First up – Epic Mickey 2 is a motion controlled game, and to play it any other way is to do oneself a disservice. Such was the case with the first one, but in releasing the sequel across multiple formats Junction Point have had to try and accommodate for multiple controller times with patchy success. The best way to experience the game is on a PS3 with a Move controller set-up, because with a Dual Shock the whole thing is rather cumbersome and poorly laid out (and we imagine the experience isn’t much different on Xbox 360).
Epic Mickey 2 is a game born out of an intense love for all things Disney. It’s a passion project for Warren Spector, one of gaming’s most adored designers (Deus Ex has really
held up well) and a lifelong fan of all things Disney. As with the first Epic Mickey, this is a game very much concerned with the past – not just the history of Disney, but also the history of videogames. It has the feel of an old Rare platformer, with way too many things to collect and a general passion for jumping through colourful worlds.
It’s a shame that Junction Point have captured the enthusiasm of these old games without quite nailing the mechanics. The paint and thinner system, which allow you to paint in or remove certain parts of the world and influence whether enemies die or team up with you, still feels pretty clever, and the consequences have been ramped up a bit from the last time. It’s hard to get a cohesive idea of just how much influence you’re having over the wide world of Epic Mickey at any given time, but on a moment by moment basis, impact is felt. It simply doesn’t tie together as well as it could, and the actual jumping around – a key part of any platformer – feels like an afterthought.
The puzzle solving is never particularly exciting, either, thanks in part to the ineptitude of your partner Oswald’s A.I. The game can be played in two player split-screen, which is probably ideal, but the lack of an online option will limit your choices. The camera still hasn’t really been fixed either, meaning that numerous sections can result in a lot of frustrated bumbling.
But for some, the game will be worth playing just because of how lovingly and intricately it has been put together. You don’t need to be a huge Disney fan to recognise that this is a far more sincere tribute to Walt’s legacy than Kinect Disneyland was; this is a true land of Disney, one utterly enamoured with singing pigs, rad 2D levels based on even radder cartoons, and numerous little cameos. Perhaps a character from an old Disney movie will pop up etched into a nearby wall; maybe the next platform you jump on will resemble a piece of Disney memorabilia; it could be that you stare into the clouds and see Mickey’s world famous head-and-ears silhouette. It’s easy to forgive the faults of a game that so frequently gives you little reasons to smile along the way.
So perhaps the real appeal of Epic Mickey 2 lies in the occasional scribbles in the margins rather than the main tale. This is very much a game that Warren Spector wanted to make, not the game his fans wanted him to make; the real fun comes from soaking in the contents of the man’s mind, the ideas that govern the world he has created and the ways Disney memorabilia have come together into something grand, rather than from the simple experience of playing through it. It may not be Spector’s greatest game, but in some ways it feels like his most personal.