Disney has been investing a significant amount of effort in recent years to put the quality back into its video game franchises and reach out to more adult gamers. With the Epic Mickey series adopting a somewhat darker tone, and the forthcoming classic remake of DuckTales: Remastered, it’s obvious that the media giant has been paying close attention to its aging fans. Sticking with the apparent plan, Disney Interactive has teamed up with SEGA Studios Australia to create a completely remade version of the fan favourite Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
Fans of the original will fondly remember Castle of Illusion as a 16-bit side-scrolling platformer. While the general design in this remade version remains the same, the entire game has received a facelift since the SEGA Genesis days. Movement is still two-dimensional – with the exception of the now 3D castle overworld – but the environments and characters no longer look like flat objects pressed up against one another. The character models are round and smooth, reminiscent of the designs in the more modern Epic Mickey games. The environments are highly detailed and have an actual sense of depth to them, with certain enemies attacking from out of dimension once passed. Besides foes, there are also objects that fall from the background into your path, some even continuing forwards off the screen causing a sort of 3D effect.
Much the same as the graphics, the audio has received a significant upgrade to boot. Along with a more fleshed-out soundtrack, Castle of Illusion now boasts voice-overs that narrate the story, as well as sound effects that help bring the environments and enemies to life. While it may be light-years beyond its predecessor, there are definitely still some sharp edges that could use smoothing, but it’s nothing that a final coat of polish won’t fix.
Though the game’s aesthetics may be from the current generation, certain aspects of the gameplay feel a bit dated. There are many leaps of faith towards far away or hidden ledges that often end up in plummets to your death. There's also a lack of direction in some of the vertical scrolling areas of stages. While some may argue that this encourages exploration, it proves to be more frustrating than anything else, especially when combined with the unnecessary blind jumps over bottomless chasms. While these elements may have been passable and easily ignored 20 years ago in the original game, there's no excuse for them not to be rearranged or fixed in the remake. Nostalgia aside, the gameplay is a bit rough.
The original game was entertaining, but it was over before it began. Difficulty notwithstanding, there were only five stages, resulting in a very short adventure should you have the skills to make it all of the way through. We were unable to confirm whether any new levels will be added to increase the remake’s length, but it's safe to say that the game has not been made any easier. The controls are definitely tighter this time around, but avoiding enemies and timing jumps is still just as challenging as it's always been.
Still, the game very much feels like a work in progress at this point in time. While it's not broken, there are obvious areas that require more work. Fortunately, we suspect that many of these issues will be smoothed out prior to release. With all of the great work that Disney has been doing over the past few years, we’re really looking forward to this one, and hoping that it ends up on par with the original Genesis release.
Are you planning to return to the Castle of Illusion later this year? Are there any other Disney classics that you'd like to see revived? Let us know in the comments section below.