Mickey Mouse refuses to be forgotten. Though the iconic figure has dropped off the radar in a big way over recent years, our favourite mouse is back and making a triumphant return in Disney’s Epic Mickey, an action platformer inspired by the original cartoons.
You’ve probably heard a bit about this game already; it’s had a lot of publicity due to its reimagined, darker take of the Mickey we know and love. So what’s the rebranded mouse like? Well, certainly not as cheerful and light-hearted as the Mickey of days gone by. This mouse has attitude, and a much shadier personality. In fact, he can be downright devious, but quite how devious is really up to you, because this game has a moral conscience. First things first, though: let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
The plot is pretty fantastical: The Phantom Blot, an evil villain that Mickey accidently unleashes, pulls him into a twisted version of the Disney universe. Called ‘The Cartoon Wasteland’, this warped world is inhabited by the creatures that Disney forgot. Alongside saving the characters that are lost in time and defeating evil, Mickey has to track down his embittered brother Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (a little history: Walt Disney was supposedly forced to push this character aside in favour of creating a celebrity out of Mickey). How? Through the power of his paintbrush. Yep, our Mickey wields a magical brush that gives him the ability to control his environment by dissolving and restoring certain elements. This is the main hook of the game. It sounds really cool, and it is cool. However, you should know that you won’t be able to unleash your unbridled creativity, because the fun is capped. You see, you can only erase and restore pre-determined objects.
Mickey’s heroic quest is called ‘epic’ for a reason, because this game has a good 15 hours on board, and an ending that depends on the ethical choices you make in the game. That’s right, your humanity (mousanity?) will be tested in Epic Mickey. From very early on, choices are posed, and you’ll learn that there are consequences to your actions. For instance, if you choose to ransack a treasure chest instead of rescuing a caged gremlin, you’ll face his wrath later on in a battle. Had you saved him, you’d have earned his support and help.
Unfortunately, now it’s time to whinge, and at the forefront of this moan is the iffy camera in Epic Mickey. Honestly, it reminds me of PlayStation’s Spyro the Dragon, which gave me motion sickness as a kid. It’s as though the camera is possessed by the same evil blot that has a hold on Mickey, because it doesn’t competently track him and strays into weird positions. All too often I found myself staring at walls. Manual camera control isn’t always available, and during battles you will die because the camera won’t orientate properly (or quickly), and you’ll fail to spot foes coming up behind you. There are also issues with unresponsive controls, which is problematic when trying to make accurate jumps and turn around quickly. I certainly found wee Mickey quite clumsy, and it was difficult to position him on precarious walls and narrow ledges. This was the same in both the 3D and 2D platforming. The lack of voice acting is another negative in this game, and let down the sound rating. With such a clearly healthy budget, why not go that extra mile?
But back to the good stuff: from a graphical point of view, Epic Mickey is of very high quality, and sits alongside the very best Wii titles. The retro-inspired cut scenes and the animation are utterly charming, set an absorbing atmosphere, and are so ‘Disney-ish’ that fans will be right in their element. As for the musical score, this is another area that resources have been clearly pumped into, because it’s stunning.
All in all, Epic Mickey is well worth the investment. Just be aware that it has some flaws and is perhaps not quite the masterpiece it was heralded to be pre-release.