Who made it?: Aspect (Developer), Emirin (Designer), Sega (Publisher).
Platforms: Sega Master System, Game Gear.
Release Date: 1992 (Master System), 1993 (Game Gear).
I’m not sure if many people have played Land of Illusion, or have even heard of it, but it was a title I remember fondly from my childhood. It was a sequel to a Genesis/Mega Drive game called Castle of Illusion, which overshadowed Land and remains the more popular Mickey Mouse adventure. Never mind that it was virtually the same game with the details changed. Still, Land of Illusion is a highly enjoyable trawl through Disney iconography and one of the better entries in the character’s sizeable back-catalogue.
The game starts with Mickey falling asleep while reading a fairy tale book. God knows I understand him – I start to nod off every time I try to watch the original Star Trek film. When this mouse falls asleep he doesn’t just dream; things start to go all Inception/Elm Street on him and he winds up in some fairytale land. Fortunately there’s no Freddy Krueger in sight, but Daisy Duck appears as some sort of Red-Riding Hood and informs him that the “Evil Phantom” has taken over the kingdom. He also has plans to move in on Mickey’s squeeze, Minnie, who just so happens to be the princess this time round. What is an icon to do but save the day?
The aim of Land is to go across the map (in which any level can be revisited, sometimes this being essential to progress), until you have to fight the final boss of the game, the eponymous “Phantom.”
Like traditional platformers it has many challenging obstacles, but unlike a lot of games from the genre, Land of Illusion was never truly anger-inducing to the point of throwing the controller at the screen. Controlling Mickey is as simple as using the D–pad and a combination of two buttons. Mickey kan kick ass by jump-sitting on enemies or throwing large rocks at them. Thinking about this, the Illusion series may feature some of the most violent acts ever committed by Mickey. Apart from Epic Mickey, where he could ERASE ENEMIES OUT OF EXISTANCE. Who guessed that the Mouse was actually Judge Doom?
The great thing about this particular game is that it’s not only a nicely balanced platformer with bright and colourful graphics, but the art style really matched the Disney designs of the period (as well as some of their magic). Land never felt like it was getting dull or repetitive like a lot of titles from the 8-bit era. That’s commendable.
The sounds, while simple, are still rather rich for an 8-bit system, and to top things off, it has some really catchy music that gets you in the mood to beat the level. Not because it’s so annoying that you want to complete it in the fastest time possible, but rather it gives a nice flow and atmosphere to the unique areas of the Land of Illusion.
During Micky’s dreamscape you’ll meet all of his friends, such as Horace Horsecollar, Goofy, Daisy, Donald and Minnie, all in their alternate reality selves.
The game serves as an all-around excellent experience, which is surprising for a game with goody-too-shoes Micky Mouse at the helm. It can rival Alex Kidd, Sonic, Mario, Spiro, Rayman etc as a platformer when boredom strikes, due to its fun factor and short length; serving a great blast of childhood nostalgia.
Gameplay: Simple, and dare I say standard? The map, back-tracking, secret areas/items and unique array of enemies bring it up a couple of notches. It’s rather fun to play.
Graphics: Really great for an 8-bit system: Colourful and sharp with a nice art-style.
Sound: Essentially what you can expect from an 8-bit system, but still far more developed than Sonic, or other games of its ilk.
Story: This one actually has a story element, and pretty sub-standard Disney dialogue, so I can’t say I was ever captivated or on edge. It is definitely about the gameplay, not the story, which makes it a true platformer.