Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Junction Point clearly knows its Disney, from the way Mickey Mouse’s ears turn and bob in Epic Mickey 2 to the constant nods about visiting the classic theme park. That love shines through with beautiful animation and art, silly cartoon voices, and constant opportunities to delve into the history of Disney fiction. Unfortunately, Junction Point’s obvious affection is the most redeeming element of this sequel; from the structure of puzzles to the implementation of the cooperative experience, nothing ever coalesces into consistent entertainment.
Epic Mickey 2 moves in a number of new directions, but usually away from what I liked in its predecessor. Tedious puzzle rooms have replaced longer platforming levels. While Mickey and Oswald still jump from place to place, the focus is almost always on fetching some hidden object or opening a door. Solutions are rarely intuitive, and wandering from place to place before stumbling upon the answer is common. Regular vocal cues do little to alleviate the problem, like telling me to “go over there” without specifying where, or to look “by the entrance” in a room with multiple doors.
The EdgeWhile the Wii version is a noticeable visual step down from 360, the dedicated motion controller is a plus. Balance your preference for visual fidelity against control to choose a system, or play on PS3 to get the best of both worlds while using a Move controller. The Wii U version also offers excellent graphics and motion controls, but exhibits some slowdown at times.
The story is a flimsy excuse to send Mickey and Oswald from one place to the next, many of which are recycled (but modified) locations from the first game. The middling plot is punctuated by painful interludes of the Mad Doctor’s singing, which fails to elicit any of the intended magic of a classic Disney musical. Appropriately silly voice acting now helps to enrich the storytelling, and frequent cutscenes help move events forward. Unfortunately, rather than focus on a few characters that could be fully realized, the game throws dozens of characters into the mix, and few are around long enough to be memorable.
Mickey’s familiar paint and thinner mechanic returns as the central tool for affecting the world, and it’s entertaining to shape the world by filling in objects or making them disappear. Unlike in the first game, I was occasionally unsure which objects could be thinned. Meanwhile, Oswald’s ability to create electricity with his remote is less interesting than the paintbrush, mostly acting as a tool to flip switches by giving them power. Nonetheless, the ability to aim and shoot objects consistently works well for both characters, and Epic Mickey remains one of the stronger implementations of motion controls in the systems that support it.
Playing alone, the ally AI is profoundly unhelpful, getting left behind on the most basic platforming sequences and failing to revive me when required. Playing with a cooperative partner makes the frustrations mount, largely because of each character’s inability to complete basic actions. Oswald can only stun most enemies, Mickey can’t jump long distances, and relying on each other for these gameplay fundamentals isn’t fun. Split-screen play complicates the already confusing level design, but that’s the only option; no online cooperative play is supported.
Whether alone or with a friend, there’s plenty to do as you wander. Side quests, collectibles, and hidden locations abound in Wasteland, but I commonly found myself wondering what they are all for. From shiny pins to any number of pictures to take with the camera, I got lost in the sea of objectives. Plus, it’s usually inconvenient to return to the quest giver once a job is complete.
Even if I wasn’t enjoying the activities on offer, I rarely had complaints about what I was looking at. The game deserves a nod for its beautiful visual presentation, filled with vibrant colors and imaginative twists on familiar Disney iconography. In particular, I applaud the return of dedicated 2D platforming levels based on old cartoons. The 3D levels look equally pretty, but level design and shape is often confusing and haphazard.
Attractive visuals only carry the game so far. Just when I finished one infuriating, monotonous boss fight I’d get thrown into another directionless, obtuse puzzle room. The discrete sections connect into an unbroken string of frustrating gameplay. I’m genuinely sad that a game rooted in the joy of Disney failed to evoke any in me, but Epic Mickey 2 is so disjointed and rambling, I was ready to escape Wasteland when the time came.