Reviews: Epic Mickey

Warren Spector Presents: So Okay, It's Average Mickey

When I first heard about Epic Mickey, I was thinking a 3D platformer that returned Mickey to his Crazy Awesome Jerk Ass ways in a dark, destroyed world couldn't be anything but epic, like the title promised. The dark steampunk concept art only helped fuel the hype train on which I found myself. Well, I was wrong about that. It's a good concept, yes, but flawed and repetitive gameplay (not entirely unlike the issues that would plague Disney Infinity in the future) render it an unrewarding, tepid slog of a game that had me quit the game and leave it alone for months at a time, which is tantamount to heresy for my (admittedly pointless and neurotically motivated) principles—no, identity—as a gamer; no doubt a result of my living with about one new game a year for the first ten years of my life. It don't happen a lot, is what I'm saying.

The game is, plain and simple, completely unrewarding. There are a few memorable ideas such as the Oswald and Walt statue and generally Oswald's story as a whole, as well as cameos from Disney rides, characters, and even past Disney-licensed video game.. My favorite thing is the resurgence of the woefully ignored Horace Horsecollar, whose new private dick characterization is pretty much the only thing I can safely agree is "epic." But those are short moments of fun and creativity, like stars in a sky otherwise consisting of uninspired, poorly designed platforming and underwhelming boss fights.

And worst of all, the game doesn't save any progress you make in the process of either "creating" or "erasing" objects and things with your magic paintbrush. Leave the area, and it snaps back. I've been a part of electric shock-based pavlovian therapy sessions that feel more rewarding than this game. Oh well, at least the pointless pins you get for completing sidequests is good training for the mountain of disappoint of the Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD ReMIX (speaking of which, there's a game that actually did Disney licensing right!) limited edition pin. Two steps forward, one step back, eh Nomura?

Despite his admirable vision, Spector's amateurish implementation of even the most basic platform gameplay suffuses and weakens the entire experience, until you're left with something that utterly fails to bring that most base of video game pleasures: fun.

Beautiful Story Presentation, Very Unpolished Gameplay

Where 'Epic Mickey' really shines is in its brilliant storytelling, presentation, characters and concepts. I'm a hardcore stickler for good storytelling, and this game definitely did right by me, especially as a big Disney/animation fan. The animation is far above video game par. The idea of making Wasteland an alternate Disneyland and the nostalgia it induces is inspired. The characters are very strong and both reintroducees, Mickey and Oswald, were handled skillfully and I was left wanting more of them. If character-driven storytelling is important to you, I would definitely say that Epic Mickey is worth your time and money.

However, I was initially very disappointed in this game. Firstly (and you saw this coming), the camera is terrible. I'm not just talking about those somewhat-bad cameras we've all had to deal with at some point. This one is terrible, and it will cause Mickey's death several times over. Acknowledging that it was deliberate, I firmly believe that the game is weaker for not allowing the player to revisit old areas, the lack of conscious saves as an option, and consequential factoring of accidents in as a 'player choice'. (Isn't going back to an old area to complete quests my choice anyway? Also, keep in mind, this also means you can't save the game at a place you like so you can show people; you have to make due with where ever you happen to be in the game at the time.) The most tragic of all of this is that the game isn't fundamentally bad and would have been much better with a few repairs. It makes me wish it was common practice to release improved versions of video games because I would buy a new copy of Epic Mickey in a split second if it meant I could play it with a working camera.

Overall, if you're only looking for game that's a lot of fun to play (verses to watch), I wouldn't recommend Epic Mickey, and that's honestly a shame. If you don't mind just being in for the story you will have fun, but it's saddening that flawed gameplay mars what could have been a truly magnificent experience on the whole. Ironically, because of these problems I worry that this game will merely be a niche classic and be left by the wayside by the mainstream itself... Unless it launches improved sequels, anyway. I'm crossing my fingers.

A Disney Movie in Videogame Form

Pretty much a perfect description of the game. Capturing that specific blend of heart, humor, Nightmare Fuel and sadness, Warren Spector and his team have crafted a Mickey game that brings him back to his adventurous roots while not playing second fiddle to a spiky haired kid obsessed with friendship. The story and world design is a very top-notch way to play with Disney history and fulfills a small dream of mine for an actually good Disney Theme Parks inspired adventure game that is only really marred by the bad camera that everybody has already complained about.

An appreciation for Disney history really helps with the experience with all the references to various movies, merchandise and rides through over 80 years of Disney's history, though some of Spector's omission decisions such as the removal of an Alice In Wonderland level because of Burton's movie do end up feeling like a Missed Moment Of Awesome and Wasteland's population is less diverse because of those cuts, being limited to characters sourced from the Fab Five focused Classic Disney Shorts, Captain Hook's pirates and the Gremlins, who are apparently are missing the Fifinella (females) section of their population. There's definitely some Sequel Hook threads though that may give Spector an opportunity to solve these problems and expand Wasteland further. Maybe even go back a bit and give us Pre-Oswald stuff or extend the park references to go beyond Disneyland.

The music throughout the game does a great job in capturing a Disney feel and even twisting familiar tunes along the way. Jim Dooley was apparently trained by classic Disney musician Buddy Baker and it does show quite a bit, especially in Ventureland. As for the Zelda inspired voicework, I didn't mind it as much as others did, but I can't help but think if they had gone with full voice acting that this could have been for Bret Iwan what "A Goofy Movie" was for Bill Farmer as far as showing great emotional range with the character.

Missed opportunities aside, this first venture into the world of Wasteland is a fun ride like many of the attractions you find ersatz and melancholy versions of in the game. And now I'm looking forward to get back in line and go again, though hopefully the wait for a sequel won't be as long as the line to get into Soarin' at Epcot.