The lights are on
After taking the backseat to Pixar and other in-house Disney films for several years, in 2010 Mickey Mouse made a comeback on the media platform most suited to the 21st century: video games. Rather than use a new Mickey film or cartoon series to reintroduce the most famous mouse in the world, Disney gave the keys to its mascot to respected video game designer Warren Spector (Deus Ex, System Shock), an admitted Disney aficionado. The resulting Wii exclusive delivered a bold reinvention of the hero that recaptured the playful and mischievous side of Mickey.
Tapping into the Disney archives, Spector’s Junction Point Studios created a rich world of forgotten characters and lost footage that appealed to children and adults alike. As much as critics embraced this new vision, technical limitations like a wonky camera kept the game from receiving universal praise. For the sequel, Spector doesn’t see this being a problem.
“The one criticism that we heard most often was that the camera needed to be better,” Spector says. “So the day the first game shipped we started working on improving it.”
For The Power of Two, the dedicated camera team set an ambitious goal of allowing players to experience the entire story without having to touch the manual camera controls. Completionists will need to use them to find hidden items, but if you’re just burning through the campaign it’s no longer necessary to fiddle with the camera thanks to an intuitive new system that knows when to alter your perspective.
One of the other complaints about the original game was the lack of voiceover work – always a questionable omission in the modern era. Rather than reintroducing the bark text from the first game, Epic Mickey: Power of Two takes advantage of the access Junction Point has to all of the current Disney voice actors.
“Every character speaks every line of dialogue, and I think that gives us a lot of advantages,” Spector says. “The emotional level and the storytelling are going to get better.”
Spector didn’t stop there. Rather than simply create animated cutscenes, why not tap deeper into Disney’s treasure chest of traditions and introduce song and dance to the festivities?
“I’m pretty comfortable – until somebody proves me wrong – saying this is the first ever musical comedy video game in history,” Spector says. “And I’m proud.”
With the help of original Epic Mickey composer James Dooley and newcomer Mike Himelstein (Shrek), Junction Point has created musical numbers that tell the majority of the story in Power of Two. This is an interesting direction for a game designer who typically empowers players with the ability to influence the narrative outcome. So why go the musical route?
“I don’t know if people want a musical game, so the musical numbers are for advancing the story,” Spector says. “In the future, perhaps there will be other ways in which songs factor into gameplay.”
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