This platformer is quite good, and that’s no illusion
Before we get into this, a disclaimer: This reviewer has never played Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse in its original release for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive. As such, no comparisons to the original game are to be found in this review, and it will only be judged on its own merits. That said, this iOS port of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC remake is good. Quite good, in fact, and perhaps surprisingly so. Platformers can be hit or miss on the iPhone, especially when they weren’t originally made with the system in mind; and when they fall, they can fall hard.
Such is not the case here, though. While not perfect, Castle of Illusion still works well in the palm of your hand, and almost feels like it’s been optimized to compensate for its shortcomings. The biggest issue we had was with the controls, which feel a bit sticky when you try to move in just about any direction except to the right. This provides a bit of a problem when you need to duck, or worse, when the left-right portions change to full-on 3D movement, which the game does seamlessly otherwise.
Even so, the game doesn’t seem to have a standard lives system, as such games from the era of the original typically did. On occasion, including near the start, you might run into a situation where it feels like a checkpoint would be handy, but for the most part, they’re frequent and the lack of lives means you can continue trying as much as you need to in order to get it right.
This is good, too, because even without the control issues, there is still quite a bit of challenge here (don’t let Mickey’s kid-friendly, smiling face fool you there). It comes in different forms, from precise platforming to occasional leaps of faith, and even some tricky enemies, who can be a little rougher with some slightly-off hit detection which seldom favors the player. But the whole experience isn’t off-putting in spite of some slight frustrations.
Graphically, the game is superb. It stars not the Mickey we’ve seen in new animated shorts or the Epic Mickey games as of late, but the version seen more traditionally in theme parks and other recent cartoons. The backgrounds are rich and vibrant as well, even featuring some areas where you’ll see things happening in the background, and eventually be able to go there yourself, offering a greater sense of a full, cohesive world. The sound is great as well, with Mickey being fully voiced and guided along by a narrator who lends the entire experience a storybook type of feel.
All said, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse for mobile was a very pleasant surprise. It’s not perfect, but it comes close enough, and may even be a little better than its console brethren in some regards. We weren’t able to get very far in the console demo, but managed to get along just fine in this version. Our greatest regret after playing is that the studio which crafted this remake was closed after the console version was finished, leaving us to wonder if we’ll ever see any of SEGA’s other Disney games remade like this, and even if they are, if they’ll manage to be this good.