Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios Developer: Junction Point Studios
Genre: Action, Platformer Players: 1-2 (local only) Age Rating: 7+
Other console/handheld formats: PS3, Wii, Wii U
Veteran game designer Warren Spector and Disney seemed like an odd combination, but the original Epic Mickey had some bold ideas and some critical praise. The sequel returns to Wasteland, home to Disney’s forgotten characters including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Can Mickey and Oswald together discover the cause of the earthquakes, fix the projectors and find out if the Mad Doctor has really become good?
The major game mechanics are based around the magic paintbrush Mickey acquires at the start of the game. Paint can be splashed or sprayed to reveal or rebuild objects, while thinner can be splashed or sprayed to erase things. Enemies can thus be turned into friends or destroyed, objects to solve puzzles can be created or obstacles removed. Mickey can also acquire sketches that are used in various ways to solve puzzles. Oswald’s remote control comes with the power of electricity, to power devices in the landscape and to zap or reprogram enemies.
The key to some puzzles is co-operation, with the AI helping a solo player. This review is based on a single player experience, playing through to the completion of the story mode. Oswald or Mickey can be thrown into the air to reach higher platforms. Oswald’s helicopter ears allow him to glide across big gaps, carrying Mickey along if he jumps up to grab on. Calling the other character over to the present position will get the AI to use their powers (with onscreen icons showing what needs to be done). And should one character run out of energy, the other player could revive them if they are quick enough.
The main quest is a linear path, but interacting with characters will reveal side quests. These include gathering and trading pins (badges), making and wearing costumes and reuniting characters. Gus the Gremlin acts as a signpost, hovering near exits or objects of interest. It is worth leaving the subtitles on, allowing the player to read his advice. Getting around Wasteland involves more than one method of travel. Balloons carry the duo across large gaps but require fuel to work. The D.E.C corridors and projectors lead into 2D platform levels, requiring levers and objects to be moved to reveal the route out.
Epic Mickey 2 is ambitious but flawed, throwing too many ideas at the player. The awkward joypad controls and shifting camera make progress more difficult than it needs to be, and it can often become unclear as to the route forward. The combination of aiming and movement feels better suited for the Wii in many ways. For a single player, the AI does well but on many occasions calling Oswald over results in Mickey throwing him into the air rather than carrying out the right task (zapping a control unit or setting off fireworks). Holding a button to go through doors feels old-fashioned, and the interaction with characters is very limited.
The ability to solve a problem in more than one way is welcome, but the puzzles themselves require lateral thinking that may be beyond younger players. There is depth, with the side quests offering a reason to keep playing. But clumsy stealth sections (with Mickey using invisible ink that falls off if he moves too quickly) and incessant enemy attacks will test the patience. Progress is saved automatically as new areas are reached, but does not always prevent the player from having to repeat a tricky section or boss battle. One of the strangest design decisions is that there is only one save game allowed at a time, and choosing to start a new game (rather than continue) wipes all progress. The confusing map screen is a missed opportunity to help the player.
The game does have a lot of charm, thanks to the Disney characters. The story is advanced through lovingly animated cutscenes with a distinctive art style, and the 2D sections based on classic cartoons look pretty. Ignoring the camera problems, the changing environments are nicely put together and the paint effects are believable and clever. Voice work is superb, especially the Mad Doctor with his need to sing in rhymes.
If you can forgive the flaws and put up with the controls, then there is a solid mixture of platforming and puzzles to invest time in. For many, this will appear to be a sequel that has not fixed what was wrong with the original game – and the difficulty will put off younger players. The execution does not live up to the ambition, and Disney fans will ultimately be disappointed that this lacks real magic.