Epic Mickey 2: The Power Of Two
Developer: Junction Point
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1. 2-player drop-in/out co-op play
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In Disney’s Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, you play as Mickey Mouse and his pal Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, with AI controlling Oswald’s actions. As the title suggests a second player can join at any time and take control of Oswald, and drop out at any time too, which is a very neat feature. Not many people will know this but Oswald, not Mickey, was Walt Disney's first cartoon star, so these two heroes really are Disney “royalty.”

Epic Mickey 2’s story begins shortly after the conclusion of the original Epic Mickey (a Wii-only game), with Oswald and all the other Wasteland residents starting to rebuild their world after the events of the first game. Earth tremors constantly threaten to undo their work, but the Mad Doctor (an enemy in the first game) appears and convinces Oswald to combat the new menace in the form of baddies named Ian and Prescott (sadly no relation to our “beloved” former Deputy Prime Minister.) But Oswald’s girlfriend Ortensia doesn't trust the Doctor and so she and Gus (Oswald's gremlin helper), persuade Mickey Mouse back to Wasteland to help.

At its core Epic Mickey 2 is a pretty standard 3D platform adventure with 2D sections, and plays in a similar way to the first Epic Mickey game, with the PlayStation Move compatibility doing a good job of replicating the experience of the original Wii game. I’d love to tell you that it plays like a dream with the Move controller and a joypad but I can’t; everything just seemed more difficult, time consuming and fiddly, so after several hours I gave up at played with just the traditional joypad controls alone.

So, controller preferences finally decided we’re off on this Epic adventure, with Mickey and Oswald travelling around the small and weird but beautifully formed world of Wasteland, an alternate world filled with 80 years-worth of forgotten Disney characters and ancient theme park attractions. In places Wasteland has been drained of its colour, and Mickey can use his magic paintbrush to fill in missing scenery with paint, or remove other parts with thinner to reveal new pathways to previously inaccessible areas. Mickey can also squirt enemies with paint to make them friendly (yeah, that makes sense) or with thinner to kill them (more logical.) Oswald has a powerful remote control that allows him to control electricity and energise powerless gadgets and machinery, with some clever and amusing contraptions and fairground rides to be discovered along the way. Oswald can also use his remote to stun enemies so Mickey can take advantage of them, either killing them or “befriending” them.

Oswald can also hover-glide if tossed into the air by Mickey, by twirling his floppy ears, and Mickey can hang on to his feet, meaning they can cross quite big gaps if they co-operate. This’d be fine if Oswald’s AI was pin sharp and he was always where he should be. The problem is that Oswald seems to be as disinterested in the game as I was at the end, when I reached a seemingly impassable obstacle that just didn’t make any sense at all (note: I later found the solution on YouTube which was frankly absurd, and I’d NEVER have found it on my own if I’d played the game till doomsday.) Leading up to this game-ending event Oswald frequently wandered off on his own, refused to follow Mickey and then reappeared when you least expect it, sometimes even getting in your way and knocking Mickey off a platform! He is remarkably annoying, and has presumably been given the nickname “The Lucky Rabbit” because nobody in Wasteland has chopped his feet off in a fit of crap AI-fuelled rage. Things improve if you can convince someone to drop in and play split screen co-op, but do you really want to share this sort of confusing, fun-free experience with a friend or loved one? Fortunately they can drop out just as quickly.

The game features a completely nutty story co-written by award-winning American comic book writer Marv Wolfman and Junction Point, and inspiration from a host of other classic platform adventures like Super Mario Sunshine, Banjo Kazooie, Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter and even the Prince of Persia games, as well as a fair bit of originality from designer Warren Spector (famous for the Ultima, Wing Commander, Thief and Deus Ex games.)

And now this is where I have to voice the most serious problems that I have with the game: Regardless of the talent involved in the development of this game the overall look, feel and design is where the game left me cold. At the very core I, like most of my generation, don’t really think of Mickey Mouse as a “beloved” cartoon character like Tom & Jerry, Wyle E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny, rather more as a corporate mascot, and this means I find Mickey a difficult character to get attached to at the best of times; he looks vacant, emotionless and his high-pitched voice is a frequent irritation. Then there’s the levels, well-drawn as they are they don’t resemble somewhere where I imagine Disney characters to happily live, and rather than a pleasant trip through a Disney wonderland the game’s levels often look more like the sort of place American McGee’s Alice would end up in one of her nightmares. There is a widely-held theory that the Mario games contain drug references and that some levels were inspired by “trips” both good and bad, and... well... Epic Mickey 2 may well have been designed by people on some sort of pharmaceuticals, so weird, confusing and downright sinister are some of the levels.

Despite many levels looking friendly and cartoon-worldy enough the actual “puzzles” and required actions make little or no sense and getting out of one weird location to the next is often just a matter of bumbling around until you find the exit, no matter how daft or unlikely it may seem as you traverse both town-like locations and weird fairground attraction areas with oversized automatons, aggressive mutant monsters and robots. The game’s map isn’t a lot of help when trying to find out what to do or where to go, and the friendly gremlins that sometimes seem to indicate or suggest the way to go are often difficult to see, especially when playing split-screen. If it all sounds confusing then that’s because it is, some of the level design is utterly baffling; with movie screens used to warp to new areas, as well as more logical lifts, trains and cable cars. Wasteland is a difficult place to explore and even harder to care about.

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two can genuinely be described as a "musical" because at various points during the adventure characters will burst into song to both advance the plot and break up the gameplay. The songs are original with typically Disney-inspired music and lyrics. I found this at times to be extremely accomplished, and at others almost laugh-out-loud bad, as some of the songs appear to have been written in 5 minutes flat, with the performer simply speaking dialogue “in tune” rather than actually singing a song, but maybe that’s what “musical” songs often do anyway...

Okay, so I think I’ve mentioned all of the weird stuff, I should probably also bring up the time that the sound broke up (sometimes the music is meant to sound like it’s being played on an old gramophone so it wasn’t immediately apparent but the music remained ‘broken’ and crazed until I moved to a new area.) And then there’s the strange fact that Disney, even after all these years is still convinced that there is such a thing as a “male cow.” In the inevitable Epic Mickey 3 hopefully Mickey and friends will set out on an epic adventure to discover what the rest of the world know, which is that there is NO SUCH THING AS A MALE COW. You may have gathered, I’m not really sure who the heck Epic Mickey 2 is aimed at, the levels are frequently too weird for me; some of the enemies, sounds and scenery really can’t be aimed at kids despite the dubious ‘U’ rating, and much of the gameplay is too tricky and the puzzles too obscure for them anyway. That means Epic Mickey is aimed at us grown ups, and I’m really not sure there are that many septuagenarian, hippy, surrealist, games-playing Mickey Mouse-aholics out there.

And finally, sadly Epic Mickey 2 commits a videogame’s cardinal sin-it just isn’t much fun to play, even with the added appeal that co-op play should bring to the party. Once the novelty of playing a platform adventure with the Move controller is gone, you’re left with a confusing mess of levels loosely connected with what seems to be a gratuitously surreal and weird plot.

Best Bits

- Full support for both Joypad and PlayStation Move controllers.
- Looks nice in places.
- Drop-in, drop-out 2-player co-op mode.
- You can drop out of the co-op.
Worst Bits

- Oswald, and male cows.
- Confusing story and level design.
- Fun-free platform gaming.
- Who is this aimed at?
- Unreliable co-op AI.

by: Mal Function

Copyright © Gamecell 2013