Review: Epic Mickey 2 loses some artistic charm on the Wii U
I think it's safe to say that Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two doesn't entirely live up to its premise. As you could see from the previously posted review of the game, it comes up short in many areas, due to Junction Point's inability to address most of the problems that kept the first game from being a true classic, and adding a few others on top of that. It's still playable, and in some ways magical for kids who can't live without the iconic mouse, but it could've been so much more.
The same could easily be said for the Wii U version, which had a spectacular opportunity to utilize the touch-screen in so many ways and be the stand-out version of the versions available. But instead, it just relies on the same old tricks, and is somehow just a little bit worse when it comes to in-game performance. That's not to say it's a complete mess, though you can see where Junction Point clearly made its spills.
The game picks up from events right after the first, with the Mad Doctor (the original game's villain) explaining he's learned the error of his ways – in song yet – while seeking Oswald's help in stopping a new enemy that's part robot, part evil ink blot. His girlfriend, Ortensia, doesn't quite trust the doc, so she calls upon Mickey Mouse to return to the Wasteland and help out with his magic brush, which he so conveniently borrows from the sorcerer – you know, the one he made so much trouble for as an apprentice.
Like the first game, Mickey can put the world together using magical paint, or destroy it by using thinner. There are some opportunities in which he can decide what to do with enemies using both, either destroying them completely or converting them back to good. This could've opened the door to a conscience decision-making tool for the mouse, but it's never fully utilized, and either way you're just spraying enemies with what limited supply you have. It's repetitive, instead of innovative.
What's more, the controls are hardly accurate. You'd think the Wii U touch-pad would've been integrated for precise control, but instead, you're just using analog sticks for aim and buttons for spraying – and it's slow. The camera movement is so sluggish that, during boss battles, you'll be lucky to hit the spot you're aiming for half the time. It's a system that was in need of major tweaking, but never got it. It does work to some extent, but you'll need to be patient – very patient – to see its effects pay off. And some people, including a few kids, just won't muster that.
Epic Mickey 2 also has a two-player mode, where a second person can jump in as Oswald and help Mickey out. It's a neat idea, but the fact that Oswald is a lot more limited is bound to turn some folks off as well. Instead of a paintbrush (which would've been a novel idea, and good for a few laughs), he carries a remote, which allows him to activate certain things. Not nearly the same, if you ask me. Plus, some objectives aren't clearly pointed out, so you'll be wandering around going, "So, do I turn on this?" And so on, and so on.
You're better off doing the co-op thing than relying on an AI teammate, though, because this where the game almost collapses. AI-driven Oswald is completely useless, wandering around when you need him to complete a task and, in some ways, getting right in the path of your paint shots. What's more, he's frustrating to grab on to when you need to get across a chasm, using his helicopter ears to do so. I can't tell you how many times I initiated jumping to grab onto him, only to have me and him come back down to the earth. A real pain in the neck.
Finally, the game comes up short in presentation, even compared to other versions. The cinemas are neat and feature plenty of hand-drawn animation that's kind of charming, and the doc's musical numbers are hilarious and inspired. However, the frame rate in the game itself stutters way too often, and the level designs are a little too big for their own good, which results in getting lost half the time. Some objective pointing would've, again, gone a lone way here.
Once again, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two feels like a lesser game than it really should've been. Warren Spector and his team really had a chance to make everything bigger and better than the first, and the chance to show that Mickey Mouse still "had it" when it came to video game dominance (as he's done in Castle of Illusion, The Magical Quest, etc.). But too many inkblots splatter on the walls, leaving this masterpiece flawed and hard to view at times. Let's hope for Epic Mickey 3 – if there is one – that the team saves the best for last. And fixes Oswald's ADD behavior, at the very least.