Also On: PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Junction Point
Medium: Wii U Game Disc
There are games that are released every now and again that are truly special. Ones that become instant classics and warrant replays years after they've been on store shelves. They have that special "something", that elusive magic ingredient that we often translate as the generic, but widely understood word, "fun". And then you have games like Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. The exact opposite.
Epic Mickey 2 has everything a sequel is supposed to have. Better graphics? Check. 2-Player co-op support? Check. Multiplatform release? Check. Improved audio and voice acting? Check. Indeed, on paper this game would appear to be heads and shoulders above the original game in every way conceivable. The problem is, the first game wasn't that great to begin with, and the developers did little in the way of making the glue that holds any game together (game play mechanics) good enough to support the overall structure of the game.
Mickey Mouse is once again armed with a paint brush that can shoot out paint or paint thinner. Spraying paint will create objects in the world to jump on or interact with, and can also turn an evil creature into a good one. The thinner does the opposite, erasing objects out of the world and melting enemies away into a puddle of nothing. Playing the game primarily one way or the other will impact the world around you, a classic "good" or "evil" way to play. This time around Oswald the rabbit is also a playable character – so if you have a friend that wants to play couch co-op with you the game will enter split screen and you can go at it together. He's equipped with a buzzer that can zap enemies and interact with electrical devices. Needless to say, he's not nearly as capable as Mickey Mouse is, and in my playtime with the game I found it even less fun to play him as he has little to no impact on damaging enemies or impacting the environment.
The game begins with Mickey returning to Wasteland to help out Oswald and gang. There's a new evil at play and the land is ravished with earthquakes. To top things off, the evil Mad Doctor is apparently good now (uh-huh), so you'll be following his orders as well. The game takes pieces of Disney lore and sprinkles dabs here and there. Eagle-eyed fans will see countless references to the classic Disney films and theme parks. The game does little in the way of teaching the player what's going on. I'm not one of those people that likes three hour tutorials or anything, but this game becomes quite confusing very quickly. Shortly after beginning the game you'll be in a hub world town area and there are shops to visit. Many of these inhabitants will start blabbing on about side quests and missions that seem out of place so early in the game. I like to explore every nook and cranny in games, so as I was breaking barrels and other items in the game, I began collecting a variety of objects, none of which was ever explained what they are used for. I found a few pins and then a pin shop and some guy that wanted to trade pins, and again, nothing explained. For a game that's obviously targeted at a younger crowd, I'm shocked that this basic stuff isn't covered as it's found. I'm not saying the game is difficult because of this, but it's not very accessible.
The Wii U version of the game is a mixed bag with many missed opportunities. First up, for the life of me, I can't understand why the game won't allow me to play with the Nunchuk and Wii Remote in single player. It's by far and away the best way to control a game like this as you're constantly pointing and shooting paint. To add insult to injury, when you add a second player, he gets to use the Wii Remote, but doesn't need it with Oswald's attacks. I haven't played any other versions of the game, but from what I hear the PS3 version might be the best controlling port since you get HD graphics plus you can use the Move and Navigator controller. Another problem is that when playing co-op, the game splits the screen right down the middle. Hello? The Wii U GamePad was designed for this very thing! I can't believe the game doesn't allow off-screen play for Player 1, so Player 2 can have the television. Other small quibbles abound. One of the most annoying is that to go into a building, both players have to be at the door to enter. In other words, playing co-op isn't fun at all and is a mode added to the game with no real care given to it.
Perhaps the most damning thing about Epic Mickey 2 is that it's so boring. The game is a good 25 hours long and you'll be doing the same things over and over again with very little cohesive sense to level design and maddening platforming that's marred with slippery controls. It's a huge collect-a-thon of gathering everything you can find in the level, but the pay-offs are simply not exciting. The story is mundane and the play mechanics are pretty much the same as the first game, which let's be honest, weren't much to write home about. I haven't been this bored with a 3D platform/adventure game since the N64 days of Donkey Kong 64. By the 5 hour mark I wanted it to be over. The game's only saving grace is that it has plenty of fan service for those Disney nuts out there.
I was excited for Epic Mickey 2. The first game was average at best, but I figured that was primarily due to the Wii's standard definition graphics and horrible camera controls. Everything I had seen leading up to its release showed promise: HD graphics, a fixed camera, classic Disney animations and even new singing portions of the game. I even asked to be the person to review the game because I figured this would be something I would enjoy. I'm a huge fan of the 3D Mario games, Banjo Kazooie, etc. and I love Disney. With legendary game developer Warren Spector overseeing the game and iterating upon the things that worked in the first game while fixing those that didn't, I had high hopes this sequel would be one of the great games of the holiday. Unfortunately the end result is a game that I like even less than the original. There's a reason you'll see this game on sale at retailers already – it's not all that enjoyable. Buy with caution.