Pros: Fun and engaging gameplay, well-designed levels, decent soundtrack, suitable for all ages, multiplayer mode
Cons: Controls sometimes a little sensitive
I Would Recommend If You Like: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 3
World of Illusion is one of Sega's Illusion series of games featuring Mickey Mouse which helped seal the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis' reputation as a quality console until Sega's new mascot - Sonic the Hedgehog - made his debut. Even after having this game for twenty years it's still a favourite in my household.
Note: I'm not really sure why the game's listed as a Dreamcast game. As far as I'm aware it was only ever released on the Sega Genesis and that was the system I played it on. Anyone feel free to drop me a message and correct me if I'm wrong though.
In World of Illusion, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck discover a mysterious box whilst preparing for a magic act. However this box belongs to an evil magician, who sucks the duo into the box and sends them to a strange world. Mickey and Donald must work together to find their way back home.
This is pretty much the entirety of the plot. The levels don't have a consistent story through them; Mickey and Donald just seem to wander through this bizarre world they've been sent to in their quest for a way out. So there isn't a big, in-depth storyline here - the plot that is there is just a premise for getting the two characters into the strange world.
To be honest this type of game doesn't really call for much of a plot. It's reminiscent of the original Sonic and Mario games, which themselves were pretty much 'stop the bad guy, save the animals/princess.' You don't really notice the lack of story; the gameplay is entertaining enough in itself.
Like the plot, there isn't too much emphasis on character personalities or development. Of course there's Mickey and Donald, who do have a couple of little quirks i.e. Donald can't get his backside through small spaces; Mickey has to tug him through. But apart from them and the evil magician - who doesn't appear until the very end - there's no real characters in the game at all.
The only people you will come across and enemies, and most of these aren't people at all - ranging from everything from piranhas to spiders to what I can only guess are either ice or sugar cubes (?). The design of these villains makes them pretty fun to look at, they're cartoony and suitably over-the-top - perfect for a Mickey Mouse game. The wizard takes on the guise of Mickey's long-time foe Pete and is a little creepy, but not really scary - just enough to actually look like a final boss.
There's very little spoken dialogue in the game either - just one or two words here and there, so the voice-acting is usually restricted to things like Mickey or Donald giving a little shout when they get hit by an enemy. So again, the emphasis has been placed completely on gameplay rather than characters - it wouldn't even have to be Mickey and Donald really, any two characters could've worked. I can only assume that the Disney icons were used to attract interest in the Mega Drive system.
World of Illusion's is a delightfully simple game to play. You can choose to either play as Mickey or Donald, or grab a friend and play co-operatively with both characters. The levels are changed slightly depending on how many characters play as there are some puzzles in the co-op version that need both characters to solve, and as such couldn't be played the same way in by only one player.
You move using the joypad (or D-pad) and you can crawl by pressing the down arrow. Attacks consist of a flourish of Mickey or Donald's cape (blue or red respectively) unless the character's in a level where they are unable to use the cape - for example there's an underwater level where the character moves around in a bubble and so must simply avoid enemies. When an enemy is defeated it turns into a dove, a card or some other piece of magic paraphernalia - a nice little touch.
Mickey and Donald's health is represented by a series of cards in the upper left corner (hearts and clubs respectively). When the player takes on the damage the cards turn over, and when they're all turned over the player loses a life. Health can be recovered by finding cake slices and sweets - cake slices restore more health than candy.
Most of the gameplay consists of platforming, but it's kept varied - you tunnel through mines, fly magic carpets through the clouds and navigate through intricate spider webs. Every level presents its own challenges, something that really keeps the game engaging and interesting to play. At the end of each level you confront a boss, who if you defeat will drop a magic spell which assists you in the next level.
This game has a good level of difficulty - you need to concentrate on what you're doing, so you're not having your hand held through the levels, but it's not so difficult that you'll find yourself getting frustrated with it. The only thing you may find annoying are how sensitive the controls are, as it can be difficult to get Mickey or Donald to jump to the right place if they're navigating narrow platforms - typical of most platformers really.
There's no difficulty settings so the game's the same everytime you play it. You can play alone or with a friend though which adds a little variety. It's definitely a game that you'll play again and again though.
The background music's fairly pleasant. It's tailored well to the levels - the candyland style level has a sweet little tune tinkering on in the background whilst the underwater level sounds suitably aquatic and bubbly. All the boss fights have the same music - frantic and energetic - apart from the final fight with the evil wizard which is a bit more dramatic. It's not a really stand-out soundtrack but it really compliments the game well.
The graphics are very good considering the game was released in 1992 - they're much more detailed than what you'd find in, for example, the early Sonic games. The levels are very well-designed and fun to look at as well as play. Colours used very well - the pastels used in the flying carpet level feel very uplifting whilst the underwater level has a more muted, darker look. Each level has its own distinct feel and they really are all a joy to look at.
There's plenty of references to various Disney movies. Some are obvious, such as allusions to Alice in Wonderland and Snow White, whilst some aren't so much such as a few mentions of The Sword in the Stone and Pinocchio. (Of course nothing later than Aladdin, which was also released in 1992).
Who It's Appropriate For
As you'd expect from a Disney game there's absolutely nothing to worry about as far as children playing it are concerned. There's not even a smidge of violence as magic cape flourishes are how you defeat enemies. There may be one or two scary villains for very small children, some involving spiders, but there's really nothing unsuitable for children.
As I said near the top I'm almost sure that this game was only released on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, and I've not seen any Dreamcast copies anywhere, so I'd assume that's the only console you can purchase it for despite the listing name.