Once Upon a Mouse…

TMW Presents: Retro Gaming Spotlight

Castle of Illusion

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Everything starts out just peachy for our old friend Mickey Mouse. He’s in a meadow, frolicking playfully with his girlfriend Minerva, having a game of “spin around really fast so Minnie might fall over and I get to see her knickers” when suddenly Mizrabel the witch appears from out of the blue and whisks Minnie away to her castle.

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Her castle… of illusion!

Why she took Minnie is never really explained. We imagine that it was a spontaneous decision that Mizrabel figured she had to see through to the end. It’s a bit like that time Adam smuggled a pony home from Crealy farm. In the heat of the moment it seemed like a good idea, but once he actually had it in his bedroom (and dyed its mane purple) he couldn’t think of anything to do. Well, that’s what the police report said, and we’re sticking to it.

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Anyway, Mickey walks some fifty miles to the castle and is greeted by Obi Wan Kenobi. The old wizard gives Mickey brief instruction to collect seven magical gems that will summon Captain Planet so he can beat Miserabel up. Or something like that, who knows. This game isn’t very clear about who’s doing what or why.

Mickey doesn’t really need any help to rescue Minnie anyway, as the little guy can lift boulders clear over his head and throw them ten yards. Kabosh! No-one knows why he’s so strong, but legend has it that – years ago – Mickey was bitten by a radioactive mouse, thus giving him the PROPORTIONAL STRENGTH OF A MOUSE.

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It’s quite amazing. In the Mega Drive version, Mickey carries around a bag of apples (or maybe billiard balls) to pelt his enemies with. Master System Mickey just rips up parts of the scenery and puts the smack down on the baddies.

You wouldn’t really want to hurt any of the enemies, though. They’re adorable! You meet caterpillars and smiley sweeties, honey bees and sugar cubes. Why make the enemies so saccharine and benevolent, we wonder? You don’t see that in Streets of Rage. It just wouldn’t be the same if Galsia and Y. Signal came at you with chocolates and a bunch of flowers.

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A lover of all animals (*splutter*), fictional or no, Adam steadfastly refused to hurt any of the little critters in the game, and often made guests swear by the same oath. You should see him play through the whole of Time Crisis without fatally wounding anyone. It’s astonishing. Adam makes Ghandi look like General Zod.

Reaching the end of any of the game’s five levels, you’re tasked with defeating a boss. These characters are pretty hardcore and require careful planning and strategy to defeat. If you’re clever, you can trap the giant Chocolate Bar Man (exactly what it sounds like) in a pattern and ruthlessly beat him with a rock.

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Once the boss is gone, you’re awarded one of the seven rainbow-coloured gems that you need to defeat Mizrabel. When you grab it, the game plays a delightful little tune that tickles the ears and makes the battle worthwhile.

The levels themselves are all fantastic. If you have the Mega Drive version, throw it in the bin right now – you won’t be going back to it. On paper the environments sound the same: You have the woods, toy land, chocolate factory, library and the clock world. But they look and play completely differently to their sixteen-bit cousins.

The graphics are bold and charming, the level design clever and challenging without being frustrating, and the music is wonderfully bouncy. You can tackle the levels in any order you wish; a feature left out of the Mega Drive version for some reason.

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The final challenge comes when you reach the castle’s inner sanctum (I never touched her sanctum!! Read the report!! – Adam). It’s a spooky and fiendish place, and will require all your platforming skill to negotiate safely. Before the final battle with Mizrabel, you must defeat a wicked-looking dragon that spits balls of blue fire.

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Mizrabel herself is easily trounced with Mickey’s mighty mouse strength (by which we mean he smashes her face in with an oil lamp), and she repents her sins wholeheartedly and allows Minnie to go free. Like almost every Master System game ever, the ending is a sweet one that leaves you with a smile on your face. And of course, the game thanks you for playing after the credits roll.

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“See her knickers”

 

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