Disney Epic Mickey Review
Review By Steve Farrelly @ 12:41pm 26/11/10
Let’s get this clear right from the outset. Disney Epic Mickey is a solid platformer and does a bang-up job bringing Mickey Mouse back into the videogame limelight. It isn’t, however, a brilliant game, despite being helmed by the legendary Warren Spector. Nor is it evolutionary in any capacity; it relies heavily on mechanics pulled from other similar titles, but fails to actively apply them in a cohesive, or even fun, way. If you own a Wii and crave some platforming post Super Mario Galaxy 2, Mickey will scratch that itch, it’s just that in the wake of the former, Mickey comes across as a cheap knock off.
It’s not that the sum of all Mickey’s parts don’t make a great whole, it’s that at a base, fundamental level, the game itself is broken. The camera is one of the worst I’ve encountered to the point that fighting enemies is an exercise in uncomfortable tedium (is there a comfortable form?); its unresponsiveness and poorly positioned manual option is only the tip of the iceberg, as the automated follow system creates annoying instances where you can’t actually hit whatever it is you’re aiming at, and while it might seem like the Wii’s Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo are perfect for this genre (again, demonstrated by the likes of both Galaxy games), in Mickey they’re just convoluted and clunky.
There’s not a great deal of innovation here, despite what you may have heard. The game’s setting is certainly anti-Disney by design, in that the game-world is populated by the lost or forgotten in the company’s long history, and Junction Point have done a great job of making the world feel forgotten, but beyond the game’s two main characters, Mickey and Oswald, I just didn’t find myself caring for anyone or anything here. These things have been forgotten or discarded for a reason.
The unfortunate point to that is, the thin morality system in place is made all the more redundant if you just don’t care about your decision outcomes. Honestly, it didn’t bother me if I thinned someone out, or sent a Gremlin trapped in a glass cage (of emotions) flying through the air for a meeting with a brick wall.
The game’s paint and thinner mechanic; it’s touted tool-set to drive said morality system along with puzzle-solving and combat, is essentially just a borrowed idea from Super Mario Sunshine, with the added bonus of being able to ‘paint’ in parts of the environment (as opposed to just cleaning things away ala Sunshine). But apart from the odd section of the game where you thin out the floor to drop a pile of rocks blocking your way, then repaint the floor to progress, there’s not a lot of substance here. It doesn’t help that with such a mechanic, including a free-aim reticule on-screen for the Wii Remote, the camera system blocks your ocular freedom, meaning you can’t really freely look about the environment for ways to interact with it. The camera absolutely holds this game back from being more than it is.
The other main problem with the game is in its lack of identity. For the most part it’s a platformer with branching paths and something of a central hub, but there are core RPG-esque mechanics that pop-up, though barely fleshed to the extent they need to be, and these are often quite complex in design leaving me wondering how the less core players out there - people the game is also aimed at - will handle them. Its opening is tedious in that it’s a long and boring introductory level that sluggishly introduces the game’s mechanics, with no regard for players who might already know, or at least pick up quickly, how to play. The amount of times I was reminded to shake the Wii Remote to perform my spin attack left me yelling at the stupid gremlins on the TV. At least give me the option to turn off the tutorial.
From a visual standpoint, the game is hard to fault. It’s a very pretty game, and the engine is super solid. Many of the environments you visit are lush, but for the most part, I did feel it lacked flair overall. I realise this is the ‘wasteland’ and all, but the Mickey we know and (maybe) love prances about in colourful settings of a vibrant nature. Mickey himself is well animated and moves like he has in a lot of classic cartoons, with exaggerated elasticy jumps and movements, but he also felt a bit flat overall. Sure he’s the star, but by and large, like so many other characters of this platforming nature, he just felt like a bit of an empty vessel through which the game has you interacting with everything else. Games like the classic Banjo-Kazooie series did a much better job capturing a protagonist feel; leaving you with a desire to perform the often thankless tasks the games demanded.
From the outset, Epic Mickey is a hard slog to really get into. There’s no voice-acting here, just a series of grunts and squeaks from characters, which means there’s a lot of dialogue to read through and at the beginning of the game it can become a real grind because you’re being talked at so much. The game’s stride kicks in after around six or so hours, and I doubt a lot of people are going to get that far. The camera really breaks the experience, leaving combat and puzzle-solving entirely frustrating and not at all satisfying. Moreover, unless you’re a Disney fan or uber-nostalgic, a lot of the game’s characters and settings aren’t going to hold much glue for you; the collectibles are designed for die-hards, and unless you’re an OCD type of platform game fan; collecting everything just because you can, you’re not going to care too much. The problem with that idea is that the collectibles drive most of the game’s exploration, so if you don’t care, you’re not really going to explore.
Overall the game does its job. Mickey is back at the fore, though not as much as he probably could have been. Oswald is now introduced to the rest of the world, and he’s actually kind of cool, and everything else is reasonably solid, it’s just that there’s nothing new here and a lot of the game’s elements just aren’t full realised, leaving some parts less fleshed out than they should be, and others too worked. As a Wii game, it’s probably worth a look, but if you still haven’t delved into either of the Mario Galaxies, I’d be more inclined to direct you to them; they’re platform perfection. Mickey is platform reflection at best, and not the best at it.
It will definitely sate Disneyphiles, and kids will probably dig it, though its issue with identity crisis might just confuse them. Warren Spector fans should actually straight-up avoid this, because it's most definitely not Deus Ex or Thief starring Mickey Mouse. It's a platformer with light RPG elements and the worst camera I've experienced with this type of game, period. It has a reasonable story, a few cool characters, a good art-style and a great score, but there's definitely nothing new or innovative here. Mickey is back, but not nearly invigorated enough.