There was a time, long, long ago, that the Disney name represented some truly iconic moments in gaming history. Castle of Illusion, Aladdin, even Kingdom Hearts were magical, majestic and monumental games in the Mega Drive and PlayStation 2 days.
Those days are long gone though and Disney has spent years with their attention devoted mainly to the feature film, theme park and purchasing every licensed property in the universe department, letting the interactive division to turn out reasonably average games over the current generation.
Outside of Toy Story 3 and Split Second, the cupboard was pretty bare until Warren Spector and Junction Point Studios turned up with Epic Mickey on Wii in 2010. Not only did the game breath new life into Disney Interactive, it also managed to run a fine line between homage and creativity, a line that allowed it to feel fresh while also giving older gamer an amazing feeling of nostalgia invoking those classic games of the past.
While not being perfect by anyone’s standard, Epic Mickey was a great start for what could be a brave new beginning for Disney. The question always lingered though, what would Epic Mickey be like on HD consoles? Two years later and Junction return, this time with new strings to their bow and gorgeous HD graphics to play with. Can lightning strike twice?
Epic Mickey 2 finds the titular, iconic mouse returning to the alternate Disney universe of Wasteland. After defeating the evil Mad Doctor in the first game, Wasteland hero Oswald sets about repairing the world and accepting the help of a seemingly reformed Doctor to do so.
Brought back by Oswald’s suspicious girlfriend Ortensia, Mickey reenters the world and is tasked with helping Oswald repaint the land, after a huge earthquake has splintered the already wasted wasteland. Teaming up with Oswald through the entire adventure, Epic Mickey 2, really is all about the power of two.
The game is fundamentally a co-op experience. Each character has different abilities that will allow them to progress through the game. Even when not in the control of a human player, Oswald will still be called upon to use his skills to move the game forward.
And there lies the most fundamental flaw in Epic Mickey 2. When out of your (or a partners) control, Oswald can make the game next to unplayable at times. It’s not that the AI is bad, it’s that it’s non-existent. Getting stuck is commonplace in co-op games which rely on computer controlled characters to activate cues, but the amount of time you will waste simply waiting for Oswald to figure it out is unbearable.
Outside of the control-breaking frustration of the AI, Epic Mickey also finds itself falling into holes that should have been fixed in the first game. Shoddy camera angles make judging some of the more difficult puzzles near impossible and the controls themselves are laboured, unresponsive and imprecise.
Coupled with an extraordinary irritating narrator/tutor/evil space gremlin, Epic Mickey is an almost unforgivable game. Yet despite all that it has going against it, the game manages to provoke a smile, provide a joy and even occasionally inspire a laugh through the long 20-hour journey to the end.
The attention to detail scattered throughout the wonderfully realized land of Wasteland is astounding, referencing everything from Bambi to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The occasional side-track into 2-D platforming not only recalls the wonder years of Castle of Illusion but the mind-bending craziness of Littlebigplanet.
Sonically, Epic Mickey 2 is also a step-up from its predecessor. With all the main characters now bearing voices, including the first ever voiceover for the previous mute Oswald, the game places the legacy of such iconic characters front and centre throughout.
Epic Mickey 2 is another adventure in the gaming world to under-deliver in 2012. On the back of such promise from the first, flawed entry in the franchise, Epic Mickey 2 is ultimately a disappointment because it has so much potential.
You really will want to like Epic Mickey 2, when not being driven batty by some illogical programming or wonky controlling, the game can provide moments of brilliance, it’s just a shame that they come so infrequently. [6.5]
Platform: PS3, 360, PC, Wii
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Junction Point Studios