This may surprise some people, but most critics like me don’t want to savage things they’re reviewing—especially, if as in the case of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, it was a game that I was looking forward to.
I missed the first game when it was Wii only, but gobbled up all articles and videos I could about the making of the game as well as its rich backstory and devotion to telling the story of Disney characters long forgotten. I also recalled there were many critics that said at the time that it was a mess technically and the sequel was going to fix some of those problems: like an improved camera and the ability to play co-op.
Like I said, I never played the first game. But if these were the solutions—how bad was the first game?
Being a newbie to the franchise, I was still able to follow the story of earthquakes mysteriously rattling Wasteland residents. It’s up to Mickey Mouse and his now friend Oswald the Rabbit to track down the cause, as well as find out if the Mad Doctor (who I’ll assume was the bad guy in the first game) truly had changed his ways.
The camera is pretty frustrating throughout most of the game, never more so than during boss battles. When it’s not getting in your way, your co-op partner Oswald is. He always seemed to love to step in front of me whenever I was trying to fire off a shot. He also never seemed ready to turn on or activate machines when I wanted him to with his trusty remote, though that may have been game developers forcing him to only do so when the story/puzzle required it.
While in some cases that helped me figure out where to go or what to do next, I was surprised at how often I honestly didn’t know what I was supposed to do to progress. Mission objectives were succinct, but often misleading. Gus, a trusty sidekick, would appear on screen where I needed to go next, but then sometimes he wasn’t there when I needed to know where to go.
The game quickly teaches you the main gameplay mechanic, namely using RT (I played on my XBOX 360) to paint the world around me, or LT to use my paint thinner to whittle it away. But don’t think anything in the world is ripe for painting or thinning—only certain objects that are fairly obvious to spot can be painted or thinned.
Aside from that, the game never really found the time to teach me the currency system or how to upgrade Mickey’s powers—if that was even possible.
My favorite part of the game, however, was when I would travel through “projectors” to get from land to land. The gameplay switches from 3D to 2D in those sections and you traverse from the left side of the screen to the right (and sometimes vice versa.) Each projector level had the feel of an old time animated movie, right down to the reel that ran at the bottom of the screen. It seemed unusual to include these levels, but they were remarkably different and cleverer than anything else in the main parts of the game.
The boss fights, however, were amongst the worst part of the game. The second one was so difficult – you needed to shoot either thinner or paint into tanks on the back of a boss that never stayed still for more than 2.5 seconds – that I almost quit the game out of fear (and anger) that I couldn’t progress any further. The third and final boss, however, was so easy, that I beat it on the first try.
Happily, or at least in my book, Epic Mickey 2 has a very, very short campaign. I think it only took me about 6 hours to beat it and I skipped all of the side-quests.
The game disappointed me in many ways, but none more than because I’m a huge Disney fan. (I was just as excited as my two nieces when we went this past September.) And while I enjoyed meeting a lot of the Disney characters in the game, whether they were ones that had been “forgotten” or other crowd pleasers like Smee (I’m a sucker for Peter Pan), I couldn’t get past the gameplay issues.
More than that, the game felt inconsequential. Sure, I could paint all the objects in each level to bring them back to life or I could thin them all out with the thinner. But was there a consequence for choosing one of the other? It really didn’t seem like it.
The most illogical gameplay choice was to map the “A” button to jump, as well as opening doors and grabbing things. More than two thirds of the time, Mickey jumped when I wanted him to just open a door.
All of these issues might seem small, but add them up, and it shows a lack of polish and thoughtfulness in the development of a property the designers clearly have a passion for. They’re tackling Disney characters that many have forgotten and telling their story from a position of fans with a clear love for the properties.
But a bad game is still a bad game, and unfortunately, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two isn’t a game I could recommend for any age.
* Disclosure: A copy of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. *