I really enjoyed the original Epic Mickey on the Nintendo Wii. Sure it didn’t live up to its amazing initial concept art and failed to deliver it’s promised good vs. bad system, but thanks to a combination of fun Nintendo 64 style adventuring and enough Disney references to make PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale’s effort at fanfare look pitiful, it’s a game experience that really stuck with me in 2010. So you can only imagine my excitement when Disney announced a sequel was coming. However does The Power of Two improve on its flawed original?
Epic Mickey 2 returns us once again to the Wasteland, the slumped home to rejected or long forgotten toons from Disney’s history. With things running smoothly for Oswald and crew, it’s not long before Wasteland is plagued by earthquakes, returning it to a pile of rubble and sputtering machinery. The newly-reformed Mad Doctor searches for a hero and in reaching Mickey Mouse via a magical television set, is once again on a repair mission, armed with his trusty paintbrush that enables him to paint or thin out parts of his environment.
The gameplay mechanics remain pretty much unchanged since the last outing with paint and thinner being your two main weapons in your arsenal when playing as Mickey. When you’re not hopping and running around environments, you’ll find yourself painting in missing sections or thinning out blockades in your way. There are a few new abilities such as being able to turn invisible or invincible with special inks that appear occasionally but overall you’re looking at a very similar experience to the first. Once more the game is split into 3D exploration sections and also side scrolling platforming sections set right in classic Mickey Mouse cartoons of old. You’ll find yourself switching between the pair frequently enough that just when one does outstay it’s welcome, you’re onto the next.
The biggest addition to the formula is the inclusion of Oswald as a co-op partner. His abilities differ slightly to Mickey’s allowing the player to jump higher, glide using his ears, pick up far away items with his boomerang leg and perhaps most useful, power machines with his electronic remote control. Like Mickey his handheld device is used to manipulate the environment and take on enemies with certain parts of your adventure requiring you to combine both brush and remote to progress. When playing co-op mode with a friend, the experience shared is great fun. You’ll be laughing as you attempt to co-ordinate an attack or have Mickey hop onto Oswald so the pair can fly to safety. Playing with a fellow Disney fan too also resulting in many “Oh wow that’s Baloo the bear from Jungle Book” and “Isn’t that from Nightmare before Christmas?” moments. Sadly when playing alone you’re stuck with Mickey while Oswald is handled entirely by the AI. This wouldn’t be so much an issue if Oswald didn’t make so many mistakes or take so long to catch up with you. While not game ruining, it certainly is the cause for some frustration.
Environments call from a number of resources from the Disney universe, be it movie related, merchandise or even sections or rides stripped straight from the theme parks themselves. Seeing these memorable locations from your childhood “re-imagined” in a more dark and twisted tone was exciting in the original and remains so here. Newcomer Frontierland gets said treatment here with a few more surprises in store too.
One huge complaint with the original was the camera and fortunately for the most part it seems to be fixed with The Power of Two. While not perfect, it does manage to do a decent job keeping up with the action without ever becoming frustrating. A number of times throughout my adventure I would come across sections where I was at a loss as to where to go next. With no clear indication and environments that can at times be a little too cluttered finding the right trigger or item to continue on my journey became a guessing game. Whether that’s my abilities as a gamer or if the game is just not clear enough, I don’t know. Furthermore the platforming, while most of the time plays great can run into a few hiccups especially when climbing pieces of the environment. I shouldn’t be getting caught or snagged on a small edge, these are things that should be ironed out given the game’s focus on traversing these obstacles.
It’s easy to argue that The Power of Two looks visually unimpressive compared to other big titles out this year, but it’s really the game’s character and attention to detail that impresses. Cutscenes for example sport fantastic cartoony animation sequences that look and feel like they could be taken straight out of a big Disney feature. Even the way Mickey plods along is a joy to watch, his animations bursting with character. Seeing a hidden Mickey in the distance, the walking brooms from Fantasia carrying their buckets, or using an actual Donald Duck lunchbox as a platform are just one of potentially thousands of little nods that litter this fifteen or so hour adventure. The upgrade to HD on 360, PS3 and Wii U certainly improves things slightly in terms of visuals, but just don’t go expecting a huge leap up from the Wii version.
Speaking of the Wii U version many of you are probably eager to know about the additions of the new Gamepad controller and what they bring to Epic Mickey 2. The answer is not an awful lot. There is no ability to play the game entirely on the Gamepad screem, a strange decision in itself. Howver it doesn’t stop there – there is no option to play with a Wii remote and nunchuck unless you’re playing co-op with a friend and even then it’s one player on the Gamepad and one with the combo controllers. The touch screen is also relegated to a mere map and inventory menu so nothing ground breaking here. Another problem that seemed to pursist was the frame rate. At times it can be downright awful playing almost in slow motion. While it only really occurs during moments of major environmental changes, it’s still something that just shouldn’t happen by today’s standards. While you’re essentially getting the same game as the other versions, it’s disappointing that the Wii U version didn’t offer more as it easily could have.
Every character in The Power of Two is fully voiced this time around and well done too I might add. Hearing Oswald talk for the very first time should have fans jumping for joy as should Goofy’s now famous yelp as he soars through the air. It’s actually the much hyped musical numbers that disappointingly fail to impress only appearing in a small handful of cutscenes. What’s more they all star the Mad Doctor and rarely (if ever) give supporting characters or even our two starring heroes the chance to stretch their vocal talent. Hearing the Doctor sing his intents or plan is fun the first time, but we want to hear from Mickey and Oswald. Where’s the huge number with everyone getting a line? It’s a bold first attempt at injecting songs into the series, but one that stumbles and doesn’t feel quite right.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two offers more of the same Disney-fuelled fun seen in the original and with the addition of a co-operative mode and plenty more movie and theme park references to uncover, fans are sure to love every minute of it. It doesn’t do anything drastically new and surprising, but what you have here is a decent little adventure sure to raise a smile or two.