Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sniper)
Genre: 2d platformer
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

The leap in sprite size, animation quality, and background sophistication from this title to its satisfying predecessor-- Castle of Illusion, of course-- is substantial, with Mickey taking up impressive real estate, running and jumping in front of stages that are some of the most detailed on the Game Gear. There is also a pleasing symmetry and layout to the game's litany of props and hazards.

Keisuke Tsukahara and Izuho Takeuchi tag team the composition, and while a few of the entries are irritatingly chipper and pollyana, the vast bulk are both whimsical and dark, with one of the songs-- for the "Sandcastle" level-- sharing part of the melody with Takeuchi's Phantasy Star III theme! Most of the sound effects are lifted from Castle of Illusion, and they do the job here, as they did there.

There is scarcely a stage in Land of Illusion that doesn't center around some marvelous mechanic. How about, as an appetizer: a forced scrolling stage that goes both ways? The physics are Mickey's trademark slippery, but tons of air control is granted, and button two activates the dependable butt stomp.

Not only does Land of Illusion have a memorable soundtrack, rich aesthetic, and some of the best level design this side of the console-handheld divide, but it even makes use of some limited "metroidvania" traits, such as the concept of revisiting prior levels to utilize new-found abilities! "Dragon's Trap" deservedly takes the cake as the best overall game on Sega's diminutive wonder, but Land of Illusion deserves strong consideration as the runner-up.

Sniper's verdict: