EPIC MICKEY 2 REVIEW

Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records

I don’t like what I’m about to say. This review is very hard for me to do. Still what I’m about to say is my honest opinion. Epic Mickey 2 is the biggest disappointment of 2012 (the year I wrote this)! That’s not something I take lightly. That conclusion is made after long thought and I have beaten the game and completed the vast majority of sidequests. I was supposed to LOVE this game! This was supposed to be better than the original where the problems of the first would be solved and new gameplay elements are introduced and the franchise develops a true identity and the plot is grander and moves forward along with a fun co-op partner in Oswald. While there are plenty of genuine improvements the overall feeling by game’s end is disappointment and missed opportunity. What makes it even worse is the fact that there was real passion and effort put forward (not necessarily where it mattered, but whatever). What was given to us was a game with lackluster plot, thin to non- existent characterizations, clunky controls at a lot of moments, and terrible co-op.

STORY

The story of Epic Mickey 2 is surprisingly blasé and uninteresting. It seems that Wasteland just can’t get a break. Shortly after Mickey’s triumph over the Shadow Blot Wasteland is trying to repair itself, but the Forgotten World is suddenly disrupted again by mysterious earthquakes. Enter the Mad Doctor, a main baddie from EM 1, returns and starts to use his robotic creations called Beetleworx to repair Wasteland and he tells everyone that he’s changed and is there to help. Oswald is willing to give the Mad Doctor a second chance, but Oswald’s girlfriend Ortensia and Chief Gremlin Gus don’t buy it and contact Mickey in the normal cartoon world and the Mouse jumps back into action to solve the mystery of the quakes and the Mad Doctor’s trustworthiness. All the questions the player has when entering Wasteland are put on the back burner and are never truly answered or developed until the very end, and all the explanation is given at you at once long after the player either forgot, stopped caring or both. It’s put aside in favor of spending an entire 3rd of the game just repairing the projectors among other machinery. Playing mechanic and repairman wasn’t what I had in mind. Not even cryptic development is given to create true sense of foreboding or better yet villain development to compliment the explanation at the end. While many games have similar story elements, structure and tropes it’s been done much better. You as the player aren’t given much incentive to care about Wasteland as far as the main plot is concerned. The so called “plot twists” are extremely predictable and underwhelming. Not to say Disney stories are the most unpredictable, but they attempt to make a tried and true formula interesting while this game does not. It tries to put in poignant moments like its predecessor, but it comes off as forced, out of nowhere and there’s no real emotional hook into the action. There’s nothing truly terrible, but what we’re given is unacceptable for the type of story it wants to be and promised to be.

CHARACTERS

The characters don’t fare much better. The relationship between Mickey and Oswald is actually quite boring. I liked it a little better when Oswald was jealous and hated Mickey. It made the relationship interesting and the eventual brotherhood bond at the end of the first Epic Mickey so satisfying. Here it’s just boring and the two go through the motions of the already lackluster plot and have no true defining moment. Even Gus (performed very well by Cary Elwes) in all his charm doesn’t provide much except to constantly repeat objectives that don’t help! The worst offenders of bad character writing are the villains! I don’t know what it is with the villains of this series. The second you see the Mad Doctor and he says he’s reformed you know he is evil. His plan is NOT introduced bit by bit and when it is revealed it’s such a simple and cliché plan you just want to kill him and be done with it! Another character that is a piss poor villain is the evil Gremlin named Prescott. He’s supposed to be a mystery villain, but the second you see him in his introductory cutscene you know he’s a villain and his motivation is just as thin to nonexistent as the Mad Doctor’s. He decides to kill Mickey, Oswald and Wasteland because he’s underappreciated and his machines are glorious, but no one pays him any mind! Oh boy he’s one of those!!! Also the Pete Gang that consists of Big Bad Pete, Small Pete and Pete Pan among others become villains out of nowhere( at least villains for the 3rd game which will never happen because Disney closed down the developer Junction Point)! If I recall in the first game these characters were actually docile and relatively nice to Mickey and I found it very odd that they started to act like jerks in this game. No development no nothing they’re villains now! What a load of crap! The only character I really liked was Ortensia! She’s cute, sassy, and had the most expressive personality of any of the main cast! I don’t know whether that’s a good thing because it gives good and extremely necessary development to Ortensia or bad because Oswald and Mickey don’t have that level of development or expression. I’ve seen worse characterizations, but this was disappointing. One positive I will say is that the voice acting is very good to try and bring the level of expression and personality needed when the writing doesn’t.

 

GAMEPLAY

The gameplay of Epic Mickey 2 is inconsistent and is very hit or miss. Let’s begin with the movement control.

MOVEMENT CONTROL

Since this is a platformer Jumping takes on its own category and will not count as movement control. The movement control is much better than the first game. I don’t know whether it’s because the game is on a console I’m more familiar with (I played the PS3 version on the normal controller), but I do know that I had a much easier time moving around. The camera which was the worst aspect of the first game has been much improved and I have absolutely NO complaints regarding the camera or the angles it gave me. Running around an area is much smoother and is a welcome improvement.

 

JUMPING

The Jumping unfortunately still feels a little off even with the good camera! Mickey’s Double Jump is more accurately a role in midair and does little to truly boost your jumping power and the slippery surfaces don’t help where a jump that is perfectly capable of being completed you fall because you slipped off the surface for no real reason. I understand the developers wanted to apply cartoon physics and the Disney animation principle of Squash and Stretch to the game to be more authentic, but it is at odds with the genre of the platformer which requires precision. Mickey GET BETTER AND MORE STABLE SHOES THAT HAVE MORE TRACTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also since the jumping button is a multi-purpose button you have to press it to go into indoor locations or talk to NPCs and you will find yourself jumping when you want to perform these actions even when the prompt is onscreen so in that regard it is quite unresponsive.

 

COMBAT

The combat for Epic Mickey 2 is pretty much the same as the first (for Oswald I’ll talk about him in the Co-Op section) Mickey has the Magic Brush and he can use Paint to redeem foes and fix parts of the environment or he can use Thinner to kill foes and erase parts of the environment. Mickey can use sketches that give various advantages in battle, all the sketches return (Watch, Anvil, and TV) along with the new Fairy Sketch. The Sketches are useful in battle and you only need to purchase one to use them at any time, but the real disappointment is that there are no environmental puzzles to use them on and that was a good part of the original’s strategy to progress. In short, the novelty of Epic Mickey’s combat while still strong is nowhere near as intriguing as it was in the first and by the end you’ll be wishing for a Keyblade to hack and slash your way through. In an effort to shake things up the developers added two inks Invisible and Indelible. There are various fountains and wells throughout each area and by painting in objects around it, the well/ fountain will fill with Invisible Ink which will obviously make you invisible so the player can sneak past enemies. Thinning objects around the well will have it fill with Indelible Ink. Indelible Ink will coat the player in a gold casing and makes the character temporarily invulnerable although movement is slowed. This is used to go behind waterfalls of Thinner to find secret passages and such. While this is meant to shake things up the game gives you very little incentive to use them aside from the occasional mandatory usage and to add insult to injury the effects of the two inks don’t last long enough to truly be of any real use. For example you can’t perform any quick action with Invisible Ink or the ink will come off faster than it already does so that means no jumping. The Angel Side of Rainbow Caverns has a well and strong enemies patrol the area so you might want to use Invisible Ink to sneak past them, but the area is made of nothing but platforms to jump to!!!!!!!!!! WHAT THE HELL GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

2D SIDECROLLER PLATFORMING LEVELS

For those that read my review of the first Epic Mickey then you should know that I really criticized how the 2D sidescroller levels were needlessly long, complicated, too many and utterly destroyed the cohesion to the environment and destroyed the pace of the game. Thankfully this time they are absolutely PERFECT! They are the perfect length and difficulty and don’t overstay their welcome and are a nice stroll of nostalgia as opposed to a burden and a nuisance in the first game.

 

CO-OP

If my criticisms about story and characters didn’t scare my gamer readers away then the real game breaker of this being a terrible co-op game will! Oswald is a terrible Co-op partner!!!! The AI is TERRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is what made me emulate the Angry Video Game Nerd. Thank You James Rolfe forgiving me the fitting curses to bestow upon Oswald! Oswald is constantly in your way when you don’t need him and is never there when you do need him! Getting him to follow basic commands and basic co-op moves is an exercise in needless patience and frustration! It’s as if no one tested the AI it’s that bad! I thoroughly enjoyed Resident Evil 6 (well Leon’s campaign anyway) and its predecessor Resident Evil 5. Say what you will about those games they were good or at the very least competent co-op games (Sheva was dumb, but Oswald takes the cake!). One of the worst things you can do with a co-op game is create an overreliance on teamwork where every single solitary obstacle needs to be tackled together where the two playable characters are constantly joined at the hip and the players can have no real autonomy. Co-op is supposed to be an adventure in the company of a friend where players can be individuals and also be a team when it really matters creating a balance of teamwork and autonomy where one player’s strengths complement the weaknesses of the other. Epic Mickey 2 does not understand this and does what I described 2 sentences ago. Also the fact that Oswald is strictly a Player 2 character and you can’t choose to play as him in the Single Player campaign with an alternate opening or even an unlockable character after beating the game is absolutely CRIMINAL!!!!!!! You can solve the dumb AI problem by playing with a friend, but you sacrifice a satisfactory range of vision because this is a vertical split screen co-op game only! Since anyone who has played the first game can tell you that the combat can get hectic you need a full screen to get your bearings and keep track of enemies with split screen it gets confusing really quick (from the limited time I played with my brother) and also limits the strong big screen visual impact of the gorgeous art direction I’ll talk about later. Also as I’m sure you might have guessed there is no online co-op which makes no sense because a game like this seems made for it! Power of Two MY ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also Oswald’s abilities are extremely limited compared to Mickey’s If you’re playing as Oswald you’re more of a sidekick and what you’ll be doing is occasionally shocking enemies and being the Disney Universe’s version of Jill Valentine’s title the Master of Unlocking . You’ll be reprogramming locking mechanisms on doors and taking care of the second set of gears and levers and providing transportation with the Helicopter Glide ability.

OPTIONAL CONTENT

Since the main plot is lacking the true depth and TLC and greatness of Epic Mickey 2 is in the sidequests. Since the sidequests in the original weren’t really interesting and didn’t give any incentive these sidequests are the opposite! The quests are engaging and rather fun. Most are basic fetch quests, but the variety is what you’re looking for, where you get the items and how you get the items. The rewards are awesome collectible pins which can also be purchased at the Pin Trader Shop on Mean Street. Another excellent aspect of the sidequests is all the NPCs you meet. The main heroes are boring and underdeveloped, but the NPCs are excellent! They have expressive and crazy personalities and are a joy to talk to such as the 3 Little Pigs all talking in rhyme and Gus getting impatient with them. I LOVE Gremlin Jamface he is awesome! Other than Ortensia and Gremlin Jamface my favorite character is the Haberdasher! He is absolutely insane! Everything he says is absolutely crazy, quirky and I love talking to him to hear what crazy thing he’ll say next. Which leads me to the other aspect of the optional content! By collecting bits of cloth and selling them to the Haberdasher or opening special chests the player can have alternate costumes! The alternate costumes are a very fun addition and provide various bonuses to Mickey and Oswald’s Stats. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Costume is the best because of the nostalgia and the upgrades it gives to Paint and Thinner. In fact shops in general are more prevalent and play a more active role in the game which means E Tickets are more useful than ever and I love any inclusion of RPG elements. The Emporium and Ice Cream shop sell concept art, pins, etc along with shops all around Wasteland such as Tiki Sam’s in Ventureland and Le Bat En Rouge in Bog Easy. Another aspect I love is improved transportation around Wasteland! By completing the sidequest to repair the Train Stations around Wasteland the player can have access to the Trains and ride them to the 4 corners of Wasteland for a relatively cheap price. Also by collecting the film reels in the projector sections you can take them to the Mean Street Cinema to instantly transport to a destination w/out the platforming. This creates a level of interaction in the everyday business and commerce of the world as well as fast convenient travel for completing side quests and are the excellent improvements of Epic Mickey 2!

 

MUSIC

The Music of Epic Mickey 2 is excellent! Even if many if not all the music is from the original Epic Mickey it is still good and perfect for the game. As for the musical numbers I’m indifferent towards them. I don’t love them or hate them. The songs are way too unevenly spaced to leave a real impression and since there is no real and excellent dialogue to compliment the lyrics of the songs they don’t pack the storytelling punch they should at least for a musical. Also the presentation of the songs is weird. The songs are way too self aware to evoke the classic Disney musical feeling. It seems like a Spamalot song not a Disney song. Nothing wrong with that, but if the intent was Disney musical they didn’t do that.

 

ARTISTIC PRESENTATION

As with the first Epic Mickey the Art Direction and the design and imagination of the new areas of Wasteland are breath taking and a sight to behold! There is only one problem I have. The first Epic Mickey did a good job of designing areas that were platforming areas without feeling and looking like stale platforming obstacle courses, but in Epic Mickey 2 some environments blatantly are glorified obstacle courses and not attractions and actual areas that Mickey must maneuver his way through or just fight his way through. The biggest offenders of this are Dark Beauty Castle (I’m angry because that’s my favorite area of Wasteland) and the second half of Disney Gulch. Still this department of the game is incredible!

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

This game has a lot of good and passion and dedication behind it and I respect Warren Spector greatly as an artist and game designer and a fellow Disney fan, but that good and passion in this game was not concentrated where it mattered. The minute to minute game experience was completely ignored despite the improvements to movement, camera and transportation. Also the promise of a fun co-op experience unfortunately was a big fat disappointment with a dumb AI and no online features as well as not being able to control Oswald the way he should be. Have a Happy New Year everyone here’s to 2013!

 

VERDICT: 2.9 MAGIC BRUSHES OUT OF 5

PS.How can blotlings exist without the Shadow Blot?!

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