Top critical review
extending onward to the still fantastic Aladdin, everything coming out of that period destined ...
on March 9, 2015
When it was originally released in 1990, Castle of Illusion was a game I devoured. Disney was in the midst of strong series of releases at the time as evidenced by Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers, Castle of Illusion, and Ducktales, extending onward to the still fantastic Aladdin, everything coming out of that period destined for remembrance in my own personal Hall Of Fame. At times I've revisited what I'd considered to be classics, and like so many things, these held up better in the mind than in reality, but Castle of Illusion isn't one which failed to continue the hype. After the successful remake of Ducktales which came out recently, I was optimistic after hearing Castle was getting a makeover as well. It took some time for me to finally getting around to picking it up (I've become something of a cheapskate over the years, $15 being a point I need to argue with myself for months over before caving), and I'm glad I did. The good news is: the gameplay remains unchanged largely, and the extra polish and coat of paint only add rather than detract from the experience. In a time when I feel bigger trumps quality within the industry, it's refreshing to see a title live up to its legacy through gameplay, and not the flash surrounding it.
My only ill experience with the remake comes in the form of slowdown. Crippling, crippling slowdown. I have a machine which runs everything I've thrown at it which you'd think might cause it concern just fine, albeit not on the highest settings. Even so, Castle is like watching a slideshow occur in slow motion, one of those videos where a water balloon is popped at something-some-hundredths of a second, and the liquid inside retains its oval shape before succumbing to gravity. Initial hunts revealed this to be a common issue, and though Sega released an official patch for the trouble, my difficulties persisted. I tried all the suggested fixes from changing the specs of my video card to finding some obscure setting to switch on/off, these all leading me toward the same issue in the end. Best I can tell, a small pocket of performance issues remain for a handful of buyers, making me unwilling to write the experience off for everyone, only a piece you should know going in as a (slight) cautionary anecdote. Changing the resolution did work for me in the end, though this wasn't fully resolved until I dipped all the way down to a muddy 800x600, a trade resulting in speed over beauty. The game itself is good enough to where I find the lack of sparkle okay, though in doing so, I do experience a bit of eye-strain not unlike having the 3D on my 3DS on for a period of time.
Castle is not a difficult game. Mind you, I'm approaching this nearly 25 years after the fact of my first encounter, an encounter I did indeed find hard when initially played, so take that curve with a fair amount of salt. Having said, the ramp in difficulty is well handled, introducing new elements and gameplay ideas gradually and naturally so they feel a part of the growth/progression of the player. It's a game where its intended audience is perfectly introduced to platformers, designed not to frustrate but rather challenge, where success is met by satisfaction over relief. If you have younger gamers you're searching for titles to introduce them to, Castle of Illusion is a no-brainer. From the gameplay to the setting, all aspects are wonderfully imaginative, setting my mind racing then even as it still manages too now. Also, to plug that other remake, Ducktales is superb. I'd even recommend it over Castle from a personal level, though some of the gameplay concepts are a little more difficult and unforgiving than they are in Castle. Not that I suggest dumbing anything down, only the mix of the frustrate/challenge balance is tipped closer to the former's side.
Definitely recommended. This is a trend I fully support continuing.