Mickey Mouse was once an icon loved by all, he was in countless animated films and shorts, even some great video games. His fall from grace has seen his reputation slowly taken away from him, he is no longer the household name which captured the hearts of everyone back in his early days. Mickey is more of a corporate symbol these days, rather than an actual character. He is on merchandise all over the world but he has been in fewer films and he has had a notable absence from the video game industry for quite a while now. It's a shame to see a once beloved character reduced to this, however, Disney Epic Mickey may just be his ticket back to the top.
In developing Disney Epic Mickey, Warren Spector and his newly-formed Junction Point team sought out to recapture the magical feeling Mickey used to portray. The game manages to show one thing above all else, Mickey is just as capable, if not more, at supporting a Pixar-like adventure which not only amazes us with it's spectacle and design but tugs at our heart with it's strong character development and remarkable love for Disney lore. While there is allot holding this game back from being a truly great game, the passion the developers clearly had while making this game is enough to provide us with an utterly brilliant story and some delightful nostalgic moments worth our money.
Much of Epic Mickey's strong characterisation comes from someone other than Mickey himself, Oswald, though not exactly the villain of the game, is one of the most memorable characters Mickey will encounter on his journey. Oswald is ruling over a warped world called Wasteland.
In the opening cinematic our hero's curiosity gets the better of him, he damages a magical world with powerful paint and thinner chemicals. Mickey runs away, unaware of the lives in the Wasteland that he has effected. Months later Mickey's actions come back to haunt him, the Phantom Blot (a creature unleashed during the accident) seeks out Mickey and pulls him into the Wasteland. Mickey eventually realises he must destroy this creature in order to correct all chaos he created in the Wasteland.
Mickey begins to discover the dark depressing truths about the Wasteland, the Wasteland acts as a place where all the forgotten, unappreciated, overlooked characters from Disney's lore have been forced to live. This is an absolutely great way of bringing back these characters from the past, it makes you see these amazing characters as real people and you almost feel sorry for them. Oswald ( the Rabbit) is the leader of these forgotten souls and his evolution as a character not only adds to the story, but helps enhance Mickey's status as a hero. The emotion felt in this story is truly remarkable, the game developers manage to make you feel real sympathy for the characters who have been overshadowed their whole career and it's on par with any of Pixar's offerings. This world will appeal to all ages, the characters will attract young and old and the level designs and just fantastic.
It's really disappointing to see a lack of in-game voice acting in the Wasteland, we all know the voice of Mickey and although there are some terrific cut-scenes in full CG it does feel lazy that in-game we are reduced to only subtitles and a few charming noises..
Powerhouse Animation (an outside studio) created the 2D retro-inspired cut-scenes that typically introduce a new world, quests or concepts. These cut-scenes are fantastic and really capture and enhance the games feeling. These animated clips manage to produce some of the best acting, character development, and animation i have ever seen. It really does impress when you see Mickey's many emotions and expressions, but even more impressive, each character seems to have just as much detail and work done as the main character which is amazing. The way Powerhouse manages to precisely hit comedic notes with consistency is truly exceptional.
The idea behind the paint and thinner concept in the game is clever, but does have consequences. You might wish to manipulate the world in various ways, however, only pre-determined areas can be manipulated which may make the game feel extremely linear to some players, you can also only paint something into existence which has already existed. The biggest problem is the game seems to forget what you have changed if you leave an area, and when the game focuses on the consequences and actions theme, it's problematic that it seems to forget such important changes.
Bosses can effect this world as well. Depending on how you approach one, not only will the gameplay of the boss fight and the rewards you receive change, but it will also have an impact on the way the world eventually heals towards the end of the 15 hour experience. For example, using thinner may be the easiest way out of a conflict, but that character will then not be able to help rebuild the Wasteland. Ultimately effecting the final cut-scene cinematic which reflects you're choices throughout Mickey's journey.
The camera control is awkward at best, it will cause allot of unnecessary deaths and at times it can be very frustrating. In the early stages of the game it's not really a big problem, but when the game gets harder and level design requires much more precise control, it can cause allot of problems. The camera is definitely the biggest complaint i have with this game but it's the only thing i didn't like about the game that actually frustrated me, other than this i found the game an absolute delight to play through.
Discovering new environments and finding hidden treasures is a satisfying experience which will leave players feeling extremely rewarded. It's a blast to discover corners of the world which can be erased, help inhabitants, or just simply explore.
Combat is not great, but not bad. There is a lock-on-target system which works well in one on one situations, but with multiple enemies on screen it can become confused far too easy and become more of a disadvantage than an advantage. This is mainly down to, yet again, the poor camera issues.
Thankfully the camera and control issues are the only downside to this remarkable experience. Disney Epic Mickey is graphically, a beautiful game. The developers took a page from Super Mario Galaxy, focusing on a style which was expressive and worked well within the Wii's limited capability's. The minimalistic aesthetic associated with cartoons helps a great deal, and the imaginative recreations of famous Disney attractions helps prevent the game feeling bland.
While most of the game will take place in the Wasteland, Junction Point was eager to embrace Disney's history with Mickey and Oswald's earliest "Black and White" days. This brings me to my favourite thing about this game, the 2D platforming levels that link sections of the game together are some of the most enjoyable sections of the game. It looks phenomenal to see these 2D black and white classic locations brought to life, they feel very nostalgic and carry with them their own personal charm which will capture the hearts of anyone lucky enough to play through them. Locations like OsTown or the Big Easy are what make these 2D platforming moments truly magical, i would actually prefer the whole game to be made this way.
Even the music in Disney Epic Mickey manages to recapture the magical feeling of the past, while finding a new fresh direction which makes it feel uniquely it's own. Composer Jim Dooley, who worked on The Simpsons Movie, will no doubt impress hardcore Disney fans with his ability to twist classic Disney themes and make them feel more suitable in Oswald's Wasteland world. Junction Point have managed to give life to the forgotten, disregarded, overshadowed Disney characters and make them stars in their own right.
Overall i was blown away by the level of passion which is so obvious throughout this game. The characters are absolutely fantastic, the game looks and sounds amazing and the poor camera and control issues are hardly noticed due to the fact everything else has been done to perfection.
Disney Epic Mickey is a magical experience 9/10