Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion preview
As a late 80s kid, I grew up with two consoles in my house: the NES and the SEGA Genesis. Although both systems have left their mark in gaming history, there was one particular title for the Genesis that left a lasting impression on me. That game was Castle of Illusion, a 2D sidescroller that sent players on a magical journey as Mickey Mouse to save Minnie from the evil witch Mizrabel.
Released back in 1990, the game still lives in my memory as one of the best sidescrollers to date, which is why I was ecstatic when Disney Interactive invited me out to Walt Disney World to preview Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, an upcoming sidescroller for the Nintendo 3DS. It's likely when you hear Epic Mickey, it's not this title, but Power of Two which comes to mind. But don't let the fact that Power of Illusion is coming to a handheld sway you into thinking its just a mere companion to The Power of Two; it's so much more to that.
Before we get into the actual gameplay, let's talk a little about the concept of Power of Illusion, because it's the nostalgia and history behind Mickey and Illusion that makes this game one of the standout titles for the 3DS. First off, it should be known that Power of Illusion is a tribute of sorts to Castle of Illusion. From the epic line — "Once upon a mouse" — to the delicate 2D side-scrolling art, the tribute and similarities to the original are clearly noticeable.
Keep in mind, this is not simply a remake. Rather, it's more of a long overdue sequel. Power of Illusion takes the famous concept of Castle of Illusion and mixes it with the creative gameplay genius of Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector and the development team at DreamRift. As the title suggests, it's still an Epic Mickey game at heart, which means you still see the paint and paint-thinner mechanics of Warren Spector's acclaimed series.
The plot of the game sees Mickey Mouse, once again, exploring the chambers of the Castle of Illusion on another quest to save Minnie. How she keeps managing to get kidnapped is beyond me, but it's a nice excuse for you to partake on this journey through the Disney classics. Since it's a Castle of "Illusion", the different wings of the Castle transform to look like the setting of famous Disney films. Some of the most iconic Disney classics are in the game. During my preview, I played through two of them: the Peter Pan wing — consisting of the London skies, Neverland, Captain Hook's Jolly Roger — and the recently revealed Aladdin wing, which had me roam the streets of Agrabah and explore the Cave of Wonders.
Gameplay for Power of Illusion is unique in the sense that it combines classic 2D sidescroller gameplay with the modern elements the 3DS offers. For instance, throughout the level you'll need to use paint and thinner to transform the environment. To do so, the bottom touchscreen portion of the 3DS will have you either trace the outline of an object (if you are painting it) or erase the contents of an object (if you using the paint thinner). Properly doing so will result in the object on the top screen either being placed for your use or removed for your convenience. Although adjusting from the 2D side scrolling gameplay to using the styling is somewhat awkward at first (requiring you to tap the screen), it does get easier as you play on.
The great thing about Power of Illusion is it has the appearance of a simplistic 2D platformer, while offering gameplay that is much more complex. In the later portions of the levels, for example, you'll need to quickly tap the screen while in the middle of a jump to either add a platform or erase an obstacle. It sounds easy, but the rapid changing between screens in the later levels to quickly draw in or erase obstacles in Mickey's way can be quite complex and stressful. Needless to say, it helps if you are quick with the stylus which, as it turns out, I am not.
If having to worry about jumps and platforms isn't difficult enough, add in the fact that you'll also need to properly manage your paint and thinner. While you can choose to fire paint or thinner at enemies to eliminate them, it's probably best to save it for when your painting or thinning an object. On several occasions I ran out of paint and had to restart the level since there are no real mid-level check points. Don't worry, there are other ways to get rid of the enemies like the famous Castle of Illusion butt stomp, or a spinning attack.
During the event, Warren Spector mentioned that he'd always wanted some type of character Fortress element in his games. Although he couldn't find a way to incorporate it into the original Epic Mickey or Power of Two, he and the DreamRift team found a way to make it work with Power of Illusion.
Throughout the levels you'll discover random Disney characters which you can talk to and send back to your Fortress. You'll meet characters like Snow White, Aladdin, and Scrooge McDuck who will later have you perform side quests for them. Successfully completing these side quests will earn you rewards to use throughout the levels and also unlock additional portions of the Castle of Illusion to explore. In addition, as you complete the side quests, the character's individual background will slowly fill in to create a more complete picture. Although it seems like an unnecessary feature, it's still a welcomed one that adds a sort of Pokemon like quality to the game, where completionists will feel the need to "catch them all".
Because it's a 3DS game, I feel compelled to talk about the 3D portion of the game. I'm going to flat out admit, I hate playing the 3DS with 3D. I know that's its main draw, but I just find it painful to look at. With all that being said, Power of Illusion does a fantastic job with it. It's one of the few games that I don't mind playing with the 3D turned on. Power of Illusion takes a more natural approach to 3D. Rather than have gimmicky 3D effects pop out at you, it takes a more conservative approach to, instead, make the environment more immersive. The 3D depth coupled with the gorgeous 2D art makes Power of Illusion a visually pleasing title.
I went into Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion unsure of what to expect. Although I'm a big fan of Disney, I'm not huge on handheld gaming. Having now played two full levels of the game (and coming to the realization that my Kindergarten teachers failed at teaching me proper tracing technique), it's easily one of my most anticipated titles for the 3DS this year. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is more than just a handheld tie-in to The Power of Two and it would be doing a disservice to the game to only think of it in that way. Instead, it is shaping up to be a solid addition to the 3DS lineup that will please both 2D platformer and Disney fans alike.