1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY: EPIC MICKEY Review

Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records

 

In 2006 Disney saw a serious change in management when the Eisner regime came to an end and was replaced mainly by board members that were from PIXAR with Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, John Lasseter and Roy E. Disney from the old regime as well as new CEO Bob Iger. Most likely one of the first discussions that were brought up in the creative divisions after the new regime settled in was how to bring Mickey Mouse back from his rut as a corporate logo and product. Now I obviously wasn’t there, but I guarantee you that someone mentioned that Mickey was already a well established and developed supporting character in the Kingdom Hearts series and with that series already really successful it made sense that Mickey’s return as a leading man in a story would be in the videogame medium. The concept of Mickey meeting his predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in a world of forgotten characters was established early on and was the impetus for Disney reacquiring the rights to the Oswald character (Who is Oswald? If you don’t know stay tuned for that). Disney knew that in order for this project to work it needed to be in capable hands and when the decision was made that the newly acquired Junction Point Studios would create the game the concept could not have been in better hands than videogame industry veteran (and creator of Deus Ex) Warren Specter( who is a huge champion of storytelling, characterization and consequences in videogames)! Specter was given complete access to the Disney archives to create one of the most authentic and sincere videogame tributes to Walt and everyone’s favorite Mouse. The game was released in 2010 and Nintendo Wii owners were taken to a world unlike any other where choices have consequences and forgotten friends can be loved and remembered again, all while controlling and witnessing the journey of Mickey Mouse’s adventures and path of redemption and reunion with a long lost cartoon brother in the award winning EPIC MICKEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I thought my 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY should be something big and epic! 

Opening

STORY

 

While Kingdom Hearts takes a much better, complex approach on the facets of human emotion and the Disney ideals and how they connect to the human experience Epic Mickey takes a simpler and more oldschool approach which serves as great variety in the hopefully ever growing Disney epics (Disney actually having excellent and epic stories in videogames that rival and surpass the stories of their films and TV). The set up is this: one day the mirror in Mickey’s room leads him to Yen Sid’s Tower and he witnesses Yen Sid using a magic paintbrush to create a replica of the Magic Kingdom so that lost and forgotten cartoon characters can have a home and live in peace. Mickey not knowing what it is messes with the paintbrush and creates an evil entity known as the Shadow Blot and it ravages the new Magic Kingdom and Mickey barely escapes back to his room. Some time later the Blot finds Mickey and drags Mickey through the mirror and into the ruined Kingdom now known as the Wasteland! There he encounters the Shadow Blot’s partner in crime the Mad Doctor.  Mickey also encounters the deposed Wasteland ruler Oswald the Lucky Rabbit! With the help of the forgotten characters called Gremlins (Gremlin Gus in particular) and the magic paintbrush as his weapon Mickey embarks on a quest to not only get home, but to save and restore Wasteland from the destruction that he caused meeting forgotten characters, animatronic versions of his friends and exploring alternate versions of Magic Kingdom landmarks, and even finding a friend and brother in Oswald along the way. It all builds up to one of the most satisfying endings I’ve ever seen! I love every single second of that ending the ending is absolute PERFECTION!!!

 

The story is filled with excellent imagination and brings back an element that has been missing from almost all Disney titles recently and that is simply charm. The actual events are basic, but the imagination of the world, Mickey back as a mischievous and adventurous character, and a true loyal sense of old school charm and magic make this game’s story excellent!

 

Well if you want me to nitpick the story there are a few plotholes such as the time transition in the very beginning of the game because Mickey destroys the new kingdom and creates the Wasteland and them he goes back to his room and then the calendar starts to count the days and the pages show images of his entire film and cartoon career. So that means after 80 SOME ODD YEARS Yen Sid one of the most powerful sorcerers and pretty much the most powerful being in the Disney universe couldn’t save Wasteland in that amount of time!!!!! BS!!!!!!!!!!! Another plothole is that in order to escape Wasteland one must have a heart. Which immediately makes no sense seeing as the characters encountered are classic Disney type kind and friendly people as their default personality. These are not mean spirited people how do they not have hearts and the qualities to escape? I know you could explain Oswald because of his jealousy and bitterness towards Mickey, but there was plenty of kindness and love in his heart for Ortensia and his bunny children and genuinely wanted to help his kingdom, but couldn’t so even that is very hard to swallow. Still these flaws come nowhere near ruining the experience and are negligible at best! An excellent story!

CHARACTERS

 

The characters in this game have elements of classic Disney charm as well as the badassery we’ve come to expect from modern epic heroes and villains. There are elements of cartoony humor mixed in with really good emotional elements as well such as Mickey’s guilt over destroying Oswald’s Kingdom and the friendship and brotherhood that forms between Oswald and Mickey! The supporting cast is no slouch either with the Gremlins providing assistance to Mickey throughout his journey as well as Oswald’s return to any form of media after an 80+ year hiatus.

 

GREMLIN GUS

Gremlin Gus is the primary gremlin that helps Mickey out during his journey he is the companion that is always by your side (in cutscenes) and is the one that conducts the tutorials in a very 4th wall breaking way. He is brave and loyal and will do whatever it takes to help Mickey restore Wasteland!

 

MAD DOCTOR

The mad Doctor is one of the primary antagonists in the game. He has joined forces with the Shadow Blot and seeks dominion over Wasteland and wants to transform everyone in Wasteland into animatronics that are under his control of course and has a bunch of evil robotic henchman called beetleworx. He is a very interesting villain (and a forgotten one from a great early Mickey cartoon and was a primary adversary of Mickey in the comic books) his visual style and abilities are very cool despite his nonexistent personality and 1 dimensional goal.

 

BEETLEWORX AND BLOTLINGS

These are the foot soldier enemies of the game. The beetleworx are hostile animatronic robots created by the Mad Doctor and are the most difficult enemies to defeat in the game. They can look like various things, one legged chickens, pirates and bugs and robots with disturbing yet awesome Disney Character faces. The blotlings are basically spawns of the Shadow Blot and are comprised of dark ink. The Blotlings come in various shapes and sizes. Some are easy to dispose of while some are more difficult and require more caution and skill.

 

SHADOW BLOT

The primary villain of the game. The big problem with the Epic Mickey Villains is that they’re not really developed and are very 1 dimensional. But the Shadow Blot is extremely well designed that he has such presence and aura despite his 1 dimensionality. You know he means business and once his true power is unleashed he causes mass destruction that is the game’s epic finale, but I would have liked a more compelling aspect of his character like having him be the evil that resides in Mickey brought to life so Mickey is essentially fighting himself.

 

OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT

Okay so for those of you who don’t know who Oswald is he is a character created by Walt Disney in the early 1920s and was popular enough and Walt planned to use him to get his start in Hollywood, but back then distributers owned characters not creators and the character was basically stolen from him and Disney got the rights back a few years ago and here he is as king of the Wasteland! Oswald has the most personality and compelling character traits in this game. His story is tragic and reflects the fleeting aspect of fame as well as the fact that even his new home where he could have some semblance of a happily ever after in obscurity was destroyed because Mickey was screwing around with stuff he shouldn’t have. Oswald’s anger is certainly justified, but the excellent thing about the story and the character is that by seeing Mickey progress (by you the player making decisions) and the heroic aspects of Mickey Oswald begins to understand why Walt chose Mickey and didn’t put up a losing legal fight to get Oswald back! The best moments are when Oswald and Mickey are together especially during the ending! The silent exchanges between them in the animation is very powerful and beautifully done and it shows how Mickey’s courage and compassion far outweigh his flaws and how those qualities rub off on Oswald!

 

MICKEY MOUSE

THE MOUSE IS BACK!! Mickey has been a great supporting character in the Kingdom Hearts series, but now is able to flourish in all glory as an amazing leading man! It brings back the optimistic, kind, courageous, badass yet flawed, impetuous and mischievous and in some respects vain(in modern times because of his popularity) mouse that we all remember and love! When Mickey finds out that he caused this destruction, pain and suffering he resolves to not only get out, but to save this world and redeem himself. Mickey may not be as powerful or combat savvy as he is in Kingdom Hearts, but he’s still got it and has the abilities to match his resolve! This is an excellent return of Mickey Mouse as an actual lead character!

 

GAMEPLAY

 

Here’s where we get into the main negative aspects of the game. While the game mechanics are functional and solid for the most part this is easily the weakest aspect of the game. Here’s the shorthand of it. On the Wii you need both the Wii remote and nunchuck and the analog stick on the nunchuck is used to make Mickey move and the “A” button on the Wii remote is used to make Mickey jump and if it’s double tapped he’ll do a double jump which improves height and distance of the jump. Flicking the Wii remote with your wrist will have Mickey do his main physical combat move the Spin Attack which will knock enemies away and stun them giving you time (and is the only way to destroy a beetleworx once the weak spot is revealed). Pressing the “B” button while aiming the Wii remote will spray the enemy with paint. Paint affects the two enemy types in various ways. Against blotlings and bosses it will redeem them and make them friendly and help you in combat. Against beetleworx paint will clog up the gears and slow them. Pressing the “Z” button on the nunchuck will spray paint thinner that kills blotlings and bosses and destroys the beetleworx armor revealing the weakspot that the Spin Attack will destroy. The relationships and dynamics of paint and thinner are the keys to the combat. In a large crowd it’s always best to use paint on a few enemies to turn them good and give you some much needed backup or you can just go for broke and kill them all with thinner. There are also glowing orbs of paint and thinner called Guardians that appear when ever Mickey constantly uses either paint or thinner and with flicking the Wii remote forward a Guradian will be used to either automatically turn one enemy into an ally or thin them out. They’re great if you need a quick fix, but it takes awhile for you to make them appear.

Gameplay Video

 

Paint and Thinner also applies to exploration as the Wasteland’s structures are made out of two types of materials Toon and Inert. Toon type structures are types that can be created or erased with Thinner. In exploration Mickey will have to either paint in a missing element of the environment or erase it to get him through the environments. Inert type structures are NOT affected by paint or Thinner and are truly solid objects of firm ground that Mickey can walk on.

 

Another element of gameplay and combat are the sketches. Sketches are well sketches of cartoon magic/ logic that Mickey can use to his advantage in combat. TV sets can be conjured to bait and distract enemies. Anvils can be used to smash and stun enemies (it destroys beetleworx outright since they’re robots) and watches can be used to slowdown time so Mickey can get through time sensitive obstacles and sequences.

 

There are very little upgrades to Mickey’s actual stats as in game rewards. Most of them must be bought in stores! Sometimes you may buy things in the opening areas of a certain Wasteland section, but mostly it’s from Mean Street (Wasteland’s version of Main Street) and there you can buy health upgrades as well as sketches and other collectables. Currency in the Wasteland are E Tickets that are traded and can be collected virtually anywhere from places in the environment to breaking certain objects lying about.

 

Another element of exploration and progression are the sidescrolling platformer segues in between each room of any area in Wasteland. Each one is based off of a classic Mickey or Oswald cartoon. While charming and creative at first these can get very annoying and really old very quick. Not because they’re hard or anything, but because there’s SO MANY OF THEM! Every single room in every area of Wasteland has these things and you NEED to go through them to just get to the next room or space in the particular section of Wasteland! It’s repetitive and extremely boring even by the halfway mark. Besides it completely throws off the exploration pace of the game. I want to explore this world and when I have to go through a stupid projector and platforming sequence just to get to the next room that’s a major buzzkill!

 

But not even that is as terrible and disgusting as this. While I may not have criticized the gameplay too much it’s because the actual ideas and mechanics themselves aren’t that bad! They’re actually really good! BUT IT IS ALL RUINED BY THAT GODDAMN CAMERA!!! FORGET THE SHADOW BLOT THE CAMERA IS MICKEY’S ARCH NEMESIS IN THE GAME!!!!!! THAT CAMERA DOES WHATEVER IT TAKES TO RUIN ANY GOOD VIEWING ANGLE!!!!! THE “ADJUSTMENT” IS HALFASSED TO THE POINT WHERE I STOPPED TRYING TO ADJUST THE ANGLE!! IN COMBAT IT’S EVEN WORSE!!!!!!!  In combat you can’t get a really good view of your combat area and terrain so you can’t truly form any real environmental strategy unless you’re close to a ledge that you can smack enemies off of, but that’s it. Also you can’t really keep track of your enemies and their numbers that well and it makes aiming a pain in the rear and makes combat needlessly complicated and a chore. Exploration though is the absolute WORST OFFENDER especially during the later parts of the game where exploration requires more precise jumping and the camera will give you a crappy and odd angle! If your jump is a few inches off you will fall and die!! YOU WILL, NOT MAY, WILL DIE MULTIPLE TIMES BECAUSE OF THIS EVEN IN SOME EARLIER SEGMENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It got to the point where I gave up on the game for months, but it was the world the story and the characters that kept me returning to the Wasteland and maybe the music made me come back too!

 

MUSIC

Composer James Dooley does a fantastic job remixing and giving new Epic life to classic Disney tunes while adding his own original flourishes! It beautifully captures the pain and sorrow and the pure hell the Wasteland citizens go through, but with a little bit of hope and obviously that hope is you the player controlling Mickey! Here is a list of a good deal of tracks. The fascinating and unbelievable attention to detail in the music is that the music will change depending on your choices of using Paint or Thinner and if you use Thinner the music will be very ominous and dark while if you use Paint the music will be lighter and more optimistic. Brilliant!

 

Mickey’s Theme

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=I-hvZk6-uVE

Oswald’s Theme

Mean Street Theme

Ostown Theme

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FcyRDX0IOS0

Gremlin Village Theme

Epic Small World Boss Theme

Mickeyjunk Mountain Theme

Tomorrow City Theme

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=A_HBBiPcTTw

Ventureland Theme

Pirates of the Wasteland Theme

Bog Easy Theme

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rFGCY9E-YKE

Lonesome Manor Theme

Dark Beauty Castle Theme (my favorite!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_IH8v83E9vY

Epic Finale (my other favorite absolutely perfect ending music!)

ARTISTIC PRESENTATION

I highly encourage that you buy the artbook for this game because it is gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The art direction is absolutely incredible! You can tell that people worked really hard on this with amazing imagination and a true love for Disney! The darker twisted imagery of familiar icons is awesome and makes it even more satisfying once Wasteland is saved! I also adore the cutscenes that are rendered to look like Mary Blair sketches. (Mary Blair was an excellent concept artist for Disney films in the 50s (Alice, Peter Pan) and also visually designed Small World and was one of Walt’s favorite Imagineers and artists)

One thing I also love is not just the art direction, but the consequence and choice story elements. There are many times in the main story as well as in the various side missions that are rooted in a form of moral choice. Some can be caught right away while others slip by without you even knowing it and your behavior and how you approach certain situations (even boss fights) will affect how certain people in town will respond when you talk to them and your reputation around Wasteland and most of all Oswald’s opinion of you. It’s nothing as extreme as say Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect, but is still really interesting and cool that this is a factor.

 

An aspect about the presentation that I don’t like is the silence in this game! That’s right there IS NO VOICE ACTING IN THIS GAME! Well okay there are voice actors, but they’re NOT acting they just have Brett Iwan doing the battle grunts which most likely were archive audio from Kingdom Hearts! In Kingdom Hearts Brett Iwan actually was able to spread his acting wings and truly be Mickey Mouse as a character and when he gets the chance to be the leading man the role is silent!!! WHAT THE HELL!!! WHAT A COMPLETE WASTE OF HIS TALENT!!!!!! The “rationale” behind this is that since Oswald was a silent cartoon star he had his world be silent. Okay first Yen Sid created Wasteland and I doubt he would do that and two since Oswald was jealous of Mickey he would want to have some of the elements that made Mickey popular like SOUND!!!!!!!! So the first thing he would do is give his world a VOICE!!!!!!!!! I mean don’t get me wrong the silence does work AT TIMES especially in the ending! The ending is PERFECTION WHEN SILENT, but other scenes aren’t and it would have been so much more emotional and meaningful if a voice actor could express it!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Epic Mickey is a truly ambitious and extremely imaginative and awesome way to bring Mickey back as a leading man, but it is not without serious problems! But you know what those problems made the game frustrating in a way that you really appreciate the excellent stuff in the game and you keep working at it and it is so satisfying when the struggle and the battle is finally won!And man that ENDING IS PERFECTION AND AMAZING!!!!!!!!! I CANNOT WAIT FOR THE SEQUEL BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE THE PROBLEMS I DESCRIBED ARE MISSING FROM THE SEQUEL!!! (Hey Guys it’s Present Day DisneyOtoko and boy was my past self in for a shock when he realized how disappointing the sequel was)

Verdict: 6 magic paint brushes out of 5 NEW SCORE: 3.9 Magic Paint Brushes out of 5

The reason why I gave a considerably lower score than the first time is becuase of an UNFORGIVABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE GAME BREAKING GLITCH THAT PREVENTS PLAYERS FROM ACHIEVING 100% COMPLETION!! In order to get 100% the player needs to play the game multiple times and do things differently because there’s NO POST GAME FREE ROAM!!! So no big deal right just play the game again. Well very late in the game the AVGN nemesis the Glitch Gremlin plays a mean little trick!

Basically the glitch is the game gets confused and loads a scene much earlier than intended and in order to avoid it the player has to immediately go to the final boss and finish the game when the opportunity presents itself.  If the player takes too long and tries to get 100% by completing sidequests the next time the player returns to Mean Street (The quests involve going back and forth a lot) the game will load a scene that takes place in the middle of the final battle skipping an entire boss fight and since the game has an auto save feature every time you enter or exit a room you are screwed!!! And if you try in vain to go to where you were supposed to go the game gets confused again and crashes! To have a glitch that prevents players from getting 100% when the developers FORCE players to replay the game in order to achieve it is UNACCEPTABLE and a travesty of game design and it is because of this that I have given it a lower score!

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