Until we get a game starring the Mickey Mouse from South Park, titles starring the big-eared rodent mascot are destined to forever be colourful platformers. But with the first Epic Mickey, Junction Point showed that the Disney universe can be tinged with darkness, while staying true to the characters and House of Mouse history.
Mired in issues like a crummy camera, Epic Mickey fell short of expectations, but things look promising for Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, which throws co-op gameplay into the mix with the resurrection of forgotten Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Will the mouse and rabbit team make for a great game? Will Epic Mickey 2 colour your world or crap on your doorstep?
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Review
As a wise man once said, “It takes two to make a thing go right.” Obviously they were talking about co-op play, under the realisation that sometimes AI can be a broken buggy mess that makes you want to reach into your screen and strangle Oswald the, so called, Lucky Rabbit for yet again failing to help you in the way he BLOODY SHOULD! That may be a slight exaggeration but, the sad thing is, it really isn’t.
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two was meant to be the game that set right all of those minor niggles that were present and (in)correct in the first title, and instead leave us to focus on a more offbeat version of Disney than we may have been used to. To some extent that has certainly been the case, as this game is lovely to look at with a wonderful array of familiar, and not so familiar, characters and a world brimming with opportunity and imagination. The main problem is the fact that all of the beautiful art and design in the world can’t save a game when the core mechanics are so woefully presented.
The key gameplay components are certainly the same, with the ubiquitous Mickey given access to paint and thinner in order to impact the world around him. Whether you choose to destroy your foes or befriend them, to wreck houses or repaint them, or to destroy bosses or beautify them is entirely up to you. While the game does offer a vague moral compass, the by-product of your actions is often fairly limited or even non-existent. A few achievements may well be missed here and there, but other than that you never feel like you can be diabolically evil just for the sake of it.
The plot too feels like it never hits top gear, with the darker tone of the original all but eradicated in a spate of overwhelming goodness and reformed characters. Sure, there is the expected plot twist, but by the time that comes along you will have spent most of the game helping pretty much everyone you come across and sitting through a few songs that just seem to lack that signature Disney sparkle. In fact the inclusion of songs, while allowing for some nice cutscenes, seems like a missed opportunity and instead amounts to little more than plot exposition. On the plus side you get to meet and interact with a host of Disney faces and tinker with some lovely surroundings, but it never feels like the epic quest it's billed to be.
In fact the main problem lies in the game itself. Things boil down to fairly confined platforming and puzzling sections, with Mickey using his paintbrush to solve rudimentary tasks or relying on Oswald and his zaptastic remote control to help out. Only, even then, the persistently unreliable AI manages to rear its ugly head. You see Oswald cannot be counted upon to actually do what he should, so if you're relying on him to revive you, open a switch or carry you over a deadly ravine, you only have a slim chance that the desired outcome will occur. It’s a shame really, because if Oswald actually lived up to his billing and fulfilled his role effectively, the whole thing might have been carried off with a bit more panache. Instead it helps to add to the frustration.
You can circumnavigate the dubious AI by getting a co-op buddy in on the action, though they will have far less fun than you will with Mickey mainly due to the fact that Oswald has far less interesting abilities. On the plus side Oswald does have a much easier time navigating the occasionally onerous platforming sections that seem unfairly balanced against Mickey and almost seem to delight in letting you plummet off screen. The camera has been given a much-vaunted makeover too, but it still feels too flighty and unhelpful, and can make carrying out even menial tasks more of a chore than they should be. It also doesn’t help that some puzzles are annoyingly vague about giving instructions, to the point where you are prepared to run around painting anything and everything to see what happens.
The game works best when it keeps things nice and simple. The wonderful 2D sections hark back to cartoons of yesteryear, and the boss battles are great fun to play with two people to cut down on what can occasionally feel dragged out on your own. Wandering through the mish-mashed world and taking on quests to help people, as well as digging for Hidden Mickeys, collectible pins and the like all feels like a great use of the Disney world. Mixing the cartoons, real world ideas from the parks and a bunch of off-kilter twists all seems to work well and when you get into the swing of things this is perfect Disney fare.
Unfortunately the bland puzzles, broken AI and rather insipid story will bring things crashing down again and for every moment of Disney magic you’ll find just as many not so magical frustrations. In many ways this just feels like a safer version of its predecessor, with a toned-down story, less risks being taken, and the inclusion of a second character and a few songs never manage to bring it back to greatness. Epic Mickey was by no means flawless but it feels like a much braver offering in comparison to its sequel.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is the proverbial mixed bag then, a game with vivid artwork, novel ideas but poor implementation. While it’s fun in spurts, the damage is done by an AI partner that offers more annoyance than succour, a camera that never seems to be on your side and puzzles that are either supremely vague or overly simplistic. Epic Mickey 2 never manages to justify the 'epic' tag but, especially in co-op to reduce your reliance on that damn rabbit, you can still find a few hidden gems to capture your imagination.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is not the leap forward that many would have hoped and, in truth, feels like it steps back into safer territory for the most part. Having a second character is also held back by the unreliability of the AI and most of the levels feel like they have been designed to look great rather than play well. Good and bad then, rather like a lot of the recent Disney output, but still worth a look.
Source - X360A