Mickey Mouse's rich history is brought to the fans' attention once again in his latest game developed exclusively for the Wii by Junction Point Studios. Does Epic Mickey bring anything memorable to the Wii library? Will Disney fans be satisfied?
Epic Mickey reminds me a lot of the N64 3-D exploration platformers like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Rocket. The main premise of the gameplay is exploring every nook and cranny to find all the collectibles. I have to say this game ends up being a large collectathon: find e-tickets (for currency), power sparks, your mechanical buddies’ body parts, missing valuables, etc. This list just keeps. on. going. You collect a bunch of items that seem completely arbitrary and serve no purpose other than to collect them! What’s even more ridiculous is that the rewards are often simply more collectibles (especially finding bronze, silver, and gold pins). But unlockable art concept is a decent reward.
Mickey finds a bronze pin. Yay?
But some items are useful, right? Well, in a way. The items you collect are tied directly to the somewhat complex mission structure, and if you decide to talk to the NPCs (non playable characters), you will be bombarded with a ton of tasks. The problem is that it’s not always clear which ones you should do first. You could easily find yourself in a situation where you’re taking care of one task for a NPC, complete another task for that same character which then pushes the story along (and forces that NPC to move on to the next area). When you end up finishing the secondary task, you are not rewarded because the story already progressed to a point where that mission has ‘expired.’. Perhaps the game could have benefited if the there were some categories like Primary versus Secondary objective. (And why does EVERYONE need Mickey Mouse to run errands for them??)
Ice cream cake quest completed!
Constant NPC chatter and dialogue severely slows down the flow of the game, especially in the early parts. You have a little traveling buddy who basically explains EVERYTHING for you in excruciating detail (if you thought Navi was bad in Ocarina of Time, just wait ‘til you see this), and often you can’t skip through the text. The game drags on way too long than is necessary. Junction Point could have streamlined the game a lot better.
Paint and thinner bring something unique to this traditional platformer. In fact, this element is one of the reasons I felt compelled to proceed despite the slow pacing, just to see what new discoveries awaited. To clarify, you play the game using the nunchuk and Wii remote combination. Mickey has a magic paintbrush that you spray simply by using the Wii remote pointer to aim and shoot. You can shoot either paint or thinner: Paint is the ‘positive’ aspect of the inked cartoon world, and fills in pre-determined objects. Thinner is the ‘negative’ aspect of the world, and is used to erase those same pre-determined objects. You can’t freely manipulate everything you see, as only certain objects and environments are affected, but you are definitely given a large percentage of the world to play with. I found it very enjoyable to discover new hidden rooms using the brush.
Left image shows thinner erasing a wall. Right image shows paint filling in missing gear
The whole paint and thinner mechanic is also a part of another neat gameplay mechanic where your decisions can change how you proceed with the game. Every gamer will have slightly different experiences due to the different branching paths in the game’s story. I can definitely appreciate having many different options to progress through the game. For example, when fighting one of the bosses aboard a ship at sea (a great reference to another Disney animated film, by the way), you have the option of either directly attacking the boss at ground level, or climb and platform-jump your way past the boss (while he relentlessly pursues you) in an attempt to save a buddy who can help you end the fight quickly. Another good example is with completing mission objectives for the various NPCs. Sometimes helping one character comes at the cost of not helping someone else, therefore depriving you of some random collectible item. I do appreciate this concept of “you can’t help everyone out all the time,” meaning there will be characters who end up holding a grudge against our hero. But in the end, none of it really seems to matter much. The concept is not fully developed and could have potentially gone a lot deeper.
Combat is not a major part of the gameplay, but certain areas require you to eliminate all enemies before proceeding (again, you often have the choice of using paint or thinner). Combat is a bit wonky, mainly due to the lack of a lock-on system. Now, we know not all games necessarily need a lock-on system, but because this game has such an unresponsive camera system, a lock-on system would have been a big help. Enemy combat simply becomes an unexciting and overly simple part of the game. Boss battles are a lot more interesting, especially when they involve challenging platforming action.
Awkward movements of the mouse? You can’t always control Mickey the way you want to. For example, when standing near an edge, the paint/ thinner spray doesn’t always go where intended, even if the reticule is exactly at the right spot. Sometimes you end up jumping a couple of times or finessing a bit while spraying. Also, it’s inexcusable there are absolutely no control customization options, including inverting the camera axis. In addition, Mickey has a spin move activated by shaking the remote (just like Galaxy’s Mario). However, it’s not sensitive enough for my taste (Galaxy nailed it perfectly of course), so I feel like I have to shake a bit harder than needed to pull it off, as if it doesn’t always respond the way I expect it to.
The camera does become a problem in certain places because certain areas of the game prohibit you from moving the camera at all. The way the game works, most of the time you can move the camera freely around with the D-Pad (veerry slowly), center the camera behind Mickey with the C button (the quicker and personally preferred method, but slightly annoying), and also go into first person view. But certain areas do not allow any of these options, inevitably causing you to fall all the way back down after an arduous trek up the platforms.
Simple 2-D platformer levels become the pathways connecting each of the main overworlds. These are great references to old Disney episodes (including some non Mickey franchises) but offer very little challenge or variety. These levels do very little to keep the player’s interest high, and I feel like these add almost nothing to the gameplay. These become more of a problem in some parts of the game where you’re basically forced to trek back and forth between some of the worlds to complete some of the missions.
There’s a lot of fan service in this game for Mickey Mouse fans. There a lot of obscure characters from Disney’s past, as well as from the amusement parks. There are even two full unlockable cartoons (and one of them stars Oswald the Rabbit). It’s really interesting to go outside the game, read about the real life history of Oswald’s creation by Walt Disney, and see this incorporated into Epic Mickey’s fictional story of a wasteland of forgotten Disney creations.
How does the game look and sound? The cut scenes have a very distinct look and style, kind of like… a cel shaded comic book? But it’s quite sad that Mickey has dialogue without his trademark voice! For a cartoon character as iconic as he, this is pretty jarring. Also, if you look at the concept art for the game, it does not translate very well to art style used in real time game play. There’s just something missing…
Example of cut scene
If only the in-game graphics had the same style as the concept art…
The music is not what I was expecting from a Mickey Mouse game, but a lot of the tracks sound very good. Most of the game is somewhat dark in tone, and the music sets the atmosphere up very nicely, being very moody with nice use of instrumentation. The throwback 2-D levels retain the original grainy sounding music from the old cartoons, which you will either love or hate. If you’re a purist, you can appreciate this detail.
The game’s length is about 13-16 hours depending on how many of the optional mission objectives you decide to take part of… I do have to say the end stages had some challenging and suspenseful platforming mechanics that merit a ‘final level’ classification, though the very end of the game focuses a bit too heavily on the poorly developed combat mechanic.
To sum up: The basic gameplay elements involving the paint and thinner system are good and in place but does not fully expand on its potential. The pacing of the game is too slow for its own good, making it easy to lose motivation going forward. Other gameplay elements drag down the experience a bit, making this a decent game to enjoy but not one of Wii’s brightest moments.
Yeah I do wanna try it out. One cool thing is that it's apparently quite possible to achieve things unintended in the game's design which is encouraged by the developers. I remember reading about how the first choice to use thinner or paint has you either get an item or save a npc, but in a playtest some dude figured out a way to do both.
Honestly this is something I find confusing about the game.
Yes, the paint/ thinner mechanic is sort of like Good vs. Evil decisions.
I've only gone through the game once, and I don't know how many endings there really are. Based on what other people have said, there's really only one main ending, with slight differences in the different characters' epilogues based on your decisions throughout the game.
If by "seeing everything" you mean being able to collect all the items and visit every stage, you'll need to play through the game at least twice while being careful to make the right choices at various points where the path splits.
According to one guide: said:
Several stages have alternate solutions and your reward for completing a given stage will vary depending on the method that you use. Also, getting the final reward for collecting film reels will require you to work your way partway through the game a third time.
What makes all of this easier is that the game does have New Game +.
Atmospheric game with a great painter/thinner mechanic, but wonky camera and tedious mission structure. For me, it was a breath of fresh air in the explorative 3D platformer genre, and worth playing for that alone. If you're a Disney fan, even in the slightest, you should definitely check it out.
Great review. I wanted to play this game but what's keeping me away is the horrible camera. We live in an age where either you let the player have full control of the camera or you have an awesome automatic camera like in Super Mario Galaxy and God of War. I wish they released a version for the PS3, not for the better graphics, but for the option of using a traditional controller with two analogue sticks.
I do appreciate the fact that the game gives you a New Game +. That is somethig that should become standard in games (if suitable of course).
Great review! Based on what I played, I agree with everything you said. Without the paint and thinner, I would've had no interest in this game. But those mechanics really did feel fresh and unique, keeping me engaged, despite the flaws that you mentioned (i.e. everything else). I think the game is $20 now. I'd say it's probably worth that. And I'd love to see where a heavily improved sequel could go.
I appreciate the feedback guys. I was worried the review may have been too lengthy or wordy.
@GelatinousEncore Yeah, I was debating the score for a while. The game comes close to my definition of an '8' game but doesn't quite reach it.
@Anand A sequel would definitely be interesting. The ending certainly leaves open the possibility. I feel Warren Spector has a good concept, it just needs to be followed through with much improved gameplay. A good 3-D platformer exploration game has become a rare thing indeed, and I hope to see more of it!
Your review pushed me into finally giving the game the time it deserves and at about 5 hours in I am loving it so far. Really it comes down to having a great idea for a game and deciding whether to pass on it because you may not be able to make it as great as it could be or just doing your best to make the game to the best of your ability. I think Warren Speactor ran with the second option and I have to commend him for creating a game which I feel is something quite special, the mechanics aren't quite there (although far from bad) but if this isn't a love letter to its source material then I don't know what is. I really do get a sense of love running through the title and you can tell that this isn't just someone phoning it in.