can pack a huge wallop. The quick little Frogmen can be a nuisance until you time your item throws just right, and the big goofy dragon in candyland will cost you a number of lives unless you are adept at using your jump attack. Unfortunately, with the possible exception of the boss encounters, Castle of Illusion is an incredibly easy game to get through. Most players won't even feel challenged until the very last level. The game grants you two continues, but once you figure out all of the various secrets and enemy attack patterns, you probably won't need them (unless, of course, you're a little sister, in which case you will never get past level one and you will constantly torture the rest of the people living in your household with that "deedly-dum" music). Despite its low level of difficulty, you'll probably play through the game a number of times before you finally get tired of it. I recently played through it in preparation for this review, and I found it to be just as enjoyable (and visually impressive) as ever. Castle of Illusion will make a fine addition to your library of video games - but do yourself a favor and hide it from your little sister. Overall: 9 / 10

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