Reviews

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

November 18, 2012, Author: Ray Willmott

Two heads are better than one, or so they say. A few years ago, Warren Spector spearheaded a Wii exclusive project that aimed to bring the world’s most iconic cartoon character back to his classic platform roots.

He succeeded. Mostly. Yet, glaring issues with control and camera hampered player’s overall enjoyment. That, and the game lacked support for multiple players.

Now his team are back with a sequel that aims to right the wrongs of its predecessor and in the same breath, share the wealth with every other format out there.

While he’s been successful on many counts, unfortunately, Spector and Junction Point Studios have managed to create a whole new set of problems.

Teenage Wasteland
Epic Mickey 2 is set several years after the original game. Wasteland has lived in some peace since Mickey ended The Mad Doctor’s maniacal schemes. Yet it is under the most mysterious of circumstances that the Doctor returns to the residents, with open arms and his soul reinvigorated through musical tones.

The Mad Doctor claims that Wasteland is about to be torn asunder by menacing robots and that he is here to help. The Mad Doctor has seen the error of his ways and wants to turn over a new leaf. However, The Mad Doctor confesses he can’t do it alone, and manages to enlist the services of Oswald the Rabbit, seen as one of the original saviors of Wasteland.

However, the other residents aren’t so sure of the Doctor’s intentions. Because of this, they work out a way to communicate with Mickey Mouse through a magical TV set, bringing him back to Wasteland.

It’s up to Mickey and Oswald to quell this new threat, but also keep a close eye on their old nemesis, ensuring that he isn’t back to his old tricks.

So, we worked on the camera..
I’ll get this out of the way from the off. The camera IS better when compared to the original. That’s not to say it’s the best camera I’ve experienced in a 3D platformer. That’s also not to say it’s a massive improvement. However, it’s a much more manageable, less frustrating experience. Basically, the major criticism many had with the original game (myself included) has been worked on extensively and improved significantly. However, it’s still not without fault.

The co-operative element of the game also works as wonderfully as we could have hoped. Both Oswald and Mickey have unique abilities that are used to reach various heights, pass through obstacles and defeat enemies. A real sense of individuality is prominent for each player, something rarely found in games of this type.

As Epic Mickey before it, the game is a mostly straight-laced platformer, featuring a slew of unique implementations, such as Invisible Ink, Indelible Ink and of course, the magic paintbrush. Mickey can use thinner to remove his enemies from the play-grid, and equally use paint to illustrate the environment, creating platforms for the characters to jump on or areas for them to interact with.

Of course, Mickey’s brush was a staple of the original game. Using the right stick to navigate will never replace a Wii Remote, that much is obvious. It does work for the most part; however, in some areas, the range of motion is limited to where the game wants you to aim. I’m left wondering how the game could benefit massively from Wii U with a second screen, interactive via touch. I absolutely believe it could enrich the experience, and I’d be very interested to compare both games.

New this time around is Oswald’s remote control. Oswald uses the control to activate terminals, flick on gravity platforms and manipulate the environment around him. It’s an excellent compliment to Mickey’s ‘painting-in’ of scenery and further demonstrates the welcome opportunities co-op play brings to the franchise. That being said, the game will not allow you to switch between characters (à la LEGO) so you’re forced to rely on the occasionally clueless AI to catch up and progress.

Co-operatively, however, the game truly does come to life, and the whole experience becomes a lot more entertaining.

Sadly, apart from the depth of the game and the amount to see and do, that’s all the good Epic Mickey 2 brings to the forefront. The game introduces one of the worst mini-map and inventory systems in recent memory. Waypoints are impossible to add to the map. The key and legend are awfully vague and overly difficult to understand. The various hubs are awkward to move between and actually cost you in-game currency. You’ll frequently get caught in the scenery when trying to explore Wasteland as the designers intend. The quests have barely any description at all, and even the clues provided aren’t especially helpful. Be prepared to offer kids a lot of guidance if they’re going to play this.

The objectives also become tiresome and repetitive. You’ll either have to flick a switch, power a generator, or replace a battery. Things that, frankly, feel superfluous in the magical, mystical realm of Disney.

Steamboat Penis
The fantastic thing about Epic Mickey 2 is that it inherits many of the wonderful characteristics that have made Mickey the popular entity he is over the last century. From the very beginning, to the modern day iteration, Epic Mickey 2 is respectful of the past, the present and even tries to send trends for the future.

The graphics are beautiful, and the world around the mouse and rabbit glow with an enriched palette. Truly, it looks like something that would have sprung straight from Walt’s own imagination.

The cut-scenes are gorgeous. It is almost like watching a Disney cartoon as they pan out. What’s more, the Wasteland environment is always considered. For example, mechanical Goofy’s will be running around, worker gremlins and more. The work here is truly fantastic.

However, the camera definitely creates some confusion. The game regularly switches between a full 3D panoramic view to a confined, side-scrolling 2D view, often without warning. This usually happens when players journey through underground tunnels to move between areas. These are usually filled with monsters and traps which Mickey and Oswald will need to pass to reach sanctuary. It’s a way of creating differentiation between neutral and battlegrounds, but is not as cleverly implemented as it could/should be.

One more time…with feeling
Quite perplexingly, Epic Mickey 2, on top of a glorious platformer with a lifting, enchanting soundtrack, also wants to be a musical. However, this is used to progress the storyline, as opposed to a predominant fixture within the game. As a way of proving his merit and soul to the rest of Wasteland, The Mad Doctor breaks down into song, often getting the residents to join in with him. It’s a nice, if not surprising touch.

As you might expect, the soundtrack injects you with glee, and you’ll find yourself, pad in hand, with a stupid smile sat on your face as you take it all in.

Same with the voice acting, a new addition this time around. Whereas the original looked at Mickey’s mute roots, EM2 is definitely looking to appeal to a broader demographic and enriches its characters with more heart and soul than ever before. In that regard, JPS totally succeed.

Epic fail?
Not quite, but this definitely isn’t the game it should be. It must be such a frustration for the artists, animators and sound engineers to know that, for all their hard work to make the game stand out, the one thing Epic Mickey 2 doesn’t get quite right is the gameplay. There’s something empty about the experience that never quite seems to fulfil. To be honest, I spent most of my time wandering around Wasteland thinking about Kingdom Hearts. Sad, but true…

Epic Mickey 2 has definitely been designed to be a two-player game. When both players are together, deciphering what each quest means and trying to work out the god-awful map, the game does become a much more entertaining affair. Without them, the game really doesn’t leave much of an imprint.

Epic Mickey 2 is not a bad game, but while it’s tried to work on the mistakes of its predecessor, it’s also taken some of the focus away from the magic and substance. A definite try before you buy.

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