reviews\ Dec 30, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Disney Epic Mickey Review


Disney Epic Mickey always sounded too good to be true. Obviously, a Warren Spector project featuring a paintbrush-wielding Mickey Mouse had a lot of appeal for gamers and Disney fans alike. Unfortunately, the final product turned out to be notably flawed, with some basic gameplay elements not working as well as they should. However, the charming characters, intriguing story, and excellent use of Disney’s extensive history make it easy to forgive some of Disney Epic Mickey’s imperfections.

After the wizard Yen Sid creates a magical kingdom out of paint, a mischievous Mickey Mouse spills thinner on it, unknowingly spawning a horrific beast known as the Blot. Mickey is pulled inside the Wasteland and realizes the gravity of his mistake. With the help of his long-forgotten older brother, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey sets about to rectify his clumsy error and defeat the Blot once and for all. The Wasteland is a dangerous and fascinating place, filled with broken-down rides resembling those from a certain Disney-themed amusement park, pools of thinner, pesky blotlings, and potential friends. Along with Oswald, many characters from decades-old Disney cartoons populate the Wasteland, and most of them are thrilled to find Mickey in their midst.

The main gameplay aspect is the use of paint and thinner, represented by the B and Z buttons on the Wii remote and nunchuk. Mickey can use paint to create platforms, cover dangerous sections of thinner, and fix incomplete structures. On the other hand, thinner has a variety of uses both helpful and hazardous. Thinning out walls may reveal hidden areas, but it can also add to the Wasteland’s destruction if not used responsibly. While not strictly a “good vs. evil” approach, the paint and thinner do represent nice and mischievous decisions in boss fights and a few important story puzzles, and the results of Mickey’s brush can be seen throughout the game and even in the ending cinematic.

While Disney Epic Mickey does get fairly challenging, the game holds the player’s hand way too much early on. No one needs to be reminded that shaking the remote activates Mickey’s spin attack a dozen times in the course of an hour. Adding to this annoyance is the repetitive nature of the game’s numerous side-quests, which more often than not have Mickey jumping from town to town fetching random items, only to bring them back and start over with a similar mission. There are some decent rewards for going off the beaten path to complete extra objectives, such as some sketches and even two black-and-white Disney cartoons from the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Disney Epic Mickey is primarily a 3D platformer, but there are also 2D platformer sections that serve as a means of moving between areas. These parts are some of the game’s best, designed after classics like Steamboat Willie and Fantasia, and it’s hard not to wish that they were longer and more challenging. After a while, however, it becomes clear why the 2D parts are so short and sweet—they are mandatory when moving between the game’s main areas, meaning you’ll be traversing Through the Looking Glass and other cartoon-inspired levels numerous times.

For all of its good points, Disney Epic Mickey does have some glaring flaws, which can make the game feel like a chore. The most noticeable problem is the camera, which will lead to more cheap deaths than anything else. The camera often gets stuck in the most unhelpful place possible, and though the C button is supposed to center it in front of Mickey, this doesn’t always work—the same is true of pushing the 1 button to switch to a first-person viewpoint. Add to this the fact that some of the levels are so dark it’s hard to tell the ground from gaping nothingness, and you should be prepared to play a few sections multiple times before finally getting them right.

A less detrimental, but still questionable aspect is the fact that after Mickey leaves a town, none of his paint or thinner actions remain there. For example, in Ostown, Mickey can restore the dilapidated houses with a bright coat of paint, making everything look beautiful and vibrant. After leaving and returning, though, it appears that Ostown was once again hit with a ton of thinner, because everything is restored to the way it was the first time. In a game that manages to use many of Mickey’s decisions and incorporate them into the story, why are none of these changes permanent? It doesn’t detract from the rest of the game, nor does it make any sense.

There are a few glitches, but nothing that screams of malign negligence. For the most part, everything runs smoothly, and if the camera is working, players will be able to enjoy the inspired level design and great nontraditional boss fights, as well as the lovely animated cut scenes. For some reason, there’s no voice acting other than Yen Sid’s narration at the beginning and end, but this didn’t really bother me.

Disney Epic Mickey is a good game that ultimately didn’t live up to its potential, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing. It gets increasingly more fun, especially towards the end, and it’s sad to think that some players may not make it this far due to early frustrations. I can only hope it gets a sequel, because with some of its bigger issues fixed, this could have been one of the best games of the year. Instead, it’s a decent start to what hopefully becomes a great series, especially for Disney fans.

Above Average

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