After reviewing Toy Story Mania, my expectations for Epic Mickey 2 were pretty low; if Disney were prepared to hand out one of their most popular series’ willy nilly then what hope was there for their golden egg, Mr Mickey? Thankfully Epic Mickey exceeded all my, frankly, very low expectations and is an experience that both children and adults alike can enjoy, despite being rough around the edges.
In the Epic Mickey Universe, Mickey’s world is separate from the Wasteland, a huge world where retired and classic Disney characters from years gone by now inhabit. Earthquakes hit the Wasteland, causing all kinds of mayhem that Oswald the Rabbit must deal with. The Mad Scientist, the antagonist from the last game, returns to help Oswald and his friends, to try and fix the mess, but his friends are not sure that the Mad Scientist is trustworthy, so Mickey is called back to help out.
Game play boils down to Mickey and Oswald’s unique abilities and their interaction with the universe. Mickey has his magic paint brush from the first game that allows him to paint in the world , and remove elements of it, to get past enemies and work through puzzles. The addition to this game is the new drop in/drop out co-op play that allows Oswald to be controlled separately. Oswald’s electronic remote gets much of the worlds many failing systems working and both him and Mickey must work together to traverse the diverse Disney themed areas. Coop is a great idea, and works well when you actually have a person to help you, but it highlights how poor the AI is when you are going it alone. Oswald won’t necessarily follow you or do the things he is supposed to do, making puzzles more frustrating than they ever need to be; working in a team where your team member is as useful as a chocolate teapot makes a lot of the puzzles far less engaging than they should be.
Much of the levels you experience are a love letter to the Disneyworld, with the stages between the main hubs filled with every character (and some you haven’t even heard of ) from Disney’s massive backlog. ‘Projecter Worlds’, the travel service within the Wasteland, are a throwback to past eras, Steamboat Willy really stands out, break up the game play, and are a short, but sweet treat, for all audiences. Problems tend to occur with the size of the main hubs; exploration takes seconds rather than minutes and the few shops that are littered in each hub require loading screens every time you walk in. These are thankfully short, but break up the immersion factor. There are loads of side quests but the interface is a pain to navigate, and the fast travel system is pretty poor; the longevity of Epic Mickey 2 largely depends on how much patience you have.
The colour palette is gorgeous in places, with the characters being the highlight of this. The rest of the graphics are ok at best, the bright colours extenuate how grainy areas are, which is a shame as the vast array of locations take every element from the book, bearing in mind Disney wrote most of the book regarding children’s imaginations, that will be pleasing for a younger audience.
The major problems with the game in its entirety is the mixed messages that it seems to send. If it wants to be a kids game, why is some of the platforming so awful and some of the puzzles so difficult? This game was introduced to a couple of non gamers in my area , way above the age group that Disney would be directly appealing to, and they struggled to pass certain areas, even in the coop mode. For adults, these areas will be compounded by the complete loss of the dark tone that was so prevalent in the first Epic Mickey; the themes that defined the series before hand and made it stand out seems to have completely disappeared in the now frequent song numbers.
Cut scenes are placed in the same fashion, with a mix of old school drawn cutscenes which are amazingly beautiful and fit into the game perfectly, and more standard fare. The ingame engine cut scenes are absolutely awful however, with the voice actors managing to grate repeatedly. This gets even worse during certain puzzles, as the two main characters continually use the same sentences over and over again. A final area of somewhat disappointment is the character choice. Everyone knows and loves Mickey but even I hadn’t heard much of Oswald, or the rest of the characters in the ‘retired’ universe; being Oswald tends to feel like the short straw as he just isn’t as much fun to play as Mickey.
Epic Mickey 2 isnt a bad game by any stretch of the imagination; the platforming is good if hit and miss at places and the universe is colourful and hits the right tone for a Disney game. Its biggest letdown is the sheer amount of patience you will need, whether by yourself or to help the younger audience who will play this, just to get past certain areas. If Epic Mickey 2 had stuck to its guns with the past theme, tightened up the game play and made some of the direction for the game a balance, rather than either obnoxiously obvious or ridiculously nonsensical, than it would have been an amazing game. Instead it falls short of a complete recommendation, which is a shame considering the huge amount of potential, and good elements, that the game does have.