Paint and thinner your way through Wasteland.
I am not what you would call a fan of Disney movies. I mean, I can appreciate the art of what they do, but the fact that they punctuate every movie with songs is something that really irritates me. And, to be honest, I find the movies a little bit “twee”. I am probably generalising when it comes to the Disney films, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am not a member of The Disney Club.
That being said, there was something about the first Epic Mickey game that appealed. There was a certain darkness creeping around the edges that made the game interesting, and it played well, which is always a bonus. So, as I sat down to play the Disney’s new Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two on Xbox360, hopes were high.
The first thing that struck from the very early cut scenes and throughout the game is just how good it all looks. The style is classic Disney, and it is easy to tell that the game has been polished to within an inch of its life. It looks stunning. The returning worlds, and the new worlds for this sequel, all look great in HD and will no doubt raise a smile on the faces of true Disney fans. In fact, I may even have smirked on occasion, but don’t tell anyone.
Epic Mickey 2 is a 3D platformer for the most part, with an interesting paint brush mechanic. Wielding his magical paint brush, Mickey is able to not only attack enemies or make them into friends, but replace or remove parts of the scenery. The most obvious use of this is to remove something blocking the way, or paint in a platform to reach another area. It’s an enjoyable skill to use, and works quite well.
Mickey is not alone in his adventure. He is joined by Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, a character from the truly ancient Disney toons before they learnt to speak. Oswald brings with him the ability to spin his ears and fly, or at least glide, and a magical remote control that zaps electric when needed.
The game is primarily a co-op adventure, and this is where things can come a little unstuck. Playing the game alone resigns Oswald to being controlled by the AI, and frankly the AI is horrible. Many challenges in the game require teamwork, and AI Oswald does not play well with others, often getting stuck on the scenery, taking ages to get where he needed to be, or just wandering off. Very early in the game, as I was running through what happens to be the games tutorial, I found myself having to back track quite a distance just to get Oswald to trigger a co-op action, as he had run ahead and got stuck in a hole.
Obviously this is a problem that is easily solved by bringing in a second human player, which makes things much smoother. But the fact that playing the game alone is so frustrating undoubtedly limits the audience, which is a shame.
So, the story plays that something is happening in Wasteland, earthquakes are causing structures to collapse and thinner is rising in the streets, threatening to wipe everything out. To top it off, the returning villain from the first game declares that he has changed his ways and wants to help save Wasteland. He does this with a song, but I can overlook that. Oswald’s girlfriend and Gremlin Gus then summon Mickey and his magical paint brush to Wasteland, hoping that he can save the day.
Playing the game follows a standard pattern for platforming adventures, which involves lots of jumping, collecting and puzzle solving. There is also plenty of paint-flinging and electric-zapping combat to be had and some impressive boss battles. The nice thing about the two characters is that they each work differently, so boss battles generally involve each character doing something different, which works well when playing with someone else. Playing alone, not so much – but let’s not dwell on the AI.
The puzzles are reasonably simple, and collecting plays a big part, whether it be to progress the game or just for the sake of collecting. The player can even find new outfits for the characters, which is nice. Ensuring some hefty replayability beyond the lure of collecting are plenty of side quests to be picked up from NPCs and a branching storyline. Players will find themselves going back to make different choices and see what effect they have on the story.
The camera was a point of concern in the first game and, although things have improved somewhat in Epic Mickey 2, it still has its problems. For a game that relies so much on accuracy and not falling to your death in many places, having a camera that occasionally doesn’t let you see where you are going can be an issue. It is only a minor issue, but one that generally raises its head at the worst possible moment.
However, despite the awful AI and the slightly “iffy” camera, the biggest problem with Epic Mickey 2 is that the game has lost its edge. Gone is the darkness of the first game, ensuring that Epic Mickey 2 is as family friendly as it can be. The game is simpler, when it is not being frustrating, and as a result, perhaps even a little boring. This is the biggest disappointment for me.
But then, I am not a Disney fan. Those who wear their Mickey Mouse pyjamas with pride will find that, as long as they can find a friend to play with, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two holds enough of that Disney magic to make their mouse ears glow. It is the fans that will get the most from the game, and those who don’t like the singing should invest in earplugs.