When you wish upon a star, would you wish for a remake of your childhood’s favorite videogames? Besides my awful Disney pun, writing this review up is a fair opportunity to ask how far nostalgia can carry a game.
As I was playing Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse HD, the remake to one of the most beloved Sega Genesis/Mega Drive games ever, it was hard not to shrug. Granted, it’s nowhere near awful — it’s competently made, actually — but might feel a tad unnecessary when compared to similar games currently out.
Frame by frame with the original game, Castle of Illusion HD begins with the kidnapping of Minnie by the evil witch and Mickey’s eventual visit to the aptly named Castle of Illusion. The castle itself serves as a hub for a handful of uniquely themed worlds. Each level is broken up into two platforming sections and end in boss fights that aren’t hard at all to beat. In fact, Castle of Illusion, much like the original game, is extremely short. Even if you add all the hidden collectibles and achievements, it won’t take you longer than three hours to blast through the HD remake.
The lack of challenge is broken up quite viciously at the end of the game, during the last boss fight that suddenly ramps up the difficulty and would actually be the highlight of the game if it weren’t for this remake’s presentational annoyances.
Graphically, Castle of Illusion HD is gorgeous. Worlds are lively and different from one another, changing up the theme and really adding much character to the original’s levels. The problem comes from the way the game tries to hard to play like a storybook and ultimately fails.
Story is delivered by a voiceover that narrates levels and repeat over and over regardless how many times you’ve already played through a certain section. Some of the cutscenes tend to last a little too long and can’t be skipped, which quickly becomes annoying.
That annoyance carries over the uneven distribution of checkpoints within levels, forcing you to not only have to pick up collectibles all over again if you lose a life, but also watch every cutscene and listen to the narration all over again.
In terms of gameplay, Castle of Illusion HD plays it extremely safe. Like the recently released DuckTales Remastered, platforming controls are made simpler. Enemies are dispatched by either jumping on top of or being hit by projectiles, the same way Mickey can be damaged himself. Hit-detection misses the mark in some moments, however, and ends up throwing Mickey off ledges to his usual doom. There’s also a slugishness to gameplay that might drive the rhythmic platformig fiend bananas. Mickey jumps ridiculously slow and there’s just no sense of motion in the placement of enemies or jumps. Even with the redesigned levels, such an omission of speed is frustrating to see, due to how paramount it is within platforming games in general.
Regardless of your feeling towards the original Castle of Illusion, HD is a serviceable remake. It’s charming as all heck and mostly plays well, but that’s as far as it ever goes. Sadly, due to how safe SEGA played it, with no substantial additions and how slow everything moves, married with the uneven ramp up in difficulty, it ends up just being an okay game.