When it comes to video games and Mickey Mouse, the poor guy rarely had a chance to succeed. Moving from weak title to weak title through the years has really put the damper on his career. Enter Warren Spector. The esteemed game designer had the chance to not only take on Mickey Mouse as a topic for an all-new adventure, but he was given the ability to re-introduce a long-forgotten character of Walt Disney’s named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Oswald was stripped from Walt over a dispute with Universal Pictures, and in a 2006 agreement, the Disney empire regained control of Oswald. Armed with this re-found character, the idea for Disney Epic Mickey was born, a world of long-forgotten characters such as Oswald was created, and the story of Disney Epic Mickey begins.
In order to link the worlds of Mickey and Oswald, Mickey one night awakens and waltzes through his bedroom mirror only to see a wizard putting some delicate touches on a miniature world with what can only be a magical paintbrush. After he leaves, Mickey decides to tinker a little bit and ends up spilling paint on the world. In a move that residents of the magical world would end up calling the Thinner Disaster, Mickey tries to erase his mistake with the bottle of paint thinner, and — I don’t really need to spell this out for you anymore. Mickey’s actions cause a Shadow Blot to appear in the world, and soon he is captures and his heart becomes the object of desire by the wizard. Only it’s not able to be extracted. Mickey then enters the now partially destroyed world called the Wasteland and sets off to find Oswald. A few more twists and turns take place, but rather than spoil them, it’s something that’s probably best left for the gamers to experience themselves. The story really is one of the best reasons to play Disney Epic Mickey.
While the premise sounds basic enough, Mickey wanders the Wasteland with both paint and thinner and can adjust things to his need. Paint some gears or walls over here to activate a machine or location, dissolve others over there with thinner. These actions, however, will have an impact on how the residents of the world treat you. Using thinner destroys their world, and the justifiable get angry with you and will say things like “I used to think you were a good guy, not I’m not so sure.” Even battling the enemies in the game offers the paint/thinner option; using thinner will outright destroy the enemies, while painting them will ‘befriend’ the character and they will then fight on your side. For minor enemies it’s a fairly inconsequential action, but at times you’ll be asked by two different characters to treat a more major player in a specific way. Obviously, you can only choose one method on how to deal with the character, and that action will dictate how you’re treated and rewarded throughout the game.
Gameplay is divided into small segments punctuated with almost too many cues to press a button to continue. Each time you attempt to enter or leave a building you’re asked if it’s what you really want to do. Combine this with the sheer amount of time that you’ll be speaking with characters to try and extract a new fetch quest from them, and you’ll be pressing the big clear A button on your remote a lot in this game. These third person adventure sections are marred by a shoddy camera system that even once you get the hang of the best way to use it, still becomes an obstacle in actually being able to do things exactly when you want to. Using the d-pad you can look around the environment, which allows you to aim your reticule where you want to but at times obstacles will be in Mickey’s way which will require you to maneuver somewhere else and then realign your shot. Sure it’s not a big deal, but when combined with how the camera works when you’re not in control it becomes a larger issue. The camera generally will swoop around the level and follow you as you play, and if it becomes off center you simply press the C button to center it behind Mickey, of course this assumes that the camera isn’t in its locked position but you won’t really know that’s the case until you attempt to center the camera.
The basic gameplay involves a lot of running around and collecting items from another location or person and then returning them to the rightful owner. This wouldn’t be so bad but as you progress through the game it involves a lot of backtracking through levels and the transition levels. When moving from one location to another, Mickey jumps through a projector screen and enters a level inspired by one of his (or Oswald’s) classic cartoons. The side scrolling switch is something that’s a nice diversion from the collecting quests, but these segments are quite short and the brief load times within each do tend to get annoying the more you have to do them. Graphically, these sections are a stark contrast to the sometimes dim and dismal Wasteland which is rebuilding itself. The transition levels on the other hand are mostly two toned, black and sepia levels with the classic cartoon style from the late 20s and 1930s. For fans of Disney, these levels are a definite treat and are great little nods to the age of the character.
Fans of Walt Disney’s animation are sure to really enjoy this title, as it’s obvious that it was a labor of love by Spector. With characters not seen in ages like Smee and Beppo the Gorilla, fans of classic animation will be giddy seeing their old favorites given new life and reanimated in a modern, yet still-classic style. Even characters not long forgotten make appearances in different formats, special versions of Goofy, Daisy and even Pete are all included in the game. It’s these little treats that kept me wanting to keep plugging through the title, as the overall gameplay was stagnant from an older gamers perspective, yet it was all the side nods and subtleties that would keep an older gamer interested; whereas the younger set wouldn’t really care about seeing the robot from Mickey’s Mechanical Man, but would get a kick out of actually playing the game and controlling Mickey Mouse.
From the unlockable concept art to the insane number of collectable pins in the game, there’s a good amount of “Disney” here to collect, the cherry on top of it all however is the inclusion of two classic cartoons one starring Mickey in his 1933 short, “The Mad Doctor” and Oswald’s starring role in “Oh What a Knight”. It’s hard to judge a game that you have such mixed feelings about, as it’s not a great game at its core but it’s definitely not a bad game either – it’s pretty darn average. That’s a tough thing to say when hype for the game had started in the fall of 2009 and it had been called the reemergence of Mickey in a role that was beyond mascot of an empire, but sadly that’s all this is.
- Score: 7.5
- Fans of Walt Disney’s empire have a lot to be happy with here thanks to all the classic characters making appearances and great story telling, unfortunately the experience is weakened by sloppy controls and poor camera work.
Platform reviewed: Nintendo Wii
— Jeff Paramchuk