Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two preview
If you haven't heard by now, Warren Spector and the Junction Point team are back with Epic Mickey. And this time, they've rectified their earlier mistakes. Taking fan feedback from the first game into account, Junction Point has built on the popular Epic Mickey — and it definitely showed in my hands-on preview I had with Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.
During my preview of the game, the demo levels highlighted the three main improvements the team has made with Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two: the camera, character voicers, and world persistance.
According to Spector, over 1,000 changes were made to the camera in Epic Mickey 2. While there were still some awkward angles, the improvements of the camera work were quite clear in the demo. No longer was I fumbling to get the right angle to see the platform. True to goal, I rarely had to adjust the camera as I stayed on the main story path. Are there some improvements that can be made? Of course, but overall the difference is quite noticeable.
The second immediate change I noticed was the character voices. Unlike the predecessor, every character in Epic Mickey 2 speaks all of their lines, in their real voice. It was a welcomed change from the bark text in the first game. Not only does character voice improve the overall experience of Epic Mickey 2, but now that characters can speak, they can help give you better direction.
Unfortunately, the sound in the demo room was a little low to hear everything they said, but from what I heard, Junction Point and the cast has done a great job with the characters. Especially Frank Welker who plays the voice of Oswald. Yes, for the first time ever Oswald will have a voice. It's one of the many things I look forward to hearing at E3 when hopefully it's not so noisy around me.
Of course, as the name The Power of Two suggests, the game is split screen co-op; in my opinion, this was the most impactful and useful changes to the game. It adds a completely new element to the gameplay. As expected, that companion will be Oswald, who returns to the action, but in the all-new cooperative mode.
I liken the experience to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, with the addition of Tails. Except in Epic Mickey 2, Oswald isn't useless. Armed with a remote control that has the power to command electricity, players can control Oswald and work together to overcome obstacles. In fact, Oswald is actually needed to overcome these obstacles. Certain puzzles, like the ones I experienced in the demo, had Oswald electrically charge cannisters to drain the paint thinner.
The great thing about Epic Mickey 2 is that even without a buddy, Oswald has the AI smarts to perform these actions on his own. While the demo didn't give the greatest example of this, most likely due to early development bugs, I definitely see the potential in the future. If Junction Point can fix these slight glitches, Oswald will be an enjoyable companion on your journey.
As I mentioned, the third main focus for Spector and the developer team was persistance — or choice and consequence. Every choice you make in Epic Mickey 2 has a permanent consequence. You may recall in the first Epic Mickey game, all the changes you made to an area were undone when you exited and re-entered. In this game, everything you do lasts forever.
Not only does this encourage you to think about your actions, but it also adds to replay value. This was made clear by my first decision in the demo. Do I take the longer route and drain the paint thinner from the lake by gathering three canisters and placing them on some sort of machine, or do I take the easy road and just overload the machine? Luckily, for me I had a chance to do both options with my demo.
The first time, I drained the lake, successfuly saving the town and moving on. In my second playthrough, I took the quicker way and overloaded the machine sending paint thinner spewing into the air. The result: blocking entry into three homes that provide quests later on in the game. Keep in mind, my decision was forever — so I could never get to those homes. By taking the easier way the second time, I prevented future quests. Choice and consequence.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is an improvement on its predecessor in every way, shape and form. From the multiplayer, to the graphics (which are quite an improvement on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), to the technical gameplay improvements, Epic Mickey 2 is a leap forward for the Junction Team who really took feedback to heart.
Oh, and did I mention it was a musical? That's right. What's a Disney game without singing? Epic Mickey 2 plays out like your typical Disney movie. While dialogue and cutscenes progress the story, song and dance drive the points home. In my preview, I got to experience the opening song, and it was a doozy. I actually found myself singing it on the way home.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two was not without faults, however. There were animation glitches, some AI bugs with Oswald, a few pathing issues, etc. Of course, all that is to be expected with a game in pre-Alpha. The point of this preview wasn't to show a completely flawless game, but a game that has the intention of taking a popular title and improving on it, which is exactly what Junction Point has done with Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Every one of their changes to the game was thought out and has a specific purpose — mostly thanks to their willingness to listen to fan feedback. If Junction Point can fix those minor hiccups before the game's Fall 2012 launch, then they could have a real gem on their hands. And with the game being for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii this time around, a lot more gamers can experience it.