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Disney Epic Mickey 2 is a beautiful, nostalgic, and visual delight full of classic Disney sights and sounds. It’s a musical, a multiplayer cooperative game for two players, and a loot-gathering role-playing game. It’s also, sadly, kind of broken.
The title, reviewed here on a Xbox 360, starts off exceedingly well. The Wasteland is once again in need of its hero, Mickey Mouse, and a newly reformed Mad Doctor joins forces with the inhabitants to call to Mickey once again through a magic television set. Oswald, the mute focus of the first Epic Mickey game for the Wii, is waiting to join the adventure. This time around, he’s got as many speaking parts as all the other characters, including Gus the gremlin, voiced by Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame.
Epic Mickey 2 was made available on the Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC/Mac on November 18, 2012.
Everything begins with a mad dash through Dark Beauty Castle, down Mean Street North and South (the in-game analog to Main Street from the Disney theme parks), and on to OsTown, which is really Toontown in disguise. Earthquakes have been plaguing the town, wreaking all kinds of havoc. It’s up to Mickey and his pal Oswald to track down the source of all the problems and save the toons once again.
What You’ll Like
The lush graphics do not disappoint
The high-definition output of the Xbox 360 version makes the original Epic Mickey for the Wii unappealing and unattractive. Everything is sharp, bright, and simply gorgeous, inviting a closer look at the environment and the various characters and enemies in the game. Each and every land in Epic Mickey has a unique feel, with environments drawn lovingly from the huge oeuvre of Disney visual lore. You’ll see enemies based on the little robot from The Black Hole, The Little Mermaid, and even a boss level with Pete’s Dragon. Anyone who’s seen a Disney film will find something unexpected around the corner while playing through.
The stylized, grainy, two-dimensional cutscene story segments that take place between larger lands and episodes are whimsical and delightful to watch. Even in segments without much story, my whole family looked forward to setting the controllers down, leaning back, and soaking in the vivid colors and retro animation style of the interstitial movies.
It truly is about player choice
Warren Spector calls it play style, saying that he never judges players. Since Mickey has the power of paint and of thinner, the environmental puzzles in each thematic land typically have a couple of different solutions. You can thin enemies, hit them with an up-close spin kick, or you can paint them, which gives them little blue hearts above their heads and makes them friends.
While my children played through some of the game on their own, thinning enemies and painting environments, I stuck to pure painting. My game was much different from theirs, ultimately. The quests and interactions I had with some characters and quest givers, most notably the ghost in Bog Easy and Blot Alley, were distinct from the ones my kids reported with the same characters.
There’s a lot to do here
Visiting all the nooks and crannies of lands like Autopia, the Train Tunnels, Fort Wasteland, and the rest will take a lot of time, but it’s well worth it. You will uncover hidden paths and passages, side quests aplenty, and tickets and pins to collect, each enriching the main gaming experience. I’m certainly going back to play through the game at a much slower non-reviewer pace to see all that’s on offer.
What you won’t like
The power of two isn’t enough
Whether playing with one of my kids in split screen co-op mode or as a single player on my own, Mickey is definitely the main character while Oswald is support. You cannot play as Oswald except in multiplayer. Which is fine, of course, as it isn’t titled Epic Oswald. However, the support of a second character, whether AI controlled or second human directed, is never quite as powerful as I wanted it to be.
When the game controls Oswald, he continually gets in the way, which is especially annoying during platforming sections when precise control and vision is paramount. You can call him to your side, but he takes his sweet time, and more often than not needs several reminders to figure out what you want him to do. Oswald is much more helpful when moved around by a second controller, even if the directing child is hopeless at cooperating with what you want him to do. Ahem.
The camera and split screen are frustrating
While the camera control seems a bit more useful in Epic Mickey 2 than it ever was in the original title, it still feels like old technology, especially when battling aggressive enemies or trying to jump to a really tough spot high up in some trees. Foliage and walls keep cutting off any sort of predictable viewpoint and make these sections really tough, which is surprising for such a child-friendly game.
My kids and I finally gave up on split-screen gaming about three-quarters of the way through, deciding that being able to see more of each environment was more important than having constant control of Oswald. When we needed to get his attention, we added in a controller, had someone in the room put him through his paces, and then quickly returned to full-screen mode. It’s a shame that a game that’s so focused on cooperative play is lost in poor implementation of split-screen mode.
There’s no joy in repetition
Honestly, the story failed to compel even my kids to want to keep playing through the several hours of repetitive tasks. We took turns yelling at Gus the gremlin to shut up as he shouted out his scenery-chewing dialogue for a third, fourth, or tenth time. Several checkpoints force you to sit through dialogue or watch as the camera pans across the field of enemies in particularly tough environments. When Mickey dies again and again, it becomes tedious fairly quickly.
What happened to the musical?
Epic Mickey 2 has a couple of fun show tunes in the first act that mostly disappear soon after. I had high hopes for the musical interludes that the first scenes all but promised, with the Mad Doctor singing his little animatronic heart out, but they never really pan out. It’s like the developers forgot about the singing. And that’s just sad. If Disney can’t make a decent musical video game with the amount of talent at its disposal, who can?
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power Of Two is doubly disappointing since it promises so much. I went in expecting a rousing, emotionally resonant story for kids and the young at heart that was full of Disney magic, and I came out with an empty feeling. The warm visual design and familiar characters of Mickey, Oswald, Goofy, and Donald are ultimately underserved by a disjointed story line and poor implementations of technology like cameras and cooperative split screen.
While Epic Mickey is a treat to look at and provides some delight — mostly in the visual nods to older, more forgotten Disney character and environmental design — it finally falls far short of the wondrous, creative, simply magical experience it promises.
GamesBeat Score: 65/100
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power Of Two released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Nintendo Wii on Nov. 18. The publisher provided GamesBeat with an Xbox 360 copy for the purpose of this review.