Epic Mickey for Nintendo Wii has creative side-scrolling sequences but the gameplay is alternately boring and frustrating
- Wonderful and gutsy concept that explores the darker reaches of the Disney universe, creative side-scrolling sequences, Mickeyjunk Mountain!
- Gameplay is alternately boring and frustrating, poor camera, some shaky jumping physics, dull missions prominently feature tedious tasks, campaign lacks momentum, story even seems underdeveloped in the campaign
Monotonous gameplay, a wonky and frustrating camera, and an underdeveloped campaign strip this otherwise creative and conceptually sound adventure of its "epic" status.
Price$ 79.95 (AUD)
On the drawing board, Epic Mickey is a surefire smash: A brilliant turn for perhaps the world's most recognisable original cartoon character, exploring grim material and feelings of jealousy, sadness, and regret in a way we've rarely seen from the typically fluffy Disney universe. But video games (perhaps more than any other form of art or entertainment) cannot be solely appreciated on a conceptual level, as the interactive element ultimately guides much of the experience. And in that regard, Epic Mickey can only be seen as a disappointment.
Mickey Mouse's quest to restore order to a land populated by forgotten characters — namely Oswald the Rabbit, the real-life precursor to Mickey — pops with creativity, as the game mines the deepest Disney vaults to explore long-past cartoons that time has largely neglected. Epic Mickey alternates between the primary 3D platform gameplay, in which Mickey wields paint and thinner powers to create or clear parts of the world (and convert or destroy enemies), and brief side-scrolling segments that let you travel between worlds.
It's in these side-scrolling stages that the game really shines, displaying an inspired spark typically unseen in third-party Wii games. Each level is based on a classic Disney film or cartoon, like Steamboat Willie or Fantasia, and wholly adopts the aesthetic of the source material. While these stages are more visually enthralling than particularly lengthy or challenging, some also use the presentational shift to enact new gameplay elements, like the Plutonia levels, which — in a stroke of brilliance — employ alternating neon backdrops to change the layout of the world and how your traverse it.
The game shines elsewhere, as well: The Mickeyjunk Mountain stage is one of the most interesting stages you'll ever see in a licensed game, essentially creating a junkyard world out of ancient Disney memorabilia, including shaving cream cans, a lunchbox, and even Mickey Mousecapade NES cartridges. Levels inspired by Tron and Peter Pan make notable appearances during the nearly 12-hour campaign, and sharp hand-drawn animation segments appear regularly. The lack of voice acting feels like a missed opportunity, though, and the dark and dirty in-game visuals frequently lack appeal.
But all of the interesting sights and creations are primarily built upon 3D platform-action gameplay that in turns inspires mostly boredom and frustration. Mickey's ability to wield limited amounts of paint and to create platforms and dissolve doors is a significant and fully integrated aspect of the game, but it's not a tremendously interesting element, nor do the "morality decisions" (converting or dissolving enemies) play a very large part in the game's progression. Otherwise, Epic Mickey takes the form of a pretty standard platformer, but the action feels dated and unpolished, as the poor camera system often generates impossible viewpoints and only complicates jumping mechanics that don't feel entirely solid or predictable. And Epic Mickey has no problems creating cheap, rage-inducing platform scenarios for you to sulk through, especially in the last couple of hours.
Gameplay blemishes can often be overlooked when thrilling missions and scenarios are afoot, but Epic Mickey feels like a nonstop array of fetch quests, errands, and dead-simple puzzles. Each new world presents a fresh slate of objectives, but collecting flowers feels no different from rounding up sombreros, nor do the room-clearing and "find the weak point" missions seem fresh or interesting. Epic Mickey also never has an opportunity to build momentum, as you're frequently interrupted with tutorial blurbs and obvious clues that weaken the flow of the adventure. And despite the fantastic concept and stylish cut-scenes, even the narrative seems overlooked here, with story bits and scenarios glossed over between inconsistent character interactions.
It's a shame, because Epic Mickey was one of my most anticipated titles of the year. But had I not been playing for review purposes, I doubt I could've put up with the dull and unrefined gameplay for more than a couple of hours. Conceptually, Epic Mickey is exactly the kind of game I want studios to pursue: A daring and gutsy take on very safe material that tries to tell an interesting story, as well as innovate with new gameplay concepts. Sadly, the execution simply falls well short in this case.
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