A recent survey revealed that a large margin of today’s youngsters could not identify Mickey Mouse, while most immediately recognized the little Italian plumber by the name of Mario. Warren Spector and his team at Junction Point have set their sights on changing this with the release of Epic Mickey. The world’s most famous mouse may not be the iconic symbol he once was, but the team is steadfast in returning Mickey to the lime-light and are pulling out all the stops to ensure the game’s success. Perhaps a little rough around those big black ears, Epic Mickey shines in terms of presentation and execution.
Being his usual mischievous self, Mickey accidentally brings ruin to a model world called ‘things that have been forgotten’, a creation of the sorcerer Yen Sid and incidentally the home of the long forgotten Disney character ‘Oswald’ the lucky rabbit. Mickey is sucked into the model world, now renamed to ‘Wasteland’, and has to help Oswald and his friends survive and defeat the mysterious and all powerful ‘Blot’.
To Paint, or to Thin
The game’s key components are its creative and destructive elements. Playing Mickey, you have the ability to paint everything around you. This is a fantastic mechanic that slowly turns the game into a bright, colorful and joyful looking cartoon world. Erasing it, however, unveils the gritty, grungy structure underneath the glossy exterior. These erased sections show the true character of the environments, if you will. Using the Paint/Thin combination is epic fun, especially when it serves to introduce new gameplay elements. For instance, erasing an entire wall may lead to a cleverly hidden doo-dad or a buried treasure chest. The idea is well executed but truly shines during the frantic action sequences requiring pin-point decision making while objects in the environment crumble around you from the onslaught. Sadly, these sections are few and far apart and the game would have been better served with a multitude of them.
Throughout the game, Epic Mickey dishes up a number of morality choices that can have a profound impact on how it plays out. During my second run through the game I found that evil choices will lead to more difficult paths, where-as noble and honorable decisions lead to an easier road. In one case, I found a difficult enemy dismissed just by doing a couple of good deeds. This type of branching gameplay really adds to the game’s replay value as well as its depth. Even the ending will change based on which characters you help or hinder, making the fifteen hour journey both exciting and eventful.
Running Mickey around the Wasteland is silky smooth due to sharp and responsive controls. On the downside, Mickey has a ridiculously powerful double-jump that allows you to get to places that I am sure the designers never intended you too. I blew through a good section of one of the earlier areas by jumping like a frog.
As a child I recall countless hours sitting in front of my tube running Mario, Banjo, Spyro around their beautifully crafted virtual worlds. There was always a gear, cog or golden trinket to find that would give access to the next part of the journey. Once the core game mechanic of many a game, puzzles such as these just appear ancient and dated now. In that light, it is odd that Epic Mickey takes a leap backwards in this regard. I lost track of how often I was tasked with uncovering a certain number of doo-dads to advance the story or helping out one character only to find I needed to help three or four more to make any type of progress.
Stunning visuals. Paint and thinner changes the environment.
Horrendous camera control spoils much of the fun.