- Good presentation
- Not bad for younger gamers
- Good concepts are poorly executed
- Bland and predictable level design
- Companion A.I is less than impressive
There are some that maintain that the original Epic Mickey was a stroke of brilliance, but at the same time there were those that believed a genius concept was let down by less-than-impressive execution. So now that the sequel, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, is upon us, how does it stack up? Having never played the original, I can only review the game for what it is. And unfortunately, it falls far short of the “Epic” mark that the name promises.
The premise is simple: Wasteland has been torn apart by a catastrophic earthquake and it’s up to Mickey to repair the damage and get to the bottom of why it happened, and most importantly, who is behind it. As you’ve probably guessed by the title, he’s not alone in this endeavour, with Oswald the Rabbit tagging along at his side at all times, who you’ll most likely wish you’d left at home to simmer in a frying pan.
Let’s start with the positive; the cut-scenes capture the essence of a Disney film brilliantly. The Mad Doctor doesn’t speak, but sings his dialogue, and as long as you can tolerate Mickey’s strangled voice then the game hits the nail on the head as far as presentation goes. As soon as you watch the joyous opening sequence, you expect good things to follow. It’s just a shame then that everything that follows isn’t quite as impressive.
To get Wasteland back in order, Mickey is empowered with a magical paintbrush that can fill in missing pieces of the environment, or remove unwanted rubble by flinging out a bit of thinner instead. It sounds like a brilliant concept, and one that should open the door for a multitude of ways to solve puzzles, but unfortunately the reality is different. Progression borders between the painstakingly obvious and the excruciatingly obscure, with key missing pieces of your surroundings either unmissable or seemingly never wanting to be discovered. You can also acquire “Sketches” as you progress which unlock new abilities, such as the power to slow time or make objects float, but the need to use any of these is next to non-existent. Even the combat boils down to merely firing streams of paint and thinner at a slew of generic enemies.
The Power of Two’s cardinal sin is that you can’t switch between Mickey and Oswald while playing on your own. From the off you realise that the game was designed to be a co-op experience, but you just get the feeling that the single-player portion was just shoved into the background. Oswald’s constant shocking of switches and hacking terminals is crucial for progress, so when the AI runs over and does it all for you, it makes you feel like a bystander at times.
There are also instances where the A.I is broken. I couldn’t see any major glitches as far as main story objectives go, but venturing for hidden switches off the beaten track often results in Oswald constantly walking into walls and generally being a bit of a nuisance. That means a second player is needed to get some of the collectibles, when a simple character switch would’ve done nicely. Getting Oswald’s hover ability to actually work can sometimes feel a bit fiddly too, sending you down 100-foot drops more often than you’d probably like.
In between each of the main levels, the action is punctuated by 2D sections. They only last a couple of minutes each, and are pretty nice to look at with their own unique styles and themes. Mickey’s debut ‘toon “Steamboat Willie” inspires one of the sections, while others include a skeleton-infested graveyard and a land filled with animated musical instruments. Unfortunately the core gameplay doesn’t hold up to the presentation, with the archaic mechanics going no further than simply running and jumping along stages that look like they’ve been designed in the Joe Danger Level Editor.
Apart from the main quest, there’s plenty of other stuff to get stuck into but you’ll most likely never have the desire to undertake it. There are nearly 200 different Pins to collect, which can be bought, earned by completing objectives, or found hidden in the environment. Then there are photos to take, icons to find, and lost gremlins to track down, which amount to far too many collectibles for you to even consider bothering with, unless you’re concerned with a few Trophies or Achievements for your trouble.
All in all, it just feels like a very muddled game. You wait a few hours for the story to kick off, but you’re left hanging on by a weak narrative that never really gets going. For the most part the levels feel like a series of interconnected hubs, and as a result it’s something that’s really difficult to find yourself immersed in.
Epic Mickey 2 is a game that’s hard to recommend. It might do enough to hold the attention of younger gamers, but more experienced players will probably find the whole thing too simple, tedious and boring to justify spending £40 on. While it might nail the feel of a Disney movie during some brilliantly executed cut-scenes, that alone isn’t enough to save the Mouse from emerging from the sewer and diving straight into the bargain bin.