Sitting down with Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Two having recently seen designer Warren Spector talk on several panels at Game Masters reiterates my first impressions of the passionate man: he lives and breathes everything Disney, especially Mickey. And he has a cool voice.
Epic Mickey was praised as one of the best Wii exclusives, using the IR pointer and basic motion controls considerably better than most third party developers. Its only real blight was non-existent camera controls. The sequel has expanded its reach with a dash of HD on PS3, Xbox 360 and even PC. It’s also listed for Wii, which is somewhat surprising since it will launch within reach of the far more appropriate Wii U.
When I first sat down with Epic Mickey: The Power of Two at E3, I played with the standard PS3 controller and never had time to adjust; finicking around with the right analogue stick to both aim the paint or thinner reticle and adjust the camera. Having had a chance to go back to motion controls last week, I’d actually suggest dusting off the PS Move. I know, it's crazy! Although, the painstakingly slow camera issues inherently re-emerge with the motion Wand, and expect to be rusty if you’re out of practice with the waggle method.
With a bit of HD flair, nostalgic Disney characters and some of the best platforming (now) outside of a Nintendo exclusive, it’s one to watch amidst all the mindless murdering that’s come to dominate the holiday season.
The high-def sequel introduces Oswald as a playable character, either by A.I. or human instantaneous drop in and out co-op play. A number of puzzles require both characters to work together, but the computer controlled Oswald will always wait for Mickey to take the lead. A human buddy is the standout option, as Oswald is the perfect foil as a platformer to Mickey’s magical paintbrush. Whilst Mickey can paint and remove parts of the environment, Oswald can use his flappy ears to briefly fly, with Mickey clutching on, to access areas Mickey alone could not.
Like the first game, Mickey is armed with his trusty magical paintbrush that can paint or thin enemies and the environment. Filling in a door grants access to a building, whilst thinning a wall can open up an otherwise unprocurable room. As the majestic world of Disney has been brought to life riddled with enemies, Mickey has also mastered a cunning spin attack and can work in tandem with Oswald, who has the power to temporally stun opponents, to thin them out of the game or cover them with paint and coerce them to join the good guys.
Aside from crafting an entirely new co-op adventure, with surprisingly deep challenges, Epic Mickey 2 has upped the ante when it comes to adapting the highly interactive world. The level I played tasked Mickey with retrieving at least one hidden power cell to energise a train and progress, but had the option to recover up to three. By finishing the objective in its entirely, the proceeding level had a more complete path to navigate than would have been the case if I had done the bare minimum to advance. It’s not all longterm reward either, with plenty of chests to open and items to discover by painting and thinning the right areas.
That strikes me as the philosophy behind Epic Mickey 2. Speed-runners will be able to blast through them platforming levels at pace, whilst more committed gamers will have time to explore every nook and cranny to unlock countless collectibles and whole-heartedly experience everything Epic Mickey 2 has to offer.
The vibrant world is more joyful with a splash of HD that helps it move away from the grainy approach that at times plagued the Wii original. Whilst bright and lively, it’s also smooth and simplistic. Epic Mickey 2 isn’t trying to push any visual boundaries, nor does it need to. It embodies the almost retro Disney atmosphere with homely charm and a child-like innocence.
Learning from their mistakes, Spector’s team has done away with the mute characters and injected a personality into the Disney favourites. The introduction was even played out by song. Oswald may have been silent when Disney lost control of the rights to Universal in 1928, and didn’t get them back until 2006, but that is one facet of Disney magic that doesn’t translate to video games.
Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Two is shaping up nicely for a release this November, along with its partner 3DS game, Power of Illusion. With a bit of HD flair, nostalgic Disney characters and some of the best platforming (now) outside of a Nintendo exclusive, it’s one to watch amidst all the mindless murdering that’s come to dominate the holiday season.
By Ben Salter