When Epic Mickey was announced, fans of classic Disney were overjoyed. The prospect of a dark, twisted take on the world’s most famous mouse from the depths of the mind that brought the world System Shock and Deus Ex seemed like the ingredients for a sure fire classic. Despite murmurings about changes in gameplay and some backlash for the game’s Wii exclusivity, hype for the title remained high up to its recent release. Sure enough, the game delivers on its promise of a wealth of great content for Disney fanatics, a phenomenal concept, and engaging environments. Unfortunately, it seems the developers may have gotten too wrapped up in their love letter to fans of animation and forgot to provide equal attention to the gameplay. This leaves Epic Mickey as regrettably tainted as the world the game presents.
The story in Epic Mickey is certainly worthy of the title characters parade of adventures. Driven by curiosity, Mickey stumbles through his mirror into the study of the wizard Yen Sid. Once there, he accidentally unleashes a mysterious creature called the Shadow Blot. Mickey then clumsily spills paint and thinner onto the model on Yen Sid’s desk, which is actually home to a host of forgotten Disney properties led by Mickey’s half brother Oswald. The Shadow Blot flees into this Wasteland and Mickey escapes back into his room. Years pass, and all goes well for our main mouse until the Shadow Blot pulls Mickey back through the mirror and into Wasteland. This is where our journey begins.
Visually the game certainly does not disappoint. The environments that you will explore throughout your journey are beautifully broken recreations of classic Disney. Mickey himself looks and animates great, as do the other characters that you will run across. The animated cut scenes are very unique and mimic colored storyboard style art. Overall the art direction fits in very well with the overall Disney canon and do a great job of making you feel like you are in a cartoon.
The concept of the gameplay in Epic Mickey revolves around destruction and restoration. Mickey can use his magic paintbrush to shoot either paint or thinner, giving you multiple ways to handle each platforming situation or enemy. Generally the areas affected by your paint/thinner stand out quite obviously from the rest of the environment. You may need to recreate the other half of a bridge to cross a chasm too wide to jump. You may need to use your thinner to destroy a wall or rock blocking your path. These combinations create several unique platforming situations for you to exploit. Generally speaking, choosing to over-rely on thinner will make things more difficult for you as your destruction of the world generally leads to a more difficult path to the next area.
The concept of the paint/thinner mechanic is a great one, and perfectly fitting with the overall theme. It’s unfortunate, therefore, that the overall gameplay that uses this mechanic doesn’t quite live up to its considerable potential. Most of the problems in Epic Mickey break down to the core C’s that can most severely impact 3D gaming: Control and Camera.
To say that the camera in Epic Mickey is flawed is like saying that Goofy is a little slow. The camera is constantly working against you while attempting the various platforming and environment navigation you’ll need to do to progress. The game does feature an auto-center feature, but it has a slight lag to it. Also, there are sections of each area that have a more static camera view will limited ability to change the angle you’re viewing the action from. These static camera areas are complicated by the fact that the camera isn’t always pointing in the most opportune direction. The game does feature a lock-on system for combat that locks the camera onto an enemy, however it doesn’t always select the enemy you’d like it to, and it can be difficult to differentiate when facing multiple baddies at once.
Wrestling with the camera in Epic Mickey might be more palatable if you weren’t simultaneously wrestling with the controls. The onscreen cursor has a noticeable stutter, and lacks the smooth grace and effortlessness of the Mario Galaxy games. Often because of the angle that Mickey is standing at, you’ll be pointing your cursor at a piece of the environment/enemy and will be spraying the ground instead. Mickey has a spin attack move mapped to shaking the Wii Remote, but it requires a pretty firm shake to activate and, like many aspects of the game, seems to happen about a half step behind when you’d like it to. Combat is repetitive and dull, boiling down to choosing to eliminate your enemies with thinner or turn them to your side with paint (although some robotic enemies later in the game do provide some much needed variety).
In the end, all but the hardcore Disney fans among us will be disappointed in what Epic Mickey brings to the table. Despite its huge concepts and lofty goals, EM functions as a barely serviceable action/adventure/platformer on a system that has two of the best in the genre already available. You cannot deny the hardwork and love that went into recreating the classic Disney characters and environments for the game. Because of this, I would still recommend Epic Mickey to those who love the House the Mouse built. If you don’t fall into this category however, you may be better served elsewhere.
Review copy provided by publisher.