Developer: Junction Point / Publisher: Disney Interactive / Played on: PS3 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Everyone [Cartoon Violence]
Personally, I was delighted that Warren Spector and his Junction Point studio were allowed the opportunity to fix and refine their original ambitious homage to the Disney legacy that came up short in Disney’s Epic Mickey. No longer hamstrung by the low-res graphics of the Wii—when the animation and art style was screaming for a high-def appreciation—this sequel should have been the perfect love letter to the house the mouse built.
It isn’t, sadly, despite the introduction of the rabbit that could have been Disney’s figurehead and a beautiful environment. Epic Mickey 2 has plenty of appeal for devout Disney fans, but still misses gameplay cues in ways that are a little baffling considering the talent pushing this franchise forward.
Still the star of the show, Mickey returns to The Wasteland to solve its ongoing problems, uncovering through revelations from Gus and Ortensia the cause of the quakes that are wrecking the place. This time around, he’s accompanied all the way (as an effective AI in single-player or controllable character in co-op) by sidekick Oswald and the pair travel through several worlds pulled from the deepest of Disney lore.
The plot features returning stars like The Mad Doctor, who provides comic relief and is the impetus for the musical numbers that had Epic Mickey 2 billed as the first game musical. It’s not really, but he does sing to reasonable effect.
From Mickey’s room he meets up with Oswald the rabbit, and the introduction of this new—but old—character should be a highlight for Disney fans. At the behest of Gus, entering Wasteland leads to more painting and thinning from Mickey as the two traverse several new areas such as the Rainbow Caverns (which really is a beautiful environment), Rainbow Falls, and Disney Gulch, among others.
Along the way, like the original game, you have to make your own decisions on what story path to follow, and it’s suggested (though tough to test without multiple playthroughs) exactly how those choices change future options and story outcomes. But at least you do feel in charge of your own destiny, to an extent, even if seeing it through to its end is more of a challenge of patience than it should be.
It’s vital to pay attention to Gus’ suggestion to understand exactly the tasks ahead in each hub area. The original game was poor at directing how to solve some flummoxing puzzles, and the process is improved here (helped by each instruction being voiced, as well as in subtitles). But still there are areas where it’s unclear what you should do next. Particularly as the game progresses the pointers are vaguer, and given the fact you can run and jump pretty much everywhere, you can paint and thin, and you can use Oswald to start generators, use his head to bounce to areas, or jump onto him to glide to platforms… this presents a vast array of possible options in every location.
Now that sounds like it should lead to immersive and engaging gameplay. But somehow it doesn’t. The improved camera over the first game does lead to fewer infuriating missed jumps, but the range of potential solutions does lead to some frustration at times, particularly when you lose track of the specifics of your objectives.
Painting and thinning feels like it’s the good or evil split of game decision-making. Painting the enemy Blotlings or Beetleworx, or all-new Blotworx turns them into friends. Thinning the environment feels destructive. These decisions, for how you choose to proceed do change what you can see, where you can access in a level, and the secrets you may uncover or miss completely.
And there are so many secrets and collectibles. Pins, a staple of Disney collector expectation, are prized and provide a mix of bonuses. Costumes add extra bonuses if you find all three pieces of a set and visit the snarky Haberdasher to be outfitted in the new duds. Visit stores, talk to wandering characters to discover their tribulations then figure the puzzles to bring what they need… the volume of content and motivations to explore the Wasteland is incredible. It’s so vast, in fact, that it’s almost overwhelming. A gamer with tendencies to complete every facet will spend tens of hours figuring out routes, then working on do-overs, and still not achieve everything.
Again, if you’re a Disney fanatic this is a thoroughly entertaining jaunt through the greatest virtual environments ever crafted in this universe. The exploration is the challenge, requiring guile and inventiveness to uncover the secret areas and discover the routes to make progress.
The switch between worlds and even perspectives provides plenty of variation in visual and gameplay style. You slip into some classic 2D platforming areas that are cool and stylized, but also show areas you can’t reach, that require a second go-around to access, and while the suggestion of additional content is great, the frustration of not being able to reach bonuses no matter how hard you struggle is fundamentally frustrating.
No doubt, no question, any Disney fan will have an absolute blast exploring every painted or thinned location, revealing chests and discoverable pins that add to their fandom in the Mouse culture. And that’s worth so damn much it’s difficult to ignore. By the later game, your appreciation of the world should be tuned to find your way without direction. But no doubt, if Disney lore and collectible culture is your thing, Epic Mickey 2 delivers. If co-op puzzle-solving is your thing, Epic Mickey 2 delivers. If revealing the character and talents of Oswald is intriguing then Epic Mickey 2 delivers.
But there are so many options, so many details, collectibles, characters to appease that progress doesn’t flow efficiently, and retreading areas becomes tiresome. That’s weird given the great visual recreation of some amazing Disney locations, but likely only hardcore aficionados will appreciate and endure. With so many improvements to the core mechanics of the original game and the breadth and depth of content it’s hard to bash Epic Mickey 2, but the mechanics and flow will frustrate as many as they enthrall.
+ Disney fan delight
+ Tons of replayability and stuff to do
— Gameplay not coherent enough
7.5 / 10