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 2: The 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 The 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.”
The sequel begins shortly after the conclusion of the first game. With the Cartoon Wasteland liberated from the Shadow Blot, its citizens are busy rebuilding their homes. After an earthquake hits the town, the Mad Doctor appears on one of his flying contraptions. Saying he’s a changed man, he implores the Wasteland citizens to nominate a hero to help him fend off the approaching threat that caused the disaster. When Oswald the Lucky Rabbit offers assistance and takes off with the crazy scientist, his girlfriend Ortensia and the gremlin Gus seek out Mickey Mouse to help.
In the first game Mickey Mouse was the lone protagonist. For The Power of Two, Oswald finally gets his share of the spotlight as the second playable character.
With drop-in, drop-out split-screen co-op, family and friends can explore the Cartoon Wasteland together for the first time. Both characters have different strengths, which is why they must work together to solve many of the environmental puzzles. Whereas Mickey still uses the paintbrush and paint thinner to alter the world, Oswald has unique abilities like helicopter ears that allow him to access areas normally off limits to Mickey. If Mickey grabs onto Oswald’s legs, he can come along for the ride. Oswald can also detach his arm to use it as a boomerang or use a remote that shoots electricity to take over, destroy, or befriend animatronic creatures.
Couch co-op sounds great, but why didn’t Disney include online co-op as well? “The idea of a game aimed at a broad audience – gamers, non-gamers, kids, adults, men, women – where we encourage them to put on a headset and play virtually together just doesn’t make sense,” Spector says. “We want people playing together.”
Though Junction Point isn’t revealing all the locations this adventure takes Mickey and Oswald, Spector says players will visit themed Disneyland parks that have changed radically over the years. The only one he would name is Frontierland, which Spector says has many forgotten and rejected exhibits to use in the game. Familiar settings like Mean Street return as well, but they are drastically altered by natural disasters.
Whereas the first game held players hands to get them used to the idea that play style matters, Junction Point is placing more of an emphasis on persistence in Power of Two. This time, when you paint an area or remove an object with thinner, the changes will still be there when you return.
“We’re going to do it up right this time,” Spector says. “When you change something on a map, it is changed forever. When you do something that a character doesn’t like, they remember it.”
The incentive for returning to old areas will be higher as well. Junction Point is building the world to encourage more free-form exploration, and with Metroid-style level design that will leave some areas inaccessible until you gain new abilities or keys later in the game, hunting for the hundreds of Disney collectibles should be a lot more fun.
With over 700 people working on the title, Junction Point Studios and Disney Interactive have all hands on deck to make this the most memorable Mickey game yet. Look for more information as we move closer to the fall release.
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This game officially has my interest. It looks pretty cool, and co-op sounds like it'll fit nicely.
oh wow....this looks much better than the first game
Welcome to HD, Mickey!
I can't wait! I loved the first one, besides the camera obviously. I still need to finish it up.
@General Church- its a multi platform release this time.
The graphics are stunning but I recall Spector talking up a big game like this, last time. I'll keep an open mind but, I'll have to see some gameplay before I jump on board this time.
cant wait. Epic Mickey was....well.....Epic!
i like the art style, colorful and at the same aggressive
As a huge fan of video games, musicals, and disney, this sounds like it will be pretty good. I didnt care for the first game but after reading this im looking forward to Power of Two
Never played the first one but this looks fun.
make it dark
Couldn't Parappa the Rapper be considered a comedy musical?
That Oswald sounds like Mickey's Tails.