Back in the early days of the Mega Drive and Master System (you remember that console right? It’s that console that… y’know… predates the Mega Drive? The one was like a slightly higher-powered Game Gear?), Mickey Mouse of Disney fame appeared in a game called Castle of Illusion and it was apparently bloody brilliant. To be honest, I don’t know that much about the Mega Drive version but I had the Master System version and to be quite, it wasn’t exactly that good. It was fun and platformy but it never made me think “ooh, yay, Mickey, yay, whatever like, I love him.” If anything, I thought it was a nice twee game. I even knew what twee meant at the age of 10. Honest. Blame the Speak And Spell.
So anyway. Castles. There were castles in it and gems and illusions. And Minnie was captured? I think?
Turns out castles filled with crazy toys and cookies and other stuff aren’t enough for Mickey Mouse. In fact, he obviously likes it so much that he dragged Donald along for the ride this time. No castles this time, just WORLDS. And illusions.
Now, here’s an unusual thought. Back in the day, my brother and I bought a Sega magazine that came with a free VIDEO CASSETTE.
I’m old. I know. I know that because I REMEMBER WHAT VIDEO CASSETTES ARE.
The video cassette had 30 minutes of footage of games on the Mega Drive that were coming out soon (most of the footage was dedicated to showcasing Sonic 2 as it was due for release at the time) and one of the games involved was indeed World of Illusion. Now when we saw the footage and liked the idea of a game we could actually play and complete together, we bought it.
And we couldn’t get past the first level.
See, when we WATCHED the video, we knew what we had to do. A little ways past this point, you had some seesaws that would propel one of the characters onto the next ledge and that character would have to lower a rope.
WELL WHO THE FUCK KNEW HOW TO LOWER THE ROPE IN A GAME THAT DIDN’T TELL YOU HOW TO? What, do you just stand at the edge and hope it happens?! DO YOU PRESS A BUTTON TO LOWER A ROPE? All the buttons were tied up with other functions! See, if it were on the PS1 or maybe even the SNES, you’d have ninety other buttons you could use. But then again, if you had this on the PS1, it’d have told you what button to press at any given moment to take away any feeling of independence. It’s what’s known as ‘leading you by the hand’ without actually making you feel remotely special. Oh look, you completed a game. BUT WE DID ALL THE FUCKING WORK. Feel special? WELL YOU SHOULDN’T.
I have a weird relationship with games sometimes.
Anyway, we had to actually ASK people we knew what to do on that level. However, nobody we knew owned the game. It was like asking people nowadays if they know how to find specific item X in game-that-everyone-lauds-about-but-never-plays. And here’s the thing: we had to work it out on our own. We had to totally trial-and-error the bastard thing but eventually we found it out. HOLY SHIT. How satisfying is it to actually work something out on your own instead of… y’know… cheat.
You pressed DOWN at the edge of the ledge. MIND. BLOWN.
Actually, when you think about it, it sorta makes sense. You need to drop something down a ledge, you would drop it DOWN the ledge. Genius.
OK, story time, people! Sit tight, it’s not going to last very long!
Mickey and Donald are being all apprentice magician-y when they find a MAGICAL box (because MAGIC of course, like duh) and start dicking about with it. When you think of Disney characters dicking about, technically Donald’s the main culprit but then again, Mickey’s a bit of a noob sometimes. Yeah, I’ve seen Runaway Brain. What a noob. Anyway, the box suddenly transports them both to a MAGICAL world (because MAGIC of course, like yeah) and they need to find their way through the maze of MAGICAL worlds (because MAGIC of course, like shu’up) and make it back to reality where they can actually be rad magicians all over again.
And the game takes you through a plethora of random worlds, not particularly interconnected in any way, gives you random magic spells that you use once as a set piece for the next level and then at the end of it, you battle it out with the villian extraordinaire: PETE.
Yeah, that weaselly bastard Pete who tends to be Mickey Mouse’s antagonist for no real known reason and ends up becoming best friends with FUCKING GOOFY I MEAN WHAT EVEN IS THAT, DISNEY, ARE YOU EVEN TRYING?
Sorry. Sore point. But seriously Goofy, stop being friends with that dickhead. He’s a dickhead. Don’t be a dickhead.
What was I saying? Oh yes. Pete’s a dick. You have to kill him.
AHHHHHH. But what is your weapon of choice? Is it the butt bash of Castle of Illusion? Nay! Is it the plunger of Quackshot? Nay! You use a magician’s cloak!
HOLY SHIT THIS IS BEST… NON-THING EVER.
Look, it’s a Disney game, we don’t KILL things in Disney games. We use a cloak to turn them into flowers, alright? Maybe cards, occasionally. But flower’s’ll do, OK? You can sort of tell from the general description that this is a game aimed at kids. Good thing when I played the game, I was a kid then, eh? Shame that I just played and completed this game in one hour today, eh? Such are my skills (PFFFFFFFFFT).
So Disney are having something of a renaissance with their history of games right now and what better way to make that even BETTER than to do what they did with Ducktales and Castle of Illusion and give this game a giant new shiny coat of HD superness. As a general rule, the game itself looked BEAUTIFUL for the day. It was given some serious love and attention for the most part. The only level that kinda sucked graphically (in terms of the environment) was the one where you were in a study after you came out of the fishbowl. Everything was sort of brown and… brown. It looked like a study. Studies were brown in those days. In fact, my parents had a brown sofa, brown curtains and a brown carpet in their living room when I was about the age I was playing this. It was AWFUL, don’t get me wrong, but it was a thing back in the day that brown furniture was IN. Now we get beige: the lightest of browns.
Let’s not muddy the waters any more OH NO I DIDN’T JUST MAKE A BROWN PUN OH HO HO HO I’m actually quite pleased with that one!
Look. There’s the brown. We’re done here. It looked dull. There were nice touches but it easily the weakest of the level designs.
What was actually unique about this game was the way that depending on whether you did one player or two player, you were given some different levels just for that character. For example, Mickey had THIS level:
And Donald had THIS one:
What this did, actually rather ingeniously, was extend the length of the game. No longer was it just one game but THREE. you could play through TOGETHER and get EVEN MORE new levels. You played as Donald to get the levels with the best music and you could play through as Mickey for the slightly easier, slightly less deadly levels. There WAS a difference between them and Donald’s always managed to be just a little bit trickier. His chances of dying on his unique levels were MUCH much higher than they were on Mickey’s ones. Many a life was lost getting past the level above with Donald on a leaf. I mean FUCKING HELL that was a mean level to give a child if ever I saw one. Perfect jumping was required at times and there was one part where I lost more lives than I care to mention because I jumped TOO hard EVERY TIME without even knowing I was doing it.
But isn’t that was this game teaches you? It teaches you to game. It teaches you to persevere. It teaches you something that leading you by the hand never could. It’s bloody brilliant because despite realistically being a simple game over in an hour or so, it’s actually getting YOU to learn what to do without basically saying “STOP BEING A DICK, I’LL SHOW YOU WHAT TO DO.”
DO YOU HEAR THAT, CHILDREN? THIS TEACHES YOU TO THINK FOR YOURSELF. YUP.
Essentially, what you get here is a little gem of a game that is graphically and sonically bloody lovely. Not bloody as in red and dead like cos that wouldn’t be very Disney, now would it? However, there are a couple of things that really do niggle at me now that I view it from an adult perspective.
The bosses. Jeez. Those things were pretty underwhelming, weren’t they? I like the fact that a couple of them were Disney characters, like Mad Madam Mim from Sword in the Stone was there and Pete’s Dragon (in baby form) danced across the screen a bit rather unimpressively. The first boss was testing the waters as you try to flick your cloak around in different directions only to realise that you can hit him twice in one go, once on the way down and once on the way up (SEE? LEARNING.) but he was a bit pap. They were a mixture of half-arsed and not-half-arsed on his animation. He barely moved when you COULD hit him and then when he wasn’t able to be hit, they animated him so nicely that it sort of detracted a bit from the whole purpose. What was it for? To make kids feel confident in boss battles or to test the animators’ skills? Probably both. Seems a bit cheap.
The shark boss was the first MAJOR boss challenge. He rifled across the stage as a reasonable enough pace to throw you off guard and when he JUMPED out of the floor, he was so NICE to look at that you forgot to actually… you know… hit him?
Some of the level design was a bit too simplistic to be fair. Yes, it’s aimed at kids and that’s good for them but it wasn’t really challenging ENOUGH. Every platform was easy to get to and even platforms that moved out of position when you stepped on them, such as the cloud level, were still reachable if you fluffed up the jump. It defeated the point of having platforms that MOVED when you could still reach them anyway after they had done.
The set-pieces of using magic spells were TOTALLY underused and if there WAS a HD remake, I could see that being remastered… but I’d feel a bit sad about that. I can imagine they’d add in a spell button and you could attack things in different ways and that would be TOTALLY WRONG. If they WERE to remake it, I’d prefer to see them use them as PLATFORM DEVICES. Like, that platform is too far away! MAGIC CARPET SPELL! That platform is under the water! BUBBLE SPELL! I can’t reach that top platform! COMMAND CARDS TO MAKE A BRIDGE SLASH TOWER SPELL! Much better.
They’re pretty gimmicky all in all and underused, which is a shame, but it can be forgiven given the fact that they tried to be creative and actually make connections between having the spells because THEY’RE MAGICIANS AND THEY NEED SPELLS.
And then we’r-HOLY FUCKING CRAP WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?! FUCKING PETE?! FUCK OFF PETE. STOP BEING A GIANT DICKHEAD. FUCK OFF.
Oh. You’re the last boss? OHHHHHH. Good. Finally.
Yeah, getting to the final boss is quite nice and all that but again… last boss? Simple. You can easily lose lives but you don’t have to do much. You stand on the platform, wave your cloak at him and eventually he vaporises into the ether like some sort of… I dunno. What vaporises into the ether? He ends up wibbly-wobbling like TV scanlines for the most part. I dunno.
Look, you beat him and you can get on with your lives as proper magicians again YAAAAAAAAY.
Seriously. That’s it. You get sent back home and you do some neat tricks to the crowd. Whoop.
However, play it together and you get the full magic show involving fireworks and Donald being HILARIOUS. Otherwise, in single player mode, you only get a bit of the magic trick.
INCENTIVES. I like it.
Disney. Listen. HD remake. If you are going to do it, and I hope you do because JUST IMAGINE IT, make sure you don’t fuck it up. We’re not all able to recover from the trauma if you do. I can guarantee it. LOOK AT THESE FACES.
Now then, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going on a trip into space on a bottle cork.