Game Corner [Donald Duck Day]: The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck (Master System)


DonaldDuckDay

It’s June 9th, which means that it’s National Donald Duck Day! Disney’s foul-tempered fowl first debuted in The Wise Little Hen (Jackson, 1934) way, way back on 9 June 1934 and has since become one of the multimedia conglomerate’s most enduring and popular characters, featuring in a variety of cartoons, videogames, and other merchandise.


GameCorner

Released: October 1991
Developer: SEGA (AM7)
Also Available For: Game Gear

The Background:
Back in the nineties, it was tough to find better licensed videogames than those produced by Disney; bright, colourful platformers featuring their popular characters and adaptations of their film franchises are highly regarded as some of the best 8- and 16-bit action/platformers on Nintendo and SEGA’s home consoles. While their mascot, Mickey Mouse, obviously featured in the majority of these titles, Donald Duck had his fair share of pixelated adventures over the years as well. The Lucky Dime Caper was technically very similar to Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (ibid, 1990) with a few notable alterations; first was that Donald was afforded a melee and ranged attack and, second, was that he was exploring a version of the real world rather than fantasy lands. The Lucky Dime Caper was also one of the very first videogames I ever played and owned for the Master System; over the years, I have never managed to finish it so I’m very excited to be returning to it for Donald’s big day!

The Plot:
One day, while showing his prized “Number One Dime” to his nephews, Huey, Dewy, and Louie, Scrooge McDuck is attacked by the evil Magica De Spell, who steals the lucky dime and kidnaps his nephews! Donald hops into his bi-plane and journeys across the world to rescue his nephews, recover the Number One Dime, and put a stop to Magica’s evil aspirations of amassing her own vast fortune.

Gameplay:
If you’ve played Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, you’ll be immediately familiar with the gameplay and controls in The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck; there are no options available to you to change up the game’s difficulty or controls and, following a brief and impressive little introduction video, you’re taken to a world map and given the option to play one of three stages right off the bat.

Pick your stage and then leap into action with Donald’s trusty mallet.

Whichever one you pick, you’ll be placed in the sailor hat and outfit of Disney’s foul-tempered fowl. Donald has a fairly fast standard walking speed, which is nice; he doesn’t race along but it’s also not like he has lead in his non-existent shoes, either. He can jump on enemies to defeat them, which is always a plus, and can hop up to higher levels by holding the 2 button when bouncing off enemies or certain platforms. Donald can also jump onto vines to swing over gaps, though it can be a little clunky to detach him once you’re over to the other side. Donald’s default method of attack is to swing a hefty mallet, which you can bust out with a press of the 1 button; pretty much every enemy dies after one hit and Donald can even smash enemies while in mid-air and can duck to avoid incoming projectiles (though many of these can be jumped on as well). The game is divided into seven stages, and every single stage has a number of different areas with the except of Stage 1, which consists of a simple trek through the woods to rescue Louie; other stages end at the entrance to a cave or other interior area, which Donald either automatically enters or will open with either a key or a press of up on the directional pad.

Swim, collect keys, and dodge blocks over spike pits all while a timer bar decreases for added pressure.

Although a number of bottomless pits are present in numerous areas, Donald can enter certain bodies of water and swim by furiously tapping the 2 button; luckily, this really doesn’t come up very often as Donald is completely vulnerable while swimming and has no method of fighting back. Donald is mildly durable; when hit my an enemy or spikes, Donald will lose whatever weapon he’s currently holding, leaving him vulnerable, and he’ll lose a life if he’s then hit a second time. As you battle your way through each stage, you’ll also be up against a constant timer; a bar decreases as you progress, turning from blue to yellow to red as you go, and you’ll lose a life if it completely drains. However, the bar regenerates to full when you leave one screen to the next in the longer stages and none of the game’s stages are long enough to drain it unless you just leave the game idle. Donald also carries his current weapon to each stage and even after dying, and he is even blessed with an infinite number of continues; however, you’ll have to restart the stage right from the beginning if you use a continue, as opposed to when you lose a life, which sees you return to the start of the last area you were in.

A number of environmental hazards and spikes will test your platforming skills.

I mentioned keys earlier; this is about as complicated as the game’s stages will get, for the most part. Occasionally, you’ll come across a locked door and will need to progress a little further along to collect a key, and then backtrack to open that door. When in the Pyramids stage, you’ll be able to press up to open doors somewhat hidden in the background tiles, and Magica’s Castle includes a bit of a maze element where you can end up looping around the castle and having to trek back through it again to actually progress. In the Great American Forest, you’ll need to ride on a turtle to cross bodies of water, run down steep slopes making tricky last second jumps over enemies and blocks in the Andes Mountains as well as hopping over a spike pit while avoiding floating blocks that try to smack you out of the air, and avoid fireballs raining down from a volcano in the background of the Tropical Isles. A blizzard will push you onwards, and backwards, across the slippery ground in the South Pole stage (though you can use this to clear longer gaps), and you’ll be forced to duck under and make precarious jumps over spiked walls and ceilings in Magica’s Castle while avoiding a whole mess of obstacles just to reach an anticlimactic showdown with the evil witch.

Graphics and Sound:
The Lucky Dime Caper is a bright, vibrant, colourful little platformer for your favourite 8-bit home console. Donald pops out from the backgrounds and is instantly recognisable no matter what stage he’s in or what types of enemies are onscreen, and exhibits a great deal of character in his every movement. He bops along to the cheery in-game music, throws a tantrum when left idle, pants with heat exhaustion when inside the volcano, and shivers when in the South Pole. Sadly, the same can’t be said for his enemies, which are generally very basic, and I did have one instance where the music cut out after my invincibility status ended.

Stages are varied, if a bit cliché, but the use of sprites and animations all add to the game’s charm.

The same can also be said for the stages you’ll journey through; initially, you are presented with just three stages but, once you rescue Huey, Dewy, and Louie, you’ll have to take on three more stages to track down Magica and the lucky dime. It’s cool that you can freely select your stage from the map screen as some stages are trickier than others, but the stages fall into the same platformer clichés such as woods, deserts, and snow levels. While you’ll typically travel from the left side of the screen to the right, Magica’s Castle has you taking upper paths using moving platforms and you’ll drop down into water in the Great American Forest stage. Generally, though, the game is very colourful and surprisingly detailed; it’s all obviously a bit basic compared to 16-bit titles but there are little things to see in the backgrounds, such as a volcano and ice floats and so forth, and the music is very jaunty and cheerful. There is some slowdown here and there when there’s a lot of sprites on the screen, and a noticeable loading time to spawn in the stage boss, but generally the game is quite quick and stable. In addition to the opening and closing cutscenes, you’ll see big partially animated sprites at the end of each stage where Donald chats with his nephews or interrogates Magica’s lieutenants, in addition to using the in-game sprites to show him rescuing his nephews from their cages.

Enemies and Bosses:
I mentioned above that the game’s enemies are very basic and it’s true; you’ll battle killer mushrooms, bees, and spiders, club-wielding Mexicans, mummies, bats, and fire-spitting statues, yetis, bone-throwing skeletons, scorpions, and ghosts. Most of these can be defeated in one hit, while others (like the spiders) take two or can’t actually be defeated (like Magica’s skeletons and falling paintings); spikes will dog your progress later in the game and have quite a large hit box (they can even damage and kill you when you’re invincible), lava droplets will cause temporary ice blocks to disappear and drop you into lava, and you’ll also get stuck in rooms where the ceiling threatens to crush you until you open all of the Treasure Boxes contained within.

Of the first three bosses, only the vicious lion provides anything close to a challenge.

At the end of every stage, you’ll have to take on a boss to rescue one of Donald’s nephews or get information from Magica’s lieutenants. When rescuing Louie, you’ll battle a big bear with a bee’s nest on its head; simply jump over him when he rushes at you and whack him with your hammer or toss a frisbee at him and he’ll go down in just a few hits without any real difficulty. Dewey is held captive by a vicious lion that charges at you in a blur; you can use the nearby platforms to avoid this attack but you’ll also need to jump over him when he hops at you. Thankfully, he stops to taunt quite often, leaving him wide open to attack, though he’s noticeably a little trickier than the bear, at least. Finally, you’ll need to take out a couple of possessed statues and an odd floating head to rescue Huey; this boss is actually easier than the bear in a lot of ways as all you have to do is stay to the far left or right of the screen to avoid the boulders they throw and then jump up and smash each statue, before whacking the head as it pinballs around the arena in a slow and predictable pattern.

When armed with the frisbee, Magica’s crow underlings are easily bested.

Once they’re saved, you’ll need to visit three more stages to retrieve their lucky dimes from Magica’s lieutenants, each of which is a large black crow. The Tropical Isles crow flies around above you dropping bombs as it passes, but you can simply stay on the middle platform and either whack it as it flies by or toss frisbees at it without ever being hit. The Pyramids boss can be a little more frustrating; this crow flies around dropping musical notes and a big snake will rise up to spit fireballs at you. If you have the hammer (or no weapons at all), you’ll need to use the snake to get high enough to hit the boss but you’ll need to watch out for the snake’s tongue attack as well, but the boss is a complete joke if you have the frisbee as you can simply toss them upwards to hit it and all you’ll have to do is dodge the projectiles. Finally, at the end of the South Pole, another crow will drop an ice block into an enclosed arena and then try to take a dive at you. However, you can destroy his ice block and simply attack the bird as it lowers itself down to drop another, making it ridiculously easy to defeat once you get into a routine.

Getting through Magica’s Castle is far more difficult than actually battling her.

The final battle against Magica herself is equally just as simple; she positions herself up on a ledge and out of the way and conjures a bunch of different magical attacks to rain down into the arena. However, all you have to do is attack the crystal ball in the middle of the arena and she’ll be defeated; a weapon will help with this but you can just as easily jump on the crystal ball a few times and that’s it. I don’t think I got hit a single time during this battle, meaning that some of the previous bosses were actually harder than the game’s final boss! However, Magica’s Castle is easily the game’s trickiest and most frustrating stage; not only do you have to work out which route actually allows you to progress, you also have to get around the respawning enemies and make pixel-perfect jumps and ducks to avoid spikes and progress through the stage, which can be very annoying.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There are a number of random items for Donald to collect as he defeats enemies in each stage; although time is against you, you can easily backtrack ever so slightly to respawn enemies and farm items if you need to, which makes stocking up on extra lives or gaining an invincibility pretty simple and key to progressing through Magica’s Castle, which can get very unfair near the end.

Donald can grab a few items to power himself up and launch a ranged attack.

As mentioned, Donald’s default weapon is a mallet but you can also grab a frisbee that allows you to perform a ranged attack; you can also press up and 1 to fire a frisbee upwards, which makes fighting the three crows a complete joke. You’ll also grab two gems for a score bonus if you like racking up a high score, extra lives, and Star items. Each Star will increase the speed of Donald’s attack but will also make him invincible for a very brief period of time once you collect five of them (though don’t get cocky as you can inexplicably still be hurt by spikes while invincible).

Additional Features:
There’s nothing, I’m afraid to say. The game doesn’t even have any credits when you beat it, so the main incentive to go back to it is to try and earn a better high score or simply to replay a fun, colourful platformer. There is apparently a push-button cheat to grant Donald infinite lives on the continue screen but I couldn’t get this to work, and you can play the stages in a different order on each playthrough if you like, but it won’t change anything significant about the game.

The Summary:
The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck has been a staple of my Master System library for about thirty years; I played it over and over as a kid but could never complete it. I don’t really remember if I ever actually managed to make it through one of the three stages after rescuing Donald’s nephews, so I was very excited to come back to it and actually finish it for this review. Considering the game has infinite continues, I must have just gotten frustrated with some of the game’s harder sections and not stopped to stock up on extra lives, which doesn’t take very long to do and makes it a simple test of patience and memorisation to get past those trickier sections. The game is bright, cheery, and full of character; Donald controls really well and has a nice range of attacks, the music and Donald’s animations are terrific, and the stages and bosses are pretty decent in terms of the level of challenge on offer. It’s not really doing anything other platformers, especially those produced by Disney, weren’t doing at the time but there’s enough here to keep you busy for about an hour and a half and it remains a fun and colourful little platformer for SEGA’s 8-bit system.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think of The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck? Where do you rate the game compared to other Disney titles of that era? Which of the game’s stages and bosses was the most difficult for you? What game/s did you struggle to finish as a kid and have to revisit years later? How are you celebrating National Donald Duck Day? Whatever you think about The Lucky Dime Caper, Donald Duck, or Disney in general, sign up to drop a comment below or let me know on my social media, and have a great Donald Duck Day!

Game Corner [Mickey Mouse Day]: World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (Mega Drive)


It’s November 18th, which means that it’s Mickey Mouse Day! Disney’s beloved mascot first debuted in Steamboat Willie (Disney and Disney, 1928) and has since become one of the most recognisable and influential cartoon characters in the world, the face of an entire multimedia conglomerate, and one of the most enduring and popular characters of all time, featuring in a variety of cartoons, videogames, and other merchandise.


GameCorner

Released: 14 December 1992
Developer: SEGA AM7
Also Available For: Mega Drive Mini

The Background:
As I’ve talked about a few times in the past, videogames based on popular Disney characters and licenses had quite the reputation back in the nineties and resulted in some of the best 8- and 16-bit action/platformers of the era. As Disney’s loveable and successful mascot, Mickey Mouse was obviously at the forefront of this but Disney’s foul-tempered fowl, Donald Duck, had his fair share of pixelated adventures over the years as well and what better way to guarantee a success than to team these two popular characters up in their own fantasy adventure. Taking inspiration from a variety of Disney’s animated feature films, most prominently Alice in Wonderland (Geronimi, Jackson, and Luske, 1951) and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Hand, et al, 1937), and, despite how easy the game was, it was both reviewed very well at the time of release and fondly remembered years later.

The Plot:
While practising for their magic show, Mickey and Donald discover a magical box that sucks them into a bizarre magical world. Now, the two must join forces to travel across five treacherous fantasy worlds, defeat the evil Magic Master, and return home safely.

Gameplay:
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is a 2D action/platformer in which, as you might be able to guess, players can pick between playing as Mickey or Donald or team up to play as both in simultaneous play. Whichever character you select, the game’s controls are basically the same and can be customised from the main “Options” menu; you can jump, hold down a button to dash ahead, and press down on the directional pad to duck. Although you cannot defeat enemies by jumping on their heads as is the standard of the majority of 2D platformers, Mickey and Donald can attack enemies with a swipe of their magician’s capes.

Attack with your magical cape and lend a hand to your partner to get through tight spots.

The cape produces a small flurry of magical sparkles, which can stun enemies if it grazes them or if they need more than one hit to defeat, and defeated enemies will be transformed into harmless forms (such as flowers or butterflies) when hit. There are actually some notable gameplay differences between Mickey and Donald as well; Mickey is able to crawl through small gaps but Donald gets his wide load stuck and will need pulling through with Mickey’s help. This means that, when playing as Donald alone, you’ll explore different levels compared to Mickey, which encourages at least two playthroughs of the game in order to see everything it has to offer. Additionally, when playing with a friend, you can help them out further by dropping a rope so they can reach higher level.

While not especially difficult, there are some annoying moments you’ll have to deal with.

Mickey and Donald’s vitality is measured in magical playing cards; you begin the game with five cards, meaning you can take five hits before you lose one of your three “Tries”. You can, however, pick up Candy and Cake to restore one of all of your cards and are gifted with unlimited continues. However, when you lose all of your Tries and choose to continue, you’ll have to restart from the very first part of the level you were last on. When playing with a friend, you’ll share a stock of six Tries; when your partner loses a Try, you can expend one to revive them and, when you only have one left, the last player to die can choose to continue solo.

Some tricky jumps are made clunky thanks to the game’s extremely slow pace.

World of Illusion isn’t an especially long game; there are only five levels to venture through, with each one split into smaller sub-sections and with some minor puzzles and hidden paths or areas that you can find by exploring a bit. While these generally just lead you towards Candy or other power-ups, other times you’ll find short sub-areas to playthrough for similar bonuses. Each level only has a handful of enemies and none of them are particularly menacing but they do respawn if you end up having to backtrack and can cause you to fall down a bottomless pit if you’re hit mid-jump thanks to a bit of knockback damage. The game is also extremely slow; the dash function helps with that but, still, Mickey and Donald move painfully slowly and the game is more about taking your time and enjoying the moment rather than blasting through at breakneck speed, which is fine but it does feel like playing underwater sometimes since everything’s so sluggish.

Donald has his own unique levels and hazards to contend with.

Your main concern in most levels will be dealing with the game’s platforming sections; mostly, this involves reaching the exit on the far right of the screen but other times you’ll be hopping from spider’s webs and web lines, floating leaves or clouds, and other similar platforms. These will invariably be large, small, moving, or even temporary; even solid ground isn’t safe in this respect as you’ll have to contend with floorboards cracking under your feet and dropping you to your death. Levels also contain a number of helpful gimmicks as well, though, such as see-saws, flowers, staples, and bottle corks that fling and spring you higher and further up the level and towards the goal.

Graphics and Sound:
Like all of the 2D Disney videogames, World of Illusion features large, colourful, and charming cartoony graphics. Mickey and Donald both have amusing edge and idle animations and little reactions that perfectly capture their distinct personalities. There’s also a very small number of voice clips in the game; Mickey and Donald will yelp and squeal when attacked and give a cry of “Alakazam!” when performing their magic tricks, which is a lot of fun.

The game definitely looks the part but can be a bit muted and empty at times.

Enemies are similarly colourful and instantly recognisable from Disney’s classic animated films, such as Alice in Wonderland. The game also draws aesthetic influences form Pinocchio (Sharpsteen, Luske, et al, 1940) and The Little Mermaid (Clements and Musker, 1989), with all three films (and others) likewise evoked in the levels you’ll journey through. However, while levels are bright and very fitting, they’re every short and also very bland and empty in a lot of ways. Levels can be a bit inconsistent like that; the chocolate-and-sweetie-filled level is bursting with colour and sometimes there’s large trees or vines or other elements in the foreground or little details in the background, but other times they’re just very barren a bit muted.

The story is told using a fairytale book and in-game sprites with brief dialogue boxes.

The game’s story is told through text in a storybook that can be skipped through, or entirely, at will; while these are only accompanied by static images, the supplementary music (and the music of the entire game) is suitably jaunty and uplifting (if nothing spectacular). After defeating the game’s bosses, a similar cutscene will play in which the characters learn their new magic and, at a few points, the game will use the in-game sprites and a speech box to convey dialogue. As is the case for many 2D videogames from this era, the cutscenes are most impressive for the opening (which pans through the theatre’s backstage area) and the ending (which differs for each character and in which the two perform their magic show before an auditorium full of Disney cameos) before heading off through the forest as the credits roll.

Enemies and Bosses:
While they draw inspiration from many of Disney’s most celebrated animated features, World of Illusion’s enemies aren’t really anything to shout or worry about. You’ll take on armoured bugs, avoid literal tiger sharks, swipe at carnivorous starfish, toy bi-planes, and spiders but none of them are really a threat as they come at you quite slowly and make for large targets. Eventually, you’ll have to contend with wild lightning striking at the ground and conjuring little flaming imps and come up against some more colourful and zany opponents, such as anthropomorphic biscuit men, sharks wielding saws, and rose-throwing playing cards from Alice in Wonderland.

While the spider boss couldn’t be simpler, the little dragons can be a bit tricky to land a hit on.

Each of the game’s levels culminates in a battle against a boss. The first of these is a giant spider that crawls down and across the webbing that is spreading across the background of the boss arena; sometimes it’ll crawl down harmlessly on the other side of the web and taunt you but, for the most part, it’s pretty easy to edge out of the way and swipe at it with your cape. The second boss you’ll face is a series of small dragons that resemble the one from The Sword in the Stone (Reitherman, 1963) or Pete’s Dragon (Chaffey, 1977); these little buggers will pop out from blocks, hop around, and spit fireballs at you but, again, it’s not exactly difficult to avoid them and it helps that they attack one at a time.

The sharks speed and unpredictability, and Mim’s erratic flight, make for more challenging boss fights.

At the bottom of the sea, you’ll battle against a giant shark that rushes at you ominously beneath the floorboards of a sunken ship. When it charges towards you, jaws snapping, or leaps out from the ground to pounce at you, this is your moment to quickly attack and hop out of danger, but the shark’s speed and unpredictability actually makes this a somewhat challenging bout. Next, you’ll battle against Madam Mim, which was an amusing and entertaining surprise Mim flies about just above you on her broomstick and tosses flames down to the floor. You can easily jump up to attack her, though, and she stupidly drops down to the ground to taunt you, leaving herself wide open to reprisals in the process.

The Magic Master might be big and ugly but he’s sadly as simple as any of the other bosses.

Finally, you’ll take on not the anthropomorphic cloud beast seen in the game’s cover art but the Magic Master, who is a gigantic background sprite and greatly resembles Mickey’s long-time nemesis, Pete. Taking place up in the clouds, this battle features randomly rising and falling columns that you can use to get close to the Magic Master’s big ol’ head and swipe at him with your cape. The boss conjures smaller, ghost-lime doubles of himself that resemble the Grim Reaper and float around the arena for a bit to damage you but, otherwise, is a bit of a pushover (especially if you have full health, which you probably will as there’s a number of health-restoring items on the way to the final confrontation).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There aren’t too many power-ups to pick up in World of Illusion; as I mentioned before, Candy and Cake will partially or full refill your health but you can also earn yourself an extra Try by either finding a magician’s hat or collecting fifty-two playing cards. You can also occasionally find a firework that will shower the screen in explosions and destroy all onscreen enemies or a Silver Card for a brief period of invincibility.

Mickey and Donald learn new magic tricks to help them progress through the game.

After defeating each of the bosses, Mickey and Donald will learn a new magical ability to help them progress in the next level. The first of these is a magic carpet, which you can cause to ascend by tapping the jump button and ride through the skies avoiding tornados and buzzards. Next, you’ll get a magic bubble that allows you to slo-oo-wly navigate the underwater stage, again by tapping the jump button. The next spell allows you to teleport across the library when you’re shrunk down and is probably the least interesting of all of the magic tricks. Finally you’ll be able to cause specific playing card enemies to arrange themselves into platforms and bridges to help you get through the iconic garden and dining hall from Alice in Wonderland. All of these are performed in specific circumstances rather than at will and don’t really afford you any useful in-game benefits beyond allowing you to get to the end of the level you’re on, though.

Additional Features:
That’s about it for World of Illusion. The game uses a password feature that allows you to warp to later levels as either Mickey, Donald, or both if you have to suddenly top playing but that’s about it. I’m a bit confused as to why the game has this password system, though, as it’s not exactly difficult and easy to fly through it in about a hour or so.

The Summary:
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck certainly looks and sounds the part of a typical 1990s D16-bit Disney videogame; it’s bright, fun, and full of gorgeously animated sprites and instantly recognisable Disney characters and locations. Mickey and Donald are always two of the most versatile characters in videogames, I find, and excel when dropped into fantastical environments and tasked with getting through them using a number of gimmicks; while the attack range of their magic capes leaves a lot to be desired, I enjoyed the magical spin on their arsenal and, especially, the flying carpet sections of the game. Sadly, though, it’s just a bit too short and bland in a lot of ways; two of the five bosses are just generic, large creatures and the game is just way too slow and sluggish through and through rather than being action-packed and entertaining. It’s a decent way to send an hour or so and fun to be able to team up with a friend for simultaneously play; it’s pretty cool how you get a slightly different experience when playing as each character but it’s lacking in a lot of content and options, some of which (such as score and certain gimmicks) actually featured in Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (SEGA AM7, 199) which released three years earlier and stuff like that does bring the score down a little bit for me despite how striking the game’s presentation is.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about World of Illusion? Where does it sit in your hierarchy of 16-bit Disney games? Which of the 16-bit Disney was your favourite, or least favourite, and who is your favourite Disney character? How are you celebrating Mickey Mouse Day today? Whatever your thoughts on World of Illusion, and Disney and Mickey games in general, drop a comment below and share your thoughts and have a great Mickey Mouse Day!

Game Corner [Donald Duck Day]: QuackShot Starring Donald Duck (Mega Drive)


DonaldDuckDay

It’s June 9th, which means that it’s National Donald Duck Day! Disney’s foul-tempered fowl first debuted in The Wise Little Hen (Jackson, 1934) way, way back on 9 June 1934 and has since become one of the multimedia conglomerate’s most enduring and popular characters, featuring in a variety of cartoons, videogames, and other merchandise.


GameCorner
QuackShotLogo

Released: December 1991
Developer: SEGA
Also Available For: SEGA Saturn

The Background:
As I’ve said once or twice before, Disney had quite the reputation back in the nineties for licensing their popular characters and film franchises and producing some of the best 8- and 16-bit action/platformers on SEGA’s home consoles. Of all their enduring characters, Mickey Mouse, as the brand’s mascot, obviously featured in the majority of these titles but Donald Duck had his fair share of pixelated adventures over the years as well. Generally, Donald’s adventures were very similar to Mickey’s in that he would explore a fantasy world, generally trying to rescue his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and featured an abundance of jumping and platforming. QuackShot Starring Donald Duck was unique in that respect as, rather than bouncing on enemies and following a linear path from right to left, Donald becomes an Indiana Jones-type figure who travels the world in search of a lost treasure and the game featured a lot more backtracking and puzzle solving than most titles featuring Disney’s characters.

The Plot:
When flicking though a book in his Uncle Scrooge McDuck’s library, Donald stumbles across a map that leads to the lost treasure of King Garuzia, former ruler of the Great Duck Kingdom in ancient times. Alongside his three nephews, Donald hops in his biplane and heads out across the world to track down the lost treasure all while Big Bad Pete and his goons try to stop him at every turn and beat Donald to the treasure.

Gameplay:
QuackShot Starring Donald Duck is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer with a heavy emphasis on backtracking, exploration, and puzzle solving. Players take on the role of Donald Duck, decked out in an Indiana Jones-inspired getup, as he travels from Duckburg to Transylvania, to the South Pole and the ancient tomb of King Garuzia in pursuit of a lost treasure.

QuackShotControls
Run or slide to move a little faster and avoid a chargrilled butt.

Unlike other Disney titles, especially those starring either Donald or Mickey Mouse, QuackShot is a much slower, more methodical affair; Donald’s standard walking speed is painfully slow but, by holding down the A button, Donald will break out into what can best be described as a “spirited trot” for a few seconds, which really doesn’t speed things up all that much. When ducking, you can press the C button and Donald will slide forwards on his front, which is super handy for passing through small passageways and underneath spiked ceilings and can be a faster way of getting from start to finish.

QuackShotAttacks
Stun enemies with plungers or knock them out with popcorn.

Donald can also jump, as you might expect, but it’s more of a hop than anything else; Donald’s jumping height and distance is dependant on his momentum, angle, and the length at which you press the C button. Sadly, Donald cannot defeat enemies by jumping on them and is therefore entirely reliant on his special pop-gun to take out enemies. Donald’s gun can shoot out plungers to stun enemies so he can safely pass by or popcorn to permanently dispose of them; though he has unlimited plungers, Donald’s popcorn shots are limited and run out quite quickly as they fire in a spread. Plus, you know…enemies respawn after you leave the screen anyway so it’s better to just use the plungers.

QuackShotMap
Travel across the world using the map, checkpoints, and Donald’s handy-dandy biplane.

When you start QuackShot, you are presented with a map and can choose to travel to one of three destinations: Duckburg, Mexico, or Transylvania. Where you choose to go determines how far you can progress in the game; for example, if you visit Duckburg first, you’ll be soon stopped as you don’t have the ability to scale walls yet; if you visit Mexico, you’ll be told that you need a key to progress further; and, if you visit Transylvania first, you’ll need special ammo for your gun to progress further. In each case, a non-playable character (NPC) directs you to one of the other locations so you can get what you need to progress. Donald thus plants a flag (essentially a checkpoint) and you are able to call your nephews in your biplane to return to the map and travel elsewhere. Once you’ve cleared these first three areas, the map will expand and you’ll be able to travel to four new locations where the cycle repeats itself again; you can’t enter the temple in Egypt without retrieving the Sphinx Tear from the palace of the Maharajah and you can’t clear the Viking Ship of its ghost infestation without a special key from the South Pole, and so on. This partial progression and backtracking format makes the game much slower and requires a little more brain power than the average platformer; while NPCs always tell you where you need to go to progress in a particular level, if you miss that message and travel somewhere else instead, the only way to remind yourself of where you need to go is to hope that you remember where you just came from.

QuackShotTemper
Collect enough peppers and you’ll fly into a berserker rage.

Donald’s health is indicated by a small power meter in the game’s heads-up display (HUD); when attacked or otherwise hurt, Donald loses some of his power but can replenish his health by stunning or attacking enemies and picking up ice cream cones or a roast chicken (there’s something very disconcerting about a duck eating chicken to replenish its health…). Attacking enemies adds to your score, which is also displayed in the HUD, and you’ll be awarded with an extra life when you reach a high enough score; extra lives can also be found in levels as well and, if you die, you can grab these again to effectively have infinite lives but, should you exhaust all of your lives, the game has infinite continues so you can simply choose to restart from your last checkpoint. The HUD also shows Donald’s current temper; when he picks up enough red-hot chilli peppers, he flies into a berserker rage that renders him invincible for a few seconds and allows you to attack any particularly annoying enemies. These peppers are few and far between, however, so I didn’t find myself entering this state too often. Some levels feature bottomless pits and instant death traps (falling ceilings, water, or lava) as well so you’ll have to factor this in as you explore the game’s environments.

QuackShotPuzzles
Use the pause menu to change weapons and solve puzzles.

As you explore each area and speak to NPCs, you can access an in-game menu with the Start button. This is how you can call your aircraft (which can only be done when near to a checkpoint flag), use certain items (though these will only work when you’re right next to where they need to be used), and read things such as your map or other items to help you solve puzzles. The game’s puzzles are generally simple enough, requiring you to hop over moving platforms, stun moving blocks so you can progress, or hitch a ride on passing enemies. Probably the game’s more troublesome puzzle comes when Donald is about to be crushed by a falling ceiling and you have to hop on certain blocks in the right order in order to halt it and keep you from being flattened.

Graphics and Sound:
As a Disney title on the SEGA Mega Drive, QuackShot looks just as gorgeous and appealing as the rest of their titles released around this time. Disney’s games are always bright, vibrant, and eye-catching and QuackShot is no different, with Donald, Pete, and the game’s various enemies and environments popping out and full of charm. When you leave Donald idle for some time, he’ll tap his foot impatiently like a certain blue hedgehog and he is full of life as he waddles and hops along. Levels aren’t quite as varied and unique as in some of Donald’s other outings, or those that feature Mickey; instead, you’ll visit more real-world locations than fantasy environments, which will see you walking through the streets and jumping across the rooftops of Duckburg, exploring the haunted lower depths of a Viking Ship, and traversing dangerous jungles.

QuackShotGraphics
QuackShot is colourful and lively, if a bit by the numbers.

They’re all pretty standard locations for your average action/platformer and they’re not especially teeming with life or background elements but they’re serviceable enough and generally quite short; you’ll play half a level and then have to jet off to another location before you can proceed any further, making playing both short and sweet but also quite long and complex. The game’s music is equally fun and lively and catchy enough but nothing especially ground-breaking or memorable. The game’s plot is told through a combination of stationary cutscenes and in-game dialogue boxes between Donald and recognisable characters like Goofy and Gyro Gearloose; they’re large and cartoony, though, and perfectly in keeping with the cartoon aesthetic of the videogame and certainly a lot more in-depth than those of other platformers from the same time period.

Enemies and Bosses:
While Mickey generally had to deal with some fantastical and outlandish enemies, Donald is faced with more lacklustre and generic enemies sucu as vampire bats (that travel along a straight line and are easily avoided), incorporeal ghosts that cannot be harmed, and birds that drop wasp nests or bombs on you. Donald will also butt heads with a number of Pete’s goons who shoot at you or toss bombs at your head, Vikings who hide in barrels and try to shoot you full of arrows, kangaroos (complete with boxing gloves), evil cactus plants that break apart for added annoyance, and even skeletons who try to throw their heads at you.

QuackShotBosses
Bosses are big and lively but pretty simple to put down.

While exploring Dracula’s Castle, you’ll also encounter a giant ghost who floats just out of reach and cannot be harmed; every so often, he breaks up into smaller ghosts before reforming and, rather than try to damage him, you actually have to find a certain platform that will take you to the castle’s upper levels and out of harm’s way. You’ll also come up against a few bosses on your travels, none of which really pose that much of a threat as long as you have enough health, ammo (if necessary), and can avoid their simple attack patterns. Donald has to fight against Count Dracula (easily dispatched by standing beneath him when he opens his cape and shooting plungers upwards), a ferocious fire-breathing tiger (dispatched by firing bubblegum shots when it’s jumping), and a possessed suit of Viking armour that constantly shields against your attacks and can only be harmed by hitting its head.

QuackShotPete
Pete finds his position as the game’s final boss usurped at the last second…

Eventually, you’ll face off against Pete himself in a bid to retrieve the map; this battle sees Pete circling the area in a massive press machine and attempting to squash Donald into a fine paste. Pete’s goons are also stationed around the arena to make hitting Pete in the face that much harder as you climb higher and higher up the arena but, like all the bosses, this is simply a test of patience rather than being an exercise in frustration.

QuackShotFinalBoss
The game’s true final boss isn’t much of a threat…

Once Pete is taken out, Donald heads over to the Great Duck Treasure Island, where the tomb of King Garuzia lies, to do battle with the knight guarding Garuzia’s treasure. As final battles go, this is a bit of a disappointment; the knight basically stays in the centre of the screen, twirling his sword and trying to fling it at you, and causing blocks to fall from the ceiling. He leaves himself wide open for your attacks, meaning it’s pretty simple to dodge the falling debris and blast him with your plungers or other weapons until he finally gives up King Garuzia’s treasure.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
The only real power-up you can get through regular gameplay is the aforementioned red-hot chilli peppers; you can also collect bags of cash to increase your score, though, and find some cheeky shortcuts peppered through stages that lead either to stockpiles of items and ammo, extra lives and health, or hidden doors to progress further.

QuackShotWeapons
Donald’s plunger gets a few upgrades along the way.

As you explore, you’ll receive two upgrades for your pop-gun; the first changes your yellow plunger to a red one, which allows you to scale vertical walls with temporary platforms, and the second changes it to green and allows you to hitch a ride on flying enemies. Gyro also supplies you with bubblegum ammo, which allows you to break open walls and certain blocks so you can explore a bit more of the map and the game’s locations. These bubbles are quite slow and linger around the screen for some time, which can limit your firing speed (which is already quite slow to begin with).

Additional Features:
There’s not much replayability in QuackShot beyond playing through a perfectly acceptable action/platformer over and over. There’s no difficulty settings to choose from, no additional characters to unlock or play as, and there aren’t even any cheats or passwords to input. While this does mean you have to rely on old school gaming and memorisation to play through the game’s relatively short length, it also means that you can’t save your progress or jump to a later stage in the game if you have a power cut.

QuackShotBanner

The Summary:
Generally speaking, QuackShot Starring Donald Duck isn’t especially challenging but its pacing really ruins the many positive aspects of the game. Donald is so slow and clunky and the gameplay is so plodding and sluggish that there’s no real sense of urgency or agency to the game’s plot or action. QuackShot looks great and isn’t especially punishing or unfair but it’s nowhere near as action-packed or appealing as other Disney titles, even ones that also feature Donald Duck. Instead, you’re left with a perfectly average little title that looks and sounds great but doesn’t exactly leave you clamouring for more or especially excited.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think of QuackShot Starring Donald Duck? Where do you rate the game compared to other Disney titles of that era? Do you agree that it’s not as appealing as other Disney videogames on the Mega Drive or did you find it to be just as enjoyable? Which was your favourite, or least favourite, and who is your favourite Disney character? How are you celebrating National Donald Duck Day? Whatever you think about QuackShot, Donald Duck, or Disney in general, drop a comment below and have a great Donald Duck Day!

Game Corner: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Mega Drive)

GameCorner
CastleOfIllusionMDLogo

Released: November 1990
Developer: SEGA AM7
Also Available For: Game Gear and Master System

The Background:
As I’ve mentioned before, Disney had quite the reputation for licensing their characters for top quality videogames back in the nineties. These days, licensed videogames are often frowned upon but, back then, Disney’s movies and characters made for some of the most enjoyable action/adventure platformers on the SEGA Mega Drive and Super Nintendo. Mickey Mouse, Disney’s beloved mascot, received quite a few videogames for the Mega Drive, each one an enjoyable 2D romp capturing the whimsy and aesthetic charm of Mickey’s character and animated adventures. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse paved the way for Mickey’s subsequent adventures, both solo and alongside Donald Duck, who also had his fair share of adventures on 8- and 16-bit hardware back in the day. So influential is Castle of Illusion’s reputation that a remake was released in 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and various mobile platforms. Until now, this was the only version of Castle of Illusion I had played; while that was quite a while ago, I remember it being a fun little 2.5D romp so, when I started planning on expanding my Mega Drive library, I knew that Castle of Illusion would have to be on the list to see how the title holds up.

The Plot:
Mickey and Minnie Mouse live peacefully in Vera City but when Minnie is suddenly abducted by the evil witch Mizrabel, Mickey must journey into the witch’s Castle of Illusion to recover the seven Gems necessary to defeating Mizrabel and stopping her from switching bodies with Minnie.

Gameplay:
Castle of Illusion is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer in which players must guide Mickey through six Levels, each hidden behind doors within the titular Castle of Illusion. Rather than using a traditional map screen or a hub world, or simply transitioning from one level to the next, Mickey travels to each of the game’s Levels by passing through enchanted doorways in Mizrabel’s castle, which is a nice change of pace from simply navigating a basic map or automatically dropping into a Level.

CastleOfIllusionMDAttacks
Bounce off enemies with Mickey’s butt or toss items at them.

Mickey has two main forms of attack to defend himself against Mizrabel’s many and varied minions; he can either grab an apple or a marble and throw them at his enemies or bounce on their heads with his rump. Throw projectiles can be useful but, as a lot of enemies are shorter than the projectiles travel, you’ll most likely be making use of Mickey’s butt to defeat your enemies. However, if you don’t hold down the jump button, Mickey will take damage, which is annoying, so it’s worth holding it down every time you make a jump in case an enemy swoops beneath you. When you land on an enemy’s head, you can bounce from one to another to make short work of multiple enemies, clear larger gaps, or reach higher platforms.

CastleOfIllusionMDJump
Mickey is an adept jumper.

As standard, Mickey has a fairly decent, semi-floaty jump that takes him quite far and far the longer you hold the jump button down and depending on how much momentum you have. His walk is quite sluggish, though, and he doesn’t really speed up beyond much of a gentle stride so the game’s emphasis is more on platforming and mild exploration and puzzles rather than fast-paced, high-speed action.

CastleOfIllusionMDSwing
Swinging from ropes can be a tricky mechanic.

Mickey can duck to avoid projectiles and enemies as they jump but, while he can swim without fear of drowning, he can’t actually attack any enemies whilst underwater, leaving him vulnerable. Certain Levels task Mickey with grabbing on to ropes, vines, and other hanging apparel; I found grabbing these to be troublesome, at best, as more often than not Mickey simply leap through the rope but, once you grab on, you can swing from rope to rope with the added bonus of automatically dispatching any airborne enemies as you swing along.

CastleOfIllusionMDScore
Once you clear a Level and obtain a Gem, your score is tallied up for bonus points.

Mickey’s health is represented by a five-point power bar; Mickey loses a point every time he takes damage and loses a life every time his health is fully depleted by can replenish a health point by grabbing a Star item. He can earn an extra try by either grabbing some Mouse Ears or collecting first 40,000 points and then 50,000, awarded by defeating enemies, grabbing gems, and tallied up after you complete each Level.

CastleOfIllusionMDExplore
Explore Levels to find items and bonus areas.

Some Levels require Mickey to do a bit of exploration; in Toyland, for example, you need to find a key in order to progress while in the Storm, you have to contend with a maze-like cycle of water jets and find the right path to the Level’s exit. While exploring the Library, you can jump into tea cups and swim through a few small bonus areas to grab extra projectiles or gems, and you’ll sometimes have to run away from a large rolling obstacle or try to not be swept away by rushing water.

CastleOfIllusionMDControls
Mickey controls well though can be slippery at times.

While Mickey’s arsenal of moves isn’t exactly the deepest, he makes up for it by controlling extremely well for the most part. There are times, however, when either he feels a little slippery or the surfaces he is standing on are oddly slippery and you’ll find yourself sliding off an edge and to your death or accidentally slipping into an enemy or down a bottomless pit. While instant death traps and obstacles aren’t too obtrusive, they are present in some of the worst areas, such as a section where Mickey must jump from small platforms while waterfalls threaten to drag him down a bottomless pit and to his death.

Graphics and Sound:
Though later surpassed by its later 16-bit successors, Castle of Illusion is still a gorgeous little title; all the sprites and backgrounds pop with bright, colourful art and feature some interesting animations and elements. When left idle, Mickey has a charming little animation where he sways his hips to the game’s various whimsical tunes and he always looks full of life and vigour as he strolls, hops, and bounces along. His enemies aren’t quite as dynamically rendered but they’re interesting and wacky enough to fit the themes of the game’s various Levels.

CastleOfIllusionMDGraphics
Levels are varied and full of life and obstacles to overcome.

As you travel through the castle’s enchanted worlds, you’ll journey through a forest, a toy box, a giant library, and the castle itself. Each Level has various other layers to it, meaning you’ll hop across leaves and through spider’s webs, leap through a sweet and chocolate world, get stuck in sticky jelly, and even traverse a pyramid-like structure where damaging water threatens to wash you away. Once you reach Mizrabel’s castle proper, you’ll have to contend with far more obstacles and face your greatest challenge as giant boulders try to crush you, bridges crumble beneath you, and Mickey must leap from cogs and gears and swinging pendulum’s in the castle’s clock tower.

Enemies and Bosses:
Being that the game is, essentially, a jaunt through a magical, fairytale-like setting, Mickey comes up against a whole host of enemies in his journey that vary from the painfully generic to the bizarre. You’ll go from butt-bouncing on sentient mushrooms, spiders, toy soldiers, bats, and chubby little bookworms to contending with juggling clowns on unicycles (which race at you once they’re riders are defeated), skeletal fish, and extremely annoying, bouncing letters of the alphabet.

CastleOfIllusionMDBosses
The game’s bosses aren’t much of a threat.

At the end of each Level, Mickey has to face a large boss, known as a Master of Illusion. These range from an angry tree that tries to drop acorns on your head, a jack-in-the-box that tries to punch you with boxing glove, a totem pole that can only be knocked down by butt-bouncing on the enemies it spews out, and a giant sweet dragon.

CastleOfIllusionMDWitch
Stay away from Mizrabel’s attacks and you’ll soon have Minnie back safe and sound.

After defeating the Masters of Illusion and getting through Mizrabel’s castle, Mickey has to face off with the witch herself at the top of her castle, with Minnie held captive in a magical balloon. Fittingly, Mizrabel assumes the form of a youthful sorceress for the battle, which sees Mickey having to keep to the high ground to avoid the witch’s swirling spirits and butt-bounce on her head in the small window of vulnerability she has. While none of these boss battles are particularly difficult, as they all stick to a very predictable attack pattern, there’s not a lot of call for Mickey’s projectiles during these fights and even Mizrabel is bested with relative ease simply by staying on the upper platforms.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There’s not a lot on offer here apart from the standard trope of being awarded an extra life when you collect enough points. You can, however, pick up bags that will gift you with a whole bunch of projectiles to throw and use your butt-bounce to reach higher and out of reach areas to find additional health, gems, and ammo but, apart from that, there’s no much else available to expand your health or arsenal.

Additional Features:
The game has three difficulty modes: Practice, Normal, and Hard. In Practice mode, you start with full health and won’t have to face any bosses and only need to collect three Gems and can continue four times after you exhaust all your tries but you won’t get the game’s true ending; in Normal and Hard, you start with three or two health points, respectively, and have to find all seven Gems and can continue two times in Normal but have no opportunity to continue in Hard mode; you also lose all items you’re carrying after losing a try, adding a level of difficulty to the game and requiring you to exhibit more skill than in its 8-bit successor.

CastleOfIllusionMDConclusion2

The Summary:
It’s easy to see why Castle of Illusion is so beloved; it’s a fun, charming little adventure that looks and feels just like you’re playing a cartoon. Mickey has always been dropped into this bright, colourful fairytale adventures, even when he made the transition to 3D titles, and these worlds are surprisingly fitting for Disney’s cheeky little mascot. Offering just the right level of challenge to keep you coming back for more, Castle of Illusion set the standard for Mickey’s subsequent 8- and 16-bit adventures, most of which deviated very little from this game’s core gameplay and mechanics. It might not be the best action/adventure platformer on the Mega Drive, or the fastest or most action-packed title, but it’s still a charming, whimsical romp that looks, plays, and sounds fantastic and is well worth your time.

3 Stars

What did you think about Castle of Illusion? Where does it sit in your hierarchy of 16-bit Disney games? Did you ever play the remake from a few years ago? How do you think it compares to the original? Whatever your thoughts on Castle of Illusion, and Disney and Mickey games in general, drop a comment below and share your thoughts.

Game Corner: Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Master System)

GameCorner
LandOfIllusionLogo

Released: June 1993
Developer: SEGA
Also Available For: Game Gear

The Background:
Back in the nineties, licensed videogames hadn’t quite earned the reputation that they have these days. Anyone who had played one of the many videogame adaptations of Disney movies and properties, particularly on SEGA’s Mega Drive or the Super Nintendo, would generally be in for a good time and treated to big, colourful, well-animated graphics and tight, fun gameplay. One of the most prolific of Disney’s characters to be licensed out to videogames was their enduring mascot, Mickey Mouse. A couple of years after Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (SEGA AM7, 1990) and World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (ibid, 1992) released for Mega Drive, a similar (though, apparently, unrelated) title was released for SEGA’s 8-bit consoles, the Master System and the Game Gear handheld.

The Plot:
After falling asleep while reading a book of fairy tales, Mickey Mouse awakens in a strange, magical land where the Phantom’s evil magic threatens a village of oddly familiar characters. Never one to back down from a challenge, Mickey volunteers to retrieve the kingdom’s magic crystal, defeat the Phantom, and bring peace and prosperity back to the land.

Gameplay:
Land of Illusion is a pretty standard 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer in very much the same vein as previous Disney titles released around that time. Players take control of the affable Mickey Mouse and journey through fourteen stages, dispatching enemies using Mickey’s rump, sliding down slopes, or by throwing objects at them.

LandOfIllusionAttacks
Stomp on enemies with Mickey’s butt or chuck a rock at them.

Mickey controls at a steady, grounded pace; he doesn’t slip and slide around, making precision platforming a much easier task than other platformers of the time. He begins the game with two stars in his Power Gauge, meaning he can take two hits before he must try again from either the beginning of the stage or from the last checkpoint he passed.

LandOfIllusionCoins
Explore your surroundings to find hidden items.

Players can refill Mickey’s health by smashing blocks and other objects to uncover cake; if you search hard enough, you’ll also find a bonus star in each stage, which will add another star to Mickey’s Power Gauge and thus allow him to take more hits. Mickey can also collect coins, which will add to his score tally; defeating enemies and bosses also adds to this tally and he’ll earn an extra try for every 10,000 points. Mickey must sometimes take to water to navigate through a stage; in these areas, players will have to watch Mickey’s air meter, as he’ll lose a life if it runs out. There’s a few simple push-and-pull-based puzzles that Mickey must also solve by opening blocked areas or turning environments upside down and, occasionally, he’ll need to find a key in order to progress.

LandOfIllusionItems
Mickey must find five key items to progress further.

Players must also complete each stage within a time limit (as was the style at the time) but, as Mickey progresses through the game’s story and stages, he frees some familiar-looking faces and is gifted various items that aid his quest; the Magic Flute allows players to replay any stage they’ve previously completed (which can be essential for tracking down other items and extra energy you’ve missed), a Shrinking Potion (which allows Mickey to fit through small tunnels, doors, and spaces), a Rope to climb certain walls, Cloud Shoes to walk on clouds, and a Magic Bean to grow a beanstalk and reach the Phantom’s castle.

Graphics and Sound:
While nowhere near its 16-bit counterparts in terms of graphics or sound quality, Land of Illusion is still quite a charming little 8-bit title. The Master System was never known for having particularly exciting backgrounds or environments, so all of the artistic effort seems to have gone into making the sprites (particularly Mickey) as bright, colourful, and animated as possible.

LandOfIllusionStages
Though simple, stages are bright and colourful.

You’ll travel to some pretty standard areas in Land of Illusion (a forest, a desert, a couple of castles…) but each one is distinct in its design and features slightly different gameplay mechanics. You might have to let a tornado of leaves carry Mickey over spikes to safety, for example, or have to outrun a wall of spikes or cross poisonous water or lava. The Master System renders these environments simply enough but it’s surprising how vivid and engaging they are for such an under-powered console. Similarly, the game obviously doesn’t match the bright, poppy tunes or sound quality of its bigger brother but the soundtrack nevertheless does a serviceable job; there’s some catchy little tunes, all of which are perfectly in keeping with Mickey’s cute-and-cuddly aesthetic.

Enemies and Bosses:
Enemies here are as generic as they come; you’ll butt-bounce off the likes of spiders, wasps, snakes, and floating skulls. Some present more of a challenge than others, however, shielding themselves from harm, reforming after being hit, or being invulnerable to Mickey’s butt-bounce.

LandOfIllusionCrab
This bastard was a massive headache.

You’ll battle some big bosses while playing Land of Illusion but none will really pose much of a challenge (…I really struggled with the giant crab, though, thanks to how slow Mickey moves underwater). You’ll dodge their attacks, maybe toss one of a limited number of blocks at their head, or wait for an opportunity to bounce off their heads with Mickey’s butt.

LandOfIllusionPhantom
Wait for an opening and then hit him with your butt!

The final boss, the Phantom, is slightly more complex as you must first traverse his booby-trapped castle and then dodge his energy balls (just crouch right in front of him) and jump over his whirlwind attack before he’ll pause long enough for you to smack him. He’ll mix it up by jumping to the ceiling, forcing you to throw blocks at him, but it’s over within seconds, especially if you’ve completely powered up Mickey’s Power Gauge.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned, you can increase Mickey’s health with cake and collect stars to increase Mickey’s Power Gauge but that’s about it. There’s no invincibility, speed ups, or special abilities here.

LandOfIllusionPowerUp
Shrink to fit through small spaces.

Instead, you can grab Mickey Ears or hit 10,000 points for an extra try and will use the game’s mandatory times to progress further. However, while you can shrink through gaps with the Shrinking Potion, your attacks are useless and being able to jump on clouds doesn’t really help at all except when climbing the magic beanstalk.

Additional Features:
There’s nothing extra here; the game has one ending, no unlockable or extra characters, and the only incentive to play it again is to beat your last high score.

LandOfIllusionConclusion

The Summary:
While a mere shadow if its 16-bit counterparts, Land of Illusion does a decent job at entertaining; there’s no bottomless pits or cheap deaths, plenty of opportunities to explore, and some charming graphics and tunes on offer. Gameplay is about as simple as it gets, which is to be expected given the Master System’s simple two button setup; as mentioned, you might have to backtrack to previous levels to get items to progress further if you missed them, and you will find a challenge in the game’s final level but, with infinite continues as standard and a leisurely pace to its gameplay, Land of Illusion is a fun enough little jaunt to keep you distracted for a couple of hours.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you ever play Land of Illusion? What were your favourite, or most frustrating, Disney videogames from back in the day? Would you like to see a HD compilation of Mickey’s 16- and 8-bit titles? Go ahead and take to the comments to share your thoughts and memories.