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'Castle of Illusion' is a classic treat for Disney fans

By Travis Poppleton

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25 2013 4:03 p.m. MDT

Disney's "Castle of Illusion"

Disney/SEGA

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Disney’s "Castle of Illusion" was one of the great side-scrolling games for the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) and under-appreciated Sega Game Gear. Playing as the Disney mascot, players controlled Mickey through a series of beautifully designed levels in his quest to save Minnie Mouse from the jealous witch Mizrabel.

Recently, Sega Studios Australia revisited the game, giving the adventure a visual and musical overhaul in one of the most successful makeovers in the latest trend of revamping nostalgic classics. (We’re still waiting for "The Curse of Monkey Island," Disney.)

But are HD graphics and remastered audio enough to justify the $15 asking price? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why "Castle of Illusion" may just be the perfect way to kill some downtime.

The story

It’s true this story is pretty straightforward. In fact, our introduction covered about everything. Mickey and Minnie are on a picnic one day when a witch, jealous of Minnie’s beauty, kidnaps her, leaving Mickey with no choice but to traverse the witch’s castle and save his true love before it’s too late.

It’s simple, it’s classic and it demonstrates the developers’ strategy in bringing this classic to a new generation of gamers — there’s nothing to reinvent here.

The goal of simply celebrating the 1990s classic is a charming touch, and to many nostalgic gamers, will be a welcome display of restraint. But the orthodox approach to storytelling comes with a price. This is a game that can easily be defeated in one sitting, and even if replayed to collect all the hidden cards and secret chili peppers, the game can be fully experienced in less than eight hours.

To many gamers, that will be exactly the right amount of time to stroll down memory lane. But the next generation of Mickey fans may feel a little cheated when it comes to an immersive gaming experience.

Graphics and sound

Sega has developed this version of "Illusion" from the ground up, folding into its design some truly stunning visuals and music that will make you feel like you’re walking down Main Street at Disneyland. In fact, even compared to the recent Epic Mickey games, "Illusion" may be the most successful attempt at making Disney fans feel like they’re controlling a classic piece of animation.

If there’s a selling point to this game beyond nostalgia, it’s the handfuls of eye candy you’ll enjoy fighting licorice dragons and angry bookworms. All of the original 8-bit music themes are back, which will stay with you long after powering down, and anyone sitting down to enjoy the experience as a spectator will have plenty to appreciate while waiting their turn.

While some might refer to “Castle of Illusion” as a glorified mini-game, the presentation is as spectacular as any big-budget game out there.

Playability

Unfortunately, with everything Sega got right on this remake, playability suffers from over-greased controls and a sometimes-confusing 2.5D perspective.

In most cases, this plays out similar to other 2D classics like Rayman and Mario. You’ll jump from platform to platform, bounce on enemy’s heads and fire off level-specific ammunition acquired throughout the adventure. At the end of each section, the screen takes you into a boss-mode, which is sometimes confusing, but usually creative enough to put players in a forgiving mood.

The biggest problem with controls, however, lies in the unfamiliar response time. Jumping left or right seems to take you very left or very right, making precision landing clunky and unpredictable. You’ll get used to it for most of the gameplay, but be reminded of just how frustrating it can be in pressure situations.

Age appropriateness

“Illusion” is about as family friendly as a game can be. Not only is the content appropriate for all age levels, but it’s also a game almost as enjoyable to watch as it is to play. In most cases, enemies simply disappear when you land on their head, and suggestive themes and questionable language are non-factors in this E-for-everyone adventure.

Overall

If you’re in the mood for a classic, side-scrolling adventure, with little time to invest, “Castle of Illusion” is an attractive option. It’s not ready to compete with content-rich offerings like “Rayman Legends,” but then again, at a quarter of the price, that was never its intention.

Beautiful, whimsical and a shining example to other developers looking to restore archived titles, “Illusion” is definitely worth the price of admission.

Game: "Castle of Illusion"

Cost: $14.99

Platforms: PS3, XBox 360, PC

ESRB rating: E (mild fantasy violence)

Travis Poppleton has been covering movie news and film reviews for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010, and continues to contribute coverage for film festivals and other live events in Utah. You can contact him at tspoppleton@gmail.com.

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