Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Epic Mickey Review - The House of Mouse

Score 6.75/10

Disney's Epic Mickey
Wii
Developer: Junction Point Studios
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Pros:
  • Art direction and colorful cast of characters give great nostalgic feeling
  • Choices made can change how events play out, warranting multiple playthroughs
  • The Erase/Paint platforming has some great moments
  • Slew of collectibles
Cons:
  • Camera work is tedious, and troublesome for a platformer
  • Combat is dull, and often had me doing anything to avoid fights
  • Uninspiring fetch-quests
  • Inability to truly backtrack until New Game+
  • Once you leave a world, everything you painted/thinned is gone
  • 2D Side-Scrolling soon loses its appeal after overuse

Warren Spector is famous for System Shock and Deus Ex, both well designed games. So when word got out he was working on a game specifically for the Wii with the Disney license, people paid attention. Epic Mickey's reveal had many hopeful that this would become a must-own title for any Wii owners. The end result, however, left Mickey feeling a little less epic than he should have.

Mischievous Mouse

Epic Mickey starts out with Mickey passing through a magic mirror, where he stumbles upon YenSid using a magical brush to create a town for forgotten Disney characters. Mickey accidentally spills Thinner onto the world, creating "The Blot", who terrorizes and destroys the world. Some time after Mickey's success, he is pulled into the world by The Blot. With the help of the forgotten characters, Mickey must right the wrongs he has caused and destroy The Blot along with the Mad Scientist who seeks to use it.


The overall story and characters are well done, proving the most interesting aspect of the game. Spector's take on beloved Walt Disney characters is darker without sacrificing their classic appeal. An animatronic version of Goofy and Captain Hook still act like their counterparts. The Forgotten Characters also prove interesting, particularly Oswald the Rabbit, one of  Disney's first true creations.

A storyboard style of storytelling takes you out of the 3D space and lays it out before you like a silent cartoon. Though there isn't much here as far as story motivation, it's always entertaining watching character interaction.

To All That Come to this Happy Place

The best part of Epic Mickey is exploration of the environment. The game is essentially, a love letter to Disney fans. The worlds you are thrown into appear as clones of famous Disney attractions; including Tomorrow Land and The Haunted Mansion. The main hub world that you access all these worlds from is even called "Mean Street", an obvious play on Disney's Main Street. Having recently been myself, it was pretty neat to see many of the famous attractions turned into platforming or puzzle elements.


When you aren't exploring these environments in 3D, you are traveling between them in a 2D platformer, taking place in famous Mickey cartoons. Initially, these are incredibly fun to navigate and provided a nice beak from platforming. Later on, however, there is no "quick travel" between maps and repeating the same ones over and over again can get old real fast. They become less nostalgic, and more annoying.

In each world is a slew of collectibles to find. Most are obviously placed before you, while others require you thin/paint everything you can find to see what is hidden. It's a decent balance, though most times as I was looking for secrets, I did not realize that I was continuing down the linear path instead and doors shut behind you in most cases. It's unfortunate that you cannot backtrack as freely as you would think, but a New Game+ will let you catch it the second time around.

Color by Number

The central idea behind Epic Mickey is his use of the magic brush to assist him in platforming and combat. You use one of two triggers on the Wii-mote to hit with either Paint to fill items in, or Thinner to thin objects out. For instance, to cross a bridge, a light silhouette can be painted in to create a bridge. Alternately Thinner can be used to clear boulders out of a path. It's simple enough to get down after a while and satisfying when you chain it all together.

There are troubles with this method. Pointing the Wii-mote at the screen sometimes doesn't do the trick in hitting the target, causing you to realign your character to actually hit the intended target. Though most Paint/Thinnable items are lighter in color, it can still be difficult to determine what you can paint and what you cannot.

Something that bothered me the most was that once you leave the world through the projector, if you return, all your hard work is gone. If you wish to repaint and restore the villa to what it once was, take a mental snapshot, cause the game will have none of it.

Could Really Use a Keyblade Right About Now...

The weakest aspect of the game ended up being the combat itself. These situations use the same idea of platforming to an extent, where you paint an enemy to make them friendly or thin them out to destroy them completely. This is no problem one-on-one, but in groups can become irritating as you try to target a specific one. Attempting to paint enemies while adjusting the camera can become frustrating.

In later stages, you come across robotic creations that are not affected by the paint. For these you use a spin attack by shaking the Wii-mote. Ultimately these encounters prove just as dull. The combat was a portion of the game I constantly avoided, as each encounter left me scratching my head as to alternative methods they could have used. It made me yearn for Kingdom Heart's keyblade to make things go smoother. Though they do have "sketches" you can use to distract enemies, slow time, or drop and avil on their heads; it still did little to persuade me to stay and fight.

Luckily, most combat can be avoided with the "morality" aspect of the game. Choices you make determine whether certain puzzles will be easier to solve, or battles avoided. It's a nice balance, as the right choice is not always the easiest and vice versa. Some consequences happen immediately, and some are not seen until the very end. The boss fights are decent enough, with no particular one standing above another. Some fights are head on, others will have you choose a method to dispatch the boss. IE: Captain Hook can be thinned out, or you can free "Tinkerbell" to call in Peter Pan by climbing to the top mast. It's a good mix, where the slightest action can really help you/hurt you in the end.

Lights, Camera, Action!...Camera....Camera wtf are you doing?

The worst part of Epic Mickey lies in the game's camera work. In most situations, the camera is freed up and allows you to pan left and right (inverted by default, who inverts a horizontal direction?) or up and down to look around you. This method is relatively fine, as adjusting it was not the issue.

The issue lies in the fixed camera portions of the game, and there are a lot more than you would think. The camera will lock to a position that is typically undesirable. Most of the time when I wished to pan around, I wasn't able. The locked camera made platforming the biggest chore, and for a game based around that main entity, it was a pain.

Overall

I generally enjoyed Epic Mickey, but was ultimately disappointed. Great art direction and exclusive licensing was not enough to save it from overlooked technical flaws and uninspiring fetch quests. Mickey had the potential to be epic, but overall fell short. I personally enjoyed the game, but a typical person who picks this up will slowly see the magic slowly begin to fade.

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