Review: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Mickey Mouse is back in another paint splattering adventure, and this time, he’s brought his friend Oswald the Lucky Rabbit along for the ride. Two players can now run, jump, make a mess and clean it up together. The Disney nostalgia is on full display, and the game holds some truly entertaining musical numbers. One would think this would come together like a masterpiece, but sadly Epic Mickey 2 really needs to go back to the drawing board.
Epic Mickey 2 follows immediately on from the events of the last game, with the Wasteland under a new threat, one causing earthquakes all over the land. The Mad Doctor from the last game shows back up, claiming to have changed his ways, and the plot explores these trust issues between both the Doctor, and relationship between the two heroes. Annoyingly, if you’ve not played the first game on the Wii, you’ll have no idea what’s going on. Nothing from the first game is explained, so I found myself googling terms like “Blots” and “Projectors”. The game assumes too much knowledge on the player, and as a newcomer to the series, I was in a state of near constant bewilderment.
The gameplay consists mainly of 3D platforming, controlled either via a normal controller or motion controller, depending on the platform. Neither does a better or worse job that the other, as faults plague either control system. Motion controlling is fiddly, and imprecise, and moving the camera is a massive chore. Using a regular controller merely adds new problems, such as incredibly twitchy and squiffy aiming, resulting in you wasting half your paint trying to target something. Not only this, but working out what you should be painting is a nightmare sometimes, especially when the target you have to find is invisible. One of the earliest parts of the game resulted in running Mickey around in circles painting everything because I couldn’t see what the game expected me to paint. Not a promising start to the games main mechanic.
The jumping is inaccurate, and the whole game feels sluggish and slow. Mickey’s jumps lack any kind of forwards momentum, and many a jump will be missed due to this. Tiny holes in the floor can be problematic too, with one notorious area in the underground taking five separate attempts to pass. Combat is tedious, and the regular attack feels weightless, and seems to have little effect. The camera lurches around like a fat elephant, and quickly targeting a foe to paint is next to impossible.
Paint problems are Mickey’s field, but Oswald gets a whole host of problems to himself. It’s pretty clear this game was designed for a single player, as most of the puzzles can be solved using just Mickey. Oswald’s special ability is his magical Remote, which can activate machinery. Sounds simple, yeah? Well, in single player, Oswalds A.I. is moronic, to the point of him running around in circles unable to help you. Requesting him to activate something becomes a matter of luck, and his responsiveness is unreliable throughout.
“But wait,” I hear you cry, “Why not use a second player to control him?” In theory, this is a good idea, but in practice, all you get is a different set of problems. As a lot of the puzzles involve Mickeys power, you’ll feel neglected and bored. Not only that, but the Oswald specific controls are infuriating. Again, a very early puzzle gave me a problem with its lack of explanation, simply an icon of the right stick. After ten minutes of failure, I tagged out, and let the AI do the puzzle, who did it in seconds, but with no feedback as to what he was actually doing.
The game also includes some 2D areas, the Projectors mentioned above, which act as gateways between various zones. This is one of the few parts of the game that display some level of interest. The platforming works loads better in 2D, as you’re not fighting the camera the entire time. Even painting works better here, with only one axis to worry about. These areas are great looking, covering old cartoons as well as a LittleBigPlanet style aesthetic to some areas. The 2D sections are fun, densely packed with secret areas, and present a greater level of true challenge than the 3D sections. It’s challenging because it’s well crafted, not because you’re fighting the controls. If the whole game was like this, you’d be reading a much better review.
Of course, as with any platformer, you expect collectables, right? Well Epic Mickey has them in spades, but not in a good way. From the outset, you’re bombarded with pins, scrap metal, cloth, and a whole host of other things to collect, with little explanation as to why. I’m still not entirely sure why pins are important, and it’s not made obvious if you should be saving them or trading them. It’s feature bloat, and just one more black mark on Epic Mickey 2’s permanent record.
The visuals are both Epic Mickey’s best point and it’s worst point. In general, the game looks great, with bright, colourful characters and settings. When it works, painting and thinning stuff is great, letting the look of the world shift at your fingers. Seeing the rough pencil work under walls of Mickeys house was awesome, really helped nail the feel. However, some baffling design choices are present here to undermine the good work with the visuals.
For example, it’s a long standing rule that you can always see both of Mickey ears, right? Well in a 3D game, this translates to Mickeys ear spinning around his head when you spin the camera. They don’t even swap over, just a smooth rotation, all the way round. Another good example is when Goofy shows up, looking like a goddam Terminator, with an arm missing, and robot parts hanging out like he has been in an explosion. There is no explanation to why Goofy looks like this, and no-one ever mentions it either, they just carry on like normal. Characters and locations like this kept cropping up, and really mar the visuals.
Sadly, Epic Mickey 2 is too much of a mess to recommend. The controls, the gameplay, the Terminator Goofy, the co-op, the A.I, almost every element has been constructed to give maximum annoyance. I mean, kids are supposed to be playing this, and I, a full grown man, got angry with it after half an hour. The 2D sections and general look of the visuals (Terminator Goofy notwithstanding) are the only parts of the game I found enjoyable, and this just isn’t enough these days. Epic Mickey? More like Epic Fail.