Genre: Platformer Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1990
Most people like Mickey Mouse. We’ve all grown up with him, seen his cartoons, played with the toys, gone to Disney World, etc. The little mouse seems to get the star treatment wherever he goes. Heck, he hasn’t even had to make a movie in years, given his popularity (although the Three Musketeers will change that). Sadly, Mickey hasn’t had as much success in the gaming industry as he’s had in cinema and television. From turds like Mickey Mousecapades and Fantasia, to snore fests like Disney’s Magical Mirror, he’s pretty much been hit-and-miss when it comes to games.
It hasn’t been all bad though. There have been a few decent titles and two of the brightest spots in his career are on the Sega Genesis. Along with the stellar World of Illusion, Castle of Illusion stands as Mickey’s finest hour, and one of the best Genesis platformers ever made.
Being a Mickey Mouse game, you probably aren’t expecting much of a challenge. You’d be correct to do so. The game can be beaten in one sitting, and even though you can adjust the amount of energy with which you begin, the actual game difficulty remains the same. This doesn’t detract from the overall experience, as the variety of levels makes the game worth playing over and over. Everything screams polish, from the colorful, detailed graphics, to the totally hummable soundtrack; you will smile while playing this game. I guarantee it.
The storyline is vintage Mickey Mouse. The evil witch Mizrabel has captured Minnie out of jealousy for her beauty and sealed her off in her castle (I guess you’d have to be a rodent to appreciate the scope of that, but…). To save your gal, you must recover seven gems and create a rainbow bridge over to her prison.
Your quest will take you everywhere from inside a toy box to an oversized (to a mouse anyway) library, where you’ll battle dangerous mushrooms, toy soldiers, and many other enemies. Levels are broken into areas, and you don’t necessarily need to beat a boss to get one of the gems. There are several environments, each filled with detail and alive with color. Mickey swims in coffee cups, prances through bat-filled caves, and even tackles a gargantuan clock tower (complete with the giant from Mickey & the Beanstalk!). Be it the abundant parallax, the excellent animation, or the gorgeous backgrounds, everything looks fantastic. The toy box stage’s screen flip effect, for example, was very cool and added a neat twist to the gameplay.
Aimed at younger players, CoI does everything in typical Disney fashion. You don’t get lives; you get “tries.” Nothing is too scary-looking or overly complicated. Mickey has his trademark sway as he walks and goes about his mission with sugary optimism. He does seem a bit too happy for someone whose lady love just got kidnapped, though.
Being a platformer, Mickey is of course a master of the “butt stomp of doom” and uses it as his primary attack in the game. He can also throw apples and marbles at his foes. I like how the marbles are always left in a little bag, conveniently within reach. Uncleanliness is most unbecoming in an evil witch!
Seeming more like a Kangaroo Rat than a house mouse, Mickey is blessed with a stellar jumping ability. Useful for escaping stacks of Jello as well as bouncing on multiple foes, it comes in quite handy for reaching items that are otherwise out of reach. You’ll find yourself going for that extra life star or a bag of marbles, not because you need them, but because they’re just so darn easy to get. Control is tight and although jumps are high and long, they aren’t floaty and respond well to the D pad.
The mysterious Bo of Fantasy Zone and Space Harrier fame provides the music and does a wonderful job. The Genesis isn’t renowned for its soundchip, but Bo has a way of consistently making the system sing. The toy soldier march, the milk bottle jig, the witch’s castle and clock tower themes; all perfectly match the action. Level one’s music always manages to make me grin. I really wish I knew of a way to get hold of some of these Genny soundtracks. Anyone willing to help out?
Along with the candy-coated tunes are some neat little effects, which sound clear and loud. Enemies die with a little jingling sound, Mickey makes a little “bwip” when he jumps, and bosses provide some very nice bass with their attacks. Some people may take fiendish delight in finding interesting new ways to make Mickey die, just to hear him scream. His little squeal may make you tingle but hearing him wail as he falls to his death just sounds awful. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for a second the first time that happened.
If you’re not a Disney fan or abhor all things cute, you’ll probably stay far away from this title. I would recommend it anyway on its platforming merits alone. It’s fun, the length is just right, and it’s cheap. Anyone who likes Mickey Mouse will eat this up with a spoon. I had as almost as much fun playing this game now as I did when I first booted it up so many years ago. Mickey still looks sharp after all this time and still manages to make me smile. That’s what he does best, and nobody does it better.