Developer: Junction Point Studios / Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios / Release Date: November 18, 2012 / Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U, PC, Mac / ESRB: Everyone [Cartoon Violence]
Say what you will about the hit-and-miss gameplay of the first Disney’s Epic Mickey game that released exclusively on the Wii, the honorarium to Disney history and culture ingrained in its design was undisputed. It was a love letter to the brand, if one that stumbled over its vocabulary on too many occasions. For a character in Mickey and an animation history so keenly associated with the highest quality execution of the craft, and in a videogame world well-ensconced in the high-definition era, it made little sense to gamers that their entry to the Wasteland would debut only on the low-def Wii.
Despite shifts in Disney Interactive’s leadership and direction, rumbles at developer Junction Point after it swelled in size to complete the first game, then required contraction to move forward with a potential sequel, DEM2 was greenlit for all current platforms. The biggest shift in that move was allowing the team to create a game that heavily borrowed on its visual style to embrace the opportunity of those next-gen platforms.
But for Warren Spector—a truly nice person, it seems in the sea of faux-enthusiasm—this game has more meaning than most. It means writing the next chapter of a legacy hard to match; it means striving for the kind of excellence achieved in a different world where one man could manipulate cultural perception; it meant creating a Disney 2.0.
“The man was arguably the most influential cultural figure of the 20th century,” says Warren Spector of Walt Disney.
There is, of course, a darker picture of this personality, painted in a time where attitudes were very different from today, yet still unforgiveable in context of our world. Yet the most critical, worldwide contribution Walt Disney imbued was the sense that young and old should have a place where they could have fun together. And so Disneyland was born.
Walking the park, despite being mobbed by the press, and pointed at with curiosity by guests unsure why this short, bearded dude in a baseball cap is so important (wait… is that Steven Spielberg?), Spector is at home. The resume that lists the Ultima Underworld games, Deus Ex (the genius original), Thief, and so many more couldn’t be less important.
The Disney character denim shirt isn’t a PR-mandated choice; it’s regular attire. The game isn’t just a pay-check to play with some cool, iconic characters, it’s the realization of a dream. And one that is taken oh-so-very seriously. That’s why this sequel seems even more laced with fan-service, from its pin-collecting requiring multiple play-throughs to get ‘em all to its drop-in, drop-out co-op, to the crazy AI shenanigans required to bring Oswald to life, to the voicing of every single character in the game (with the cast including Cary Elwes, among other notable names).
But as Spector says in his interview (below), if you’re a Call of Duty gamer thinking this is kid’s play, think again… and “give it a chance.” He’d really, really, tearfully, appreciate it.