Epic Mickey is a series that I truly want to love. The idea of watching these magical worlds come to life with a paintbrush is the stuff I dream about when it comes to videogames. The first game had its share of problems, but it was still a charming adventure that Wii owners could appreciate. With the sequel, Junction Point has brought the series to every system, while also addressing the complaints about the first game. Unfortunately, all of that promise falls to the wayside with Epic Mickey 2. This is one of the most disappointing games I have played this year; there is simply so much wasted potential.
Epic Mickey 2 picks up after the events of the first game. We return again to Wasteland, a place where forgotten toons reside. Wasteland is also now home to massive earthquakes, making it less than ideal for a vacation spot. The Mad Doctor has also returned, but this time he claims to have good intentions. This is where Mickey comes in, as he is thrust back into the world through a magic TV, equipped with his trusty paintbrush, into a story that never seems to get its bearings. It all feels like an excuse to showcase forgotten Disney memorabilia and put Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in the spotlight.
The painting mechanic returns when playing as Mickey, and it works for the most part. Objects that can be brought to life are clearly marked, but when it came to using the paint thinning mechanic, things are more obtuse. I found myself confused more often than not about what objects and puzzles were solved using this tool. You have Oswald as an AI helper if going solo, and his functions are painful when the computer is controlling him. He would often get lost or not perform the tasks unless I was in a specific spot. This became tedious after a while since a large portion of the game requires the use of both characters.
Co-op is an option, and it alleviates a lot of the issues, but there are more problems to wrestle with. For example, the game is a convoluted mess of objectives and collectibles. You can take pictures, collect pins and other trinkets, but the game fails to explain what their purpose is most of the time. Quests are given by characters, but figuring some of them out is a chore. It is also confusing and inconvenient to turn some quests in, because things are not clearly marked on the map. This feels like a running theme with this game.
While there is a ton to see and do, most of it is drab and just not very interesting. Collecting pieces to rebuild machines feels like busy work, and with the poor navigation and confusing direction, the frustration multiplies. It feels like the best parts of the game are hidden away in the nooks and crannies of the world. I cannot stress enough that digging into the side portions of the game almost requires the help of a human co-op partner. Relying on AI-controlled Oswald is downright infuriating at times.
This is a meaty game, weighing in at over 20 hours, which would be fine if things were constructed better. Considering this was designed mostly to appeal to a younger crowd, I am amazed at how disjointed so much of it feels. Scattered objectives, frustrating design and overall lack of finesse really keep the barrier to entry higher than it needs to be. I want to love this game, and each time I booted it back up I was painfully reminded of why I didn’t. That is the most disappointing part of it all.
On the bright side, the game is a visual treat. The animated cut scenes are superlative in design, and really tug on those emotional ties I have to the characters. The classic environments are also a highlight. Whether stumbling upon characters and events I remember, or discovering new ones I had never seen, this game does a good job of conveying the Disney style we have come to know and love.
Equally impressive is the score. The mix of orchestral tones and familiar themes did an excellent job of roping me into the world. The music also subtly changes based on your decisions in the game. It isn’t something you will notice right up front, but listen for it; it is impressive. Voice work has also been added to flesh out characters with mixed results. Some of the characters sound spot-on, while others suffer from feeling overly cartoony. It didn’t take me out of the experience, but it does enough to stand out.
Epic Mickey 2 is disappointing. There is no other way to put it. For a game I was genuinely excited to play, I found myself constantly forcing play sessions. The worthless AI partner, confusing direction and poor design really hold this game back. My journey into wasteland was not a pleasant one, and that is the most disappointing aspect of it all. I really wanted to love Epic Mickey 2, but in the end I simply just did not want to play it anymore.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.