I was not originally going to talk about this game, but with the upcoming releases of Epic Mickey 2: Power of Two and Power of Illusion, I figured I would offer my thoughts on the first Epic Mickey to give some context to how I feel about the series. This article is going to be a review, along with my quick thoughts of the two upcoming titles before I review them as well.
I picked up the original Epic Mickey on a whim one day after hearing mixed opinions about it. Both reviewers and gamers had opposing views on whether this was a good game or not, but I ultimately picked it up one day as I do have a place in my heart for all things Disney. What I purchased was one of the biggest surprises I had on the Wii, and in a good way too, as I immediately fell in love with it and it became one of my personal favorite titles ever made.
Although I can’t express how much I enjoy it, I do realize there are some flaws that many people would not be able to overlook. A part of me wants to slap a 10/10 on this article and go to bed, but I would only be fooling myself. Well, I delayed this review long enough so let’s break it down.
Visually speaking, Epic Mickey is a beauty. The presentation is truly imaginative with great looking textures and fantastic music. The game takes place in the Wasteland, which is a dark version of Disneyland. Take one look at it and you can instantly feel the gloomy atmosphere and depressing nature of it. Characters are well animated (it is Disney) and express their emotions perfectly through subtle body language. Cutscenes are often done in the style of 1950’s era cartoons and they are wonderfully made, with a unique look and can match the mood of any situation.
Speaking of emotions, the story is one of my favorites and completely engaged me at an emotional level. Mickey, after years of fame and being adored by fans, accidentally unleashed evil upon the Wasteland in the form of the Ink Blot which is made from thinner. The magician Yen Sid created the Wasteland so he could give forgotten characters a place to live, and Mickey discovers this by stepping through his mirror. Years later, the Blot returns to Mickey and brings him into their world. Forced to help out the citizens and the jealous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey finds himself on a quest to bring peace back to the Wasteland.
It may sound simple and similar to many games of the genre, but the tale is anything but. The interactions between Mickey and the characters are emotionally engaging as everyone knows Mickey, but after so many years of making cartoons, Mickey cannot remember who anyone is at all. What takes the cake are the scenes with Oswald, who is annoyed and jealous that Walt Disney forgot about him and gave all the fame to Mickey. It makes you feel bad for Oswald and understand why he is so cold towards the mouse.
On top of the finely crafted story, moral choice comes into play. The morality system here reminds me of Fable, in that how you tackle your tasks will affect the citizen’s opinion of you. Be nice and they will praise you and act happy; be evil and they will hate you and be depressed. It is not all the time that I care for NPC’s, but Epic Mickey really made me want to be nice, as I felt horrible if the townsfolk hated me. The story alters at points in the game and while the ending generally reminds the same, it shows the aftermath of some of the bigger choices you made, and personally I felt terrible looking at the Wasteland after making some bad decisions.
On the gameplay side, if you ever spent time with an N64-era action/adventure then you will be right at home here. The game plays like Banjo-Kazooie mixed with Zelda. You explore by jumping around and going through levels via projector screens (essentially portals) and the main areas that involve boss fights and combat are more similar to dungeons rather then a coherent world. This is one part of the game that I have mixed opinions on. Rather then having one big area to explore like a level in Banjo-Kazooie, areas are broken into chunks, each one separated by a projector screen that plays out as a delightful 2D platforming level based on an old cartoon. While it is not a deal breaker, it was not what I was expecting. Also, like dungeons in Zelda, once you beat the boss you cannot access these areas again, only the villages at the start of each area. Think more of a level structure like 1-1, 1-2, etc, rather then Hyrule Field.
Before I bought this game, one thing I kept hearing was how much the camera sucked. After playing through it three times, I can honestly say that the criticism of the camera was greatly exaggerated. Sure, there are parts where it can get caught up in the environment or when manual aiming refuses to work, but it is far from unplayable, and in fact reminds me of the N64 in another way.
The final piece to the gameplay is the magic brush, where all the moral choice decisions come into fruition. Wielding paint and thinner allows Mickey to create or destroy certain objects in the environment. It is also used in combat as thinner kills enemies and paint makes them your allies. Boss battles can also be dealt with either way, and throughout the game exists stations where paint or thinner can be inputted that will affect the environment either positively or negatively.
While I enjoyed the platforming, exploring and 2D levels, the combat is a bit weaker in its execution. I still enjoyed it, but in order to do a spin attack the player must shake the remote, and it always feel like the batteries are low. After awhile you will get use to it, but Super Mario Galaxy this is not. A mix of thinner/paint and physical attacks must dispatch certain enemies, and others can only be defeated during certain openings. Like I said, it is enjoyable and I never groaned when combat arose, but it can be frustrating sometimes when the camera decides to have a hissy fit or when the game spawns unlimited baddies while trying to solve a puzzle.
If I love the story and gameplay so much, then what don’t I like about it? Well, the game features side quests and some are mandatory. In order to unlock the next major area of the game, a certain number of Power Sparks are required. Mickey can obtain these by finding them hidden throughout the world, but the majority are retrieved by helping out the townsfolk. I enjoyed the side quests in the game, but the variety is overall pretty weak. It generally relies on fetch questing throughout the entire game. You can bet it is either find a certain item while exploring the “dungeon” type areas, or travel between towns are retrieve an item that the person lent to someone else. Sometimes there is alterations such as find a stolen object by following footsteps, or having a time trails race around the town, but even these tend to repeat fairly often.
Lastly, and most infuriating, is that the game suffers from game breaking glitches. It was my third playthrough and I almost had 100% completion. In order to complete everything, you must play through multiple times being good, evil, and neutral. I was almost done and I decided to explore before doing the final mission, but the game skipped ahead in the story. Confused, I proceeded to explore again where the game trapped me in a 2D level. These levels do not let you exit the way you came in, and when I reached the end, it would never load the next area, making me delete my save entirely. I am still bitter about it.
This game is really hard for me to rate, as like I said earlier, I love this game and am able to look past many flaws. The story really pulled me in and I enjoy N64 era games immensely so I felt right at home, twitchy camera and all. With that said, I do realize some flaws that others may not be so laid back towards. Based on my own enjoyment, I would give it a 9/10, but being unbiased, I would have to rate it a…
Final words, I am pretty excited about the upcoming releases of Power of Two and Power of Illusion. I plan on reviewing both of these games but with the upcoming Paper Mario and my personal life, these reviews may unfortunately have to wait and be released well after the launch date (Power of Illusion will probably have to wait until December).
My prediction is that I will like Power of Illusion more, as it is a 2D platformer that reminds me of how Kingdom Hearts did its level design. Each level is based on a forgotten Disney game, rather then a film. They showed off the Aladdin inspired levels and it looks just like the classic SNES platformer. I cannot wait to see what else they have in store.
That said, I am still excited about Power of Two, but with the forced co-op and it being a musical, I am not so sure how the final product will turn out. Games that feature computer controlled partners can be ruined if the A.I. is broken, but again, games like Kingdom Hearts showed that they can be done well. Since I am a big fan of Disney I do love their songs, but I have not heard any featured in this game and am worried that they will be annoying rather then awesome. Overall, I cannot help shake this feeling that Power of Two will be a big disappointment, and I expect numerous reviews to tear this one apart.
Thankfully, this is all speculation and I rambled on enough. Stay tune as I (eventually) review both Power of Illusion for 3DS and Power of Two for Wii.