I’ve made fun of 2d platforming mascots that fell off the wagon during the 16-bit era but one of the few that remained consistent is Mickey Mouse. Regardless of publisher the face of Disney was treated well during that period. But even I have to admit World of Illusion slipped past my radar initially. It’s easy to see why; the hype train for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was simply unavoidable in 1992. However Sega’s excellent Christmas advertising that year made the Genesis seem like the system to get and the little slice of World of Illusion in the commercials made me want it bad. With a host of improvements World of Illusion is one of my favorite Disney licensed games of all time.
Mickey and Donald are cast in the role of stage magicians for this adventure. One day while preparing for a show they discover a mysterious box. Letting their curiosity get the best of them they open it only to end up trapped in a magical world. But at least their magic is now real, enabling them to hopefully find a way back.
Castle of Illusion was a great game but suffered from two flaws: it was too short and far too easy. The sequel fixes both of those problems and then some. Aside from being longer it throws two-player coop into the mix. In my opinion coop is the definitive way to play as it is integrated into the overall adventure so well. But whether solo or with a friend World of Illusion is a great platformer and one that has held up beautifully.
You can forget about the platforming staple butt bounce here. Both Mickey and Donald are equipped with magic capes that can perform a few different feats. Mostly you’ll use it to change enemies into harmless creatures or objects. Depending on your distance it can take a few hits which can be annoying but is easy to adjust to. The cape can also manipulate some background objects. Every level introduces a new spell such as creating bubbles for underwater travel or using playing cards to create bridges. Both characters play the same outside of one difference. Mickey can crawl through tight spaces while Donald’s big ass forces him to find an alternate route. This essentially creates three separate paths through the game, making this a decently sized adventure.
Mickey can be considered the game’s easy route. In terms of his abilities he is identical to the prior game. Power-ups are more abundant and his platforming sequences are only middle of the road in terms of difficulty. Because Mickey can squeeze into tight areas he can avoid the more troublesome areas Donald has to go through.
If only Donald had it as easy. For those who require a game with teeth choosing Donald is the way to go. All of the elements that made gamers fall in love with 2d platformers are here: the need for precision platforming, timed jumps, and tricky item placement. It isn’t the most difficult in the world but there are definitely times where you might slam the controller in anger. This is still a game targeted at kids after all. More importantly however is that there are levels and segments exclusive to Donald giving incentive to actually play through the game as both characters.
And there is a reason to do it three times as coop is what the game was clearly designed for. As great as the single player levels the game truly shines when you partner up with a friend. The reason being the game emphasizes cooperation in order to progress at all times, keeping both players engaged. There are switches that need to be activated, piggybacking to reach higher ledges, and even manning a two-man mine cart. A lot of these situations usually involve finding ways to get Donald to higher ground however it’s varied enough that it doesn’t grow old. There are levels exclusive to coop and in fact this route is the longest in the game, lending credence to the idea that this is the way the game is meant to be played.
World of Illusion is a beautiful game with some of the most imaginative worlds on the system. The artwork is incredibly detailed but more impressive than that is the animation. Both protagonists animate with a level of grace not too common for that generation which makes coop even more of a treat. As good as the game looks it is very obvious that it was built using the same engine and tools as its predecessor. The initial forest looks very similar to the first level of Castle of Illusion and the Library, with its cake and sweet filled sub world, looks as though it was ripped straight from that game. Cost cutting measures aside however no one can deny that this is a visual treat.
A little short and sweet but otherwise excellent World of Illusion is a truly great game platformer on a system blessed with many. While I would have loved a few more levels the great coop campaign makes up for it. And considering how cheap the game is you have no excuse not to experience platforming greatness.