Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Castle Full of Surprises

Quick Note: Though not the most inspiring game in the world, Castle of Illusions is surprisingly fun. A nice blend of 2D platforming and 3D exploring, Castle of Illusions is well balanced, despite being relatively short. For those looking for a quick game to pick up and play or something nostalgic, this is a great game to play.

Gaming is finally now getting old enough to be able to bring back classics. The original Castle of Illusions was a 2D platformer that released on the Sega Genesis, and now it's time to bring it back int he form of a modern day re-imagining. Castle of Illusions sees Mickey off to save Minnie, who has been captured by an evil old witch and locked away inside a giant castle. The only way to save her is to find the seven rainbow gems and get to the top of the watch tower.  It's a simple premise that is wholly intended to keep the game moving forward, and it works well for that purpose, but is nothing new or imaginative by a long shot.

Unlike the recent Ducktales reboot, which retained the 2D graphical look and gameplay, Castle of Illusions is a mix between 2D and 3D gameplay and utilizes 3D models on a (mostly) 2D plane. The majority of movement is held on this 2D plane in which Mickey can move forward or backwards, jump, and throw (if he has collected something to throw). These controls are pretty solid, though the jumping is floatier than you would expect, and not in the good LittleBigPlanet kind of way.

However, from time to time, the camera pans out and the control scheme switches to a traditional 3D set up. These transitions are smooth and quite often a breath of fresh air from the traditional platforming, adding a more complex (albeit not too much more complex) feel to these sections that reminded me a bit of Super Mario 64. 

Levels are connected by a hub world in the form of a castle (also reminiscent of Mario 64), where Mickey moves between rooms that contain three levels a piece. Each room is themed, such as The Library and Toyland and each theme has a nice variety, ensuring that no set of levels looks the same as the others. Mickey moves through each of the stages collecting gems to unlock more doors and get to the big, shiny stones at the end. Each stone is protected by a boss to be defeated, which are surprisingly varied for such a small game, with each boss having it's own pattern and gameplay to correspond with it. The final boss in particular is challenging, and felt rewarding to take on considering how easy the other bosses in the game are.

The real detractor to the game are the performance issues and pacing. Though smooth early on, the environments get more and more complicated, triggering frame rate drops and chugging while moving along. These small instances do not make the game unplayable, but they do tend to happen at the wrong time and can easily throw off your timing while platforming. And though the game establishes a level system early on, where Mickey battle through to the boss of each room, defeats the boss and then earns a gem, it seems to throw this out the window once Mickey gets to the fourth stage and earns 2 Rainbow gems per room. It wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it made the game feel rushed out the door, with the gems being thrown in just have them somewhere.

Though there are a few performance issues and the game is fair short, Castle of Illusions is a lot of fun. The game feels like an odd brainchild of 2D Mario and 3D Mario, but without all the bells and whistles of Mario. Personally, this feels like a perfect game for PS Vita because it has some great production quality, but simple game play that's easy for pick up and play, but it's still fun on PS3. For anyone looking for a quick game to play, or a game to teach younger players about platforming, this is a great pick. Short, sweet and to the point, you can't go wrong with Castle of Illusions.

7.5 out of 10

Here Are a Few Links:
Game Page
Wiki Page
IGN Review
Metacritic Page

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