While the game was advertised as the movie tie-in, the game's stucture and plot are very different to the events of the actual film. Willow travels alone, only occasionally encountering familiar characters from the movie. Willow also sports a sword and shield, instead of his walking stick as seen in the movie and on the cover of the game.
The game's layout and over-head style is very similar to The Legend of Zelda, and it has very similar role-playing game mechanics, plus an experience points system (like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest as seen on the system).
Throughout the adventure, Willow travels through various locations and villages of the kingdom of Bavmorda, and solves quest original to the game in order to progress to new areas. Various sages and spellcasters teach him new magic spells; these include the familiar Magic Acorns, and the not-so familiar heal spell and lightning bolt. Willow can also find newer and more powerfull swords and shields, which do more damage and block attacks respectively.
When Willow destroys enemies, he gains experience points. When he earns enough points, he will gain a level. When he does, his attributes will increase in categories such as Strength or Magic, making him more powerful.