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Review: Disney Epic Mickey

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Disney Epic Mickey

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Mickey Mouse is a cultural touchstone that speaks to all generations. Disney’s iconic rodent has spanned decades, sharing his trademark smile with the young and the old.

This holiday season, Mickey comes to the Nintendo Wii in Disney Epic Mickey, an adventure game developed by Warren Spector’s Junction Point studio.

Epic Mickey is set in the Wasteland, a domain populated by forgotten Disney characters: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Big Pete and Smee, to name a few. Mickey has inadvertently caused a catastrophe in the Wasteland and must rescue its denizens from a dark, shapeless evil known as the Blot.

The Wasteland is built like an amusement park. Mean Street serves as the hub from which Mickey can complete simple tasks for locals, purchase items from shops and access the game’s four themed areas.

Areas in the Wasteland are connected by awesome side-scrolling, platforming-heavy segments inspired by classic Mickey Mouse cartoons. These sequences are showpieces for Junction Point that provide brief flashes of brilliance in an otherwise ho-hum experience. Though, traversing these 2D segments becomes tedious when the player tries to finish the side quests for Wasteland locals.

Epic Mickey is built around the concepts of paint and thinner. Mickey wields a paintbrush that can create (paint) or destroy (thin) the ambient world. Much of the Wasteland, including the inhabitants, is susceptible to the brush, and Mickey’s decisions impact his journey through the Wasteland.

Paint, for instance, can restore derelict buildings, repair broken machines and befriend enemies; thinner acts as the antithesis to paint. The paintbrush dichotomy is a really neat gameplay hook, but it’s stuck in a mediocre game.

The camera is very uncooperative and often leaves the player high and dry with no option other than a leap of faith. Epic Mickey is a platformer at heart, so this frustrating fault becomes a constant burden.

As a whole, Epic Mickey isn’t a compelling experience. The game features some clever nods to Disney lore and vintage footage from the Disney vault, which add value for true Disney fans, but Epic Mickey is an underwhelming and largely unrewarding game hurt by glaring design oversights. That is a crushing revelation because Epic Mickey was clearly made by people with tremendous respect and love for the Mickey Mouse brand.

Epic Mickey is painfully easy, even for a game that skews toward younger audiences. Combat is stripped to the bare minimum, and side quests rarely go beyond simple, tedious fetch quests. Progression in Epic Mickey brings little sense of accomplishment. Lonesome Manor, a later area, turns Epic Mickey in the right direction, but the excitement is short-lived. The final stretch of the game drags when it should build to an exciting climax. Epic Mickey has a lot of extra “fat” that could be cut to make a tighter experience.

Visually, Epic Mickey looks unforgivably dated. The character models look good, but the ambient environments are rife with flat textures. The Wii is capable of better. Notably, though, Epic Mickey features some skillfully rendered cutscenes that leverage gorgeous shading techniques.

Epic Mickey is not without memorable moments or charm, but glaring flaws drag down the entire experience. The bad camera is an overt concern, but deeper gameplay problems plague a game that should have been much better.

Comments

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