Pro video game reviewers have mixed feelings about “Epic Mickey” and disagree over whether the game is mildly good or an epic failure. No one is calling Epic Mickey an “epic” game, quite appropriately. But they are hardcore gamers, and they have hardcore standards.
The Disney fan in me wanted so badly for this game to be earth-shattering, and to tell all of those reviewers to shut up. The gamer in me is shrugging, nodding his head and agreeing with many of them.
I bought my Wii only two months ago in anticipation of this title, and while I doubt many people went and bought an entire game-console bundle, I think a lot of us ran out and bought this title as soon as it hit the shelves.
Fans of Disneyland Resorts and Disney in general, will find that the game developer’s use of the Disney license is fantastic, nostalgic and will quicken in their hearts all that they love about Disney; the parks in particular. However, the game is flawed in ways that a Disney fan can overlook out of love, but true-blue gamers may find inexcusable given this game’s hype-factor.
Story and Setting
The game is set in a pen-and-paper world created by the sorcerer Yen Sid for “things that have been forgotten,” appearing as an intricate model in his workshop, based on Disney theme parks, primarily Disneyland (in Anaheim California, sorry Orlando, we get this one). This world is home to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Gremlin Gus, and other obscure or scrapped Walt Disney cartoons.
Mickey, out of curiosity, enters the workshop through a mirror in his house and discovers the model and the tool used to create it, the magic paintbrush. Fiddling with the brush, Mickey accidentally creates the Shadow Blot. Panicking, he quickly tries to erase the Blot by throwing paint thinner onto it, but destroys the model in the process. Mickey retreats back to his house, while the Blot enters and takes control of the ruined world from its first resident, Oswald.
Epic Mickey Intro Cinematic
Art/Environment & Detail:
What I think you’ll initially find is that “Epic Mickey” is a tremendous homage not only to the mouse, but to much of the lost properties of the Magical World of Disney. Players, as Mickey, explore and use a magic paint brush to erase or restore the world in order to progress through the levels. Each area has its own series of quests from grabbing and delivering items to simply making your way from one part of the level to another using only your jumping skills and the power of that magic brush.
Disney fans will find themselves admiring the details. Not just in the art and environments but in the nostalgic throwbacks to Disneyland of long ago.
Anyone who went to Disneyland before 1982 will recall the E-tickets which offered access to the best attractions in the park. In the Wasteland world of “Epic Mickey”, E-tickets are a collectible resource that can be used to purchase any number of things around the world. There are shops in the main hub town of Mean Streets. There you’ll be able to increase your maximum health or buy other collectibles that you missed along the way. E-tickets can also buy your way through missions that are too time-consuming or tough.
Fans of the theme parks will also be pleased to hear that there’s an achievement system in “Epic Mickey” that embraces Disney’s history of pin collecting. There are 105 different pins to discover by completing the standard quests as well as the side challenges along the way. Pin collecting/trading has never been my thing, but I do love to acquire as many achievements in video games as I can and making pins a part of it adds to the … I don’t know … the Disneyness of it.
For the truest fans of Disney, the art, environments and use of the Disney license makes the game worth playing. Keep in mind, that I said playing. I did not say owning or paying for it. The Disney fan in me has said his peace, now the casual gamer in me has to have his say:
Though the story starts with a full CG sequence and voice acting (see the video above), during gameplay, text-driven dialogue is expressed through brief noises and grunts that made me think of The Sims. Now, I like The Sims. It’s one of my favorite games. But this ain’t The Sims, now is it!?
Very few people on this planet don’t know the sound of Mickey Mouse’s voice when he speaks. This omission of in-game voice acting didn’t sit well with me. Was it because in the original Mickey toons he was silent with just music in the background? Were they trying to express the Mickey from the olden days somehow? Whatever the case is, all they accomplished by making Mickey a grunting rodent was to annoy this gamer.
The big question that kept coming back and back and back as I played was: is this a game for grownups, or kiddies? Perhaps it’s for grownups because of all of the nostalgia — stuff that no teen, tween or child would remember. But the quests and side-missions are insultingly simple as if it was made for the kids. Maybe the kids are supposed to play while their parents watched? <shrug>
Now I said the missions and quests were simple, I did not say easy. The truth is, this game would be a real breeze, if not for the control and the camera. The game gets tougher as you go. No, the enemies aren’t much tougher nor are the obstacles and puzzles. What gets you is the camera system.
The camera does whatever it wants, panning into inconvenient positions or getting stuck behind large objects. The camera angles screwed me every time. The more precise you need to be, the tougher it gets as the angles roll around. So many times I had to restart levels, because I died, because the camera wouldn’t cooperate!
Mickey obviously isn’t a fighter, and this game is more about exploring, finding hidden goodies and navigating obstacles than fighting enemies. If Mickey has to do battle with one bad guy, it’s boring. And if he has to deal with more than one, the camera’s inability to competently portray combat is ridiculous and aggravating.
Using the magic brush’s paint to fill in missing objects and thinner to erase certain obstacles is clever but limited. What if you want to go wild and erase a bunch of stuff, or paint in new stuff? You can’t. Only specific areas can be manipulated, and you can only paint something into existence if it had already existed in the first place.
And the game doesn’t always remember what you’ve done. You can walk around an area, wiping out everything (at least as much as the game will allow), but if you leave and come back it’s as if nothing happened.
While most of the game exists in the Wasteland, this game embraced the extensive black-and-white cartoon history of Mickey and Oswald. These classic pieces manifest themselves as 2D levels that bridge major sections of the game.
Though the concept is great, and it’s a blast seeing some of these iconic pieces brought to life, they are oddly disruptive. You’re completely engrossed in a fantastic set piece and then, slap, you’ve moved into a radically different experience. And there is no option to bypass these levels even after they’re beaten, so you have to repeat some of them up to a dozen times.
Still, the game is not unplayable. If you don’t care about Disney, or Mickey I’d say maybe you can rent this thing to satisfy your curiosity, if any exists, or just leave it be. But for Disney buffs, I say definitely rent this thing, or even buy it after the price has dropped a little.
In the end, the developers of “Epic Mickey” have created an impressive foundation. It’s a decent start. They’ve quickened Mickey Mouse, who has been fading from popular relevance for years and made him matter again. They’ve even managed to take a nearly dormant character in Oswald and re-introduce him in a spectacular way, perhaps making him one of the most memorable video game characters of the year.
But the real technical stuff – the camera system and control scheme – is flawed to the point where the larger experience becomes tedious and frustrating.
Here’s the rub. While the gamer in me ripped Epic Mickey a pretty good one, the Disney fan in me doesn’t think many of the game’s problems matter that much. Ultimately, the pure Disneyness of “Epic Mickey” manages to make this game worth a shot.
On the scale of 1—10, DisGeek gives “Epic Mickey” a 7.
~Paul J. Hale
Media provided courtesy of IGN