Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: Wii Epic Mickey

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Epic Mickey since the game’s earliest concept art appeared on the internet in late 2008 – early 2009. The leaked drawings presented the intriguing possibility that the game would offer a spectacular “out of the Disney norm” environment. I immediately got the game upon release and finally was able to make some time to check out this awesome game!

I knew that it was likely that the original concepts would morph during the design process (the original art was, in many ways, quite extreme) and they did. But the version of the environment that actually wound up in the game is just as stunning. Epic Mickey has taken the Disney worlds that we all know and love and warped them into three-dimensional visions of a familiar, yet slightly skewed, Magic Kingdom. The worlds of Epic Mickey are decidedly cool and incredibly fun and new yet still very retro.

Most of all, Epic Mickey is a true Disney geek’s dream come true.

One of the game’s smartest design decisions was to allow you to actually portray (“play”) Mickey Mouse as you explore the game world. I found that I loved “being” Mickey (and that's saying a lot being a die-hard Donald Duck fan) and I made decisions that affect the outcome of the game based on my feeling that Mickey is always a “nice guy” and would always do the right thing. I don’t know if this is typically true of this type of exploration game, but in Epic Mickey there are usually a couple of ways to do various tasks and I usually tried to accomplish the task without resorting to destruction or virtual violence. Always being fascinated by a "parallel universe" it might be interesting to give the game a different spin seeing what it would be like if Mickey did have a dark side :)

Epic Mickey gives you a way to make choices through the use of a cleverly themed game mechanic that is pure genius: paint and thinner. Throughout the game, Mickey can collect paint and thinner, and by using a brush that he carries, Mickey can fill in missing portions of the environment with paint or he can make portions of the environment disappear using thinner. Mickey can also use paint to turn villains “good” (if enough is used), or use thinner to destroy them.

The paint/thinner mechanic is part of one of the game’s design themes
that includes an early Disney staple: cartoons. Throughout the game there are several really cool interstitial 2-D platforming games that replicate sequences from a variety of Oswald and Mickey Mouse cartoons. It’s a game mechanic that I found particularly Disney geeky. They’re just a lot of fun, and it’s great reliving these old cartoons from a first person POV.

Disney character history is also honored by the appearance of Mickey Mouse’s predecessor, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It’s great to see them both together in the same world. It’s also great to see old Disney characters being used again and Epic Mickey gives them all new life. I’ve always been extremely fond of Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow, and they both make appearances throughout the game. The new characters and enemies created for the game are also really fun. The Spatters have a particularly enjoyable personality and I found it funny that they appear in themed costumes in the various segments. It’s hilarious to see them in futuristic and pirate gear!

The environments are amazingly detailed. Some of them present amazing atmosphere with clouds, fog and rain. The lighting is very well done. The entire game is filled with eye-popping color and immense detail. I even found myself on the edge of my seat in several sections that presented virtual “dizzying heights” with cliffs and voids. I felt a touch of vertigo a couple of times!

While the game ultimately has one chief goal, I enjoyed all of the side “quests” (some of which must be completed to advance in the game while others are optional), and there were several interesting and challenging puzzles. The game also has you acquiring E-Tickets (which can be used like money at various Emporia), “Pins” both normal (bronze, silver and gold) and special (theme to a particular task you have completed or a character you have helped/defeated) and film reels that you can turn in at the Cinema for prizes. This game function appealed to the collector in me (too bad they didn’t find some way to include WDCC figurines in the game).

I’m not a hard-core gamer and I think that some games are hard that others think are easy, so I was worried about the “combat” or fighting aspect of the game. Fortunately, after finally mastering Mickey’s controls (I don’t know why it took me so long to finally get the hang of making Mickey double-jump), I was able to make it through what I considered some tough challenges and I found that I was very proud of Mickey.

There are a few things that I would like to have had changed in the game design. A game mechanic that I found incredibly useful (a way to slow time and distract enemies) became available a little too late in the game for my taste. I found it annoying that I could not “save” the game at any point that I wanted to and wound up having to replay events that I’d already successfully accomplished many times. I also had some trouble with the placement of the camera at points and while there are controls to maneuver the camera around there are simply too many places where Mickey gets stuck and you have no way to look where you are going. Fortunately the “lives” or power-ups are fairly generous and I found ways to work around the camera problems.

From what I’ve read online about the plot of the game, I’m about two thirds of the way towards the end so I know there are a lot more challenges, but ultimately what makes the game great for me is that I am craving more playtime. I want to make it back to the world of Epic Mickey and I find myself hoping that they can find a way to do a sequel game. In the meantime, I’ll have to go back and play again and find new ways to save the day! Something I'd highly recommend is the Prima Official Game Guide. You would be surprised how much it helps!

For Wii gamers (I’m sorry to say that it’s only available at this time for the Wii) and Disney fans go out and purchase a copy now! You’ll be addicted!

I want to thank my friend Matthew who shared his thoughts on this game and helped contribute to this article. Thanks Matthew!!


Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

We love Epic Mickey but have the same two complaints - first, the camera angle was an issue at many points and second, the fact that I felt like I had to keep playing to get to a stopping point without losing all my progress. My husband has already completed his game, but I am still working on mine. I opted to do a lot of the optional tasks and to use paint instead of thinner when I could, which was not my husband's strategy. We'll see how different my ending is compared to his when I finally finish! Great review!

Jason S. said...

Great review, Don! Like yourself, purchased this as soon as it came out; unfortunately, still haven't gotten around to playing yet, but reading your take on it is getting me anxious to do so. Of course, the collector in me had me purchase the collector's edition version, so got the extra figurine and behind-the-scenes dvd with the game. Didn't pick up the game guide, but did grab one of the paint brush nunchucks you have pictured in the review. Also found this great Toys-R-Us exclusive figurine, which is actually designed to be a charger for the Wii controller; it features the Blot villian from the game scquaring off against Mickey. If had it to do over again would probably have just purchased the Toys-R-us piece and skipped on the collector's edition figurine.

Duckman said...


Thanks very much!

I too am having the same problem, not only with this game but Batman The Brave and the Bold, feeling like I had to keep playing until able to reach a good stopping point.

Did either you or your husband use the Guide at all?


Thanks! We got the game as soon as released (like you, went with the collector edition) but took a while before actually playing it. It's been years since I've played video games. So out of practice .. LOL! Both this game and Batman, need to use both the controller and nunchuk, so took a while getting used to which to use when and using simultaneously.

Wasn't aware of the Toys R Us exclusive charger until seeing on-line. How is the charger working? We initially bought a non-brand charger at Toys R Us that didn't work properly and returned. Ended up with an Energizer charger we got at Best Buy that we're really happy with.

dopey926 said...

As you know, Bob and I are obsessed with Epic Mickey. When Bob used to stay up late playing, I laughed. i tried it one day and haven't stopped since. I find it a great stress reliever! LOL

As always, your review is stellar and very informative to those who haven't tried their hand at the game.

There are valid "beefs" with different views while playing, in addition to saving your game. It has become trial and error for me. You think you have completed a task only to find out that you have to do it all over again. i do not find them to be a detriment as some have described.

We purchased the book that details each section. I'm not quite sure what we would do without it. Bob tends to be more of an explorer than me. I tend to be thrilled when I have battled the splatters, sweepers, slobbers and the Blot! LOL

I have read reviews where some have gotten through the entire game in 15 hours! It takes me 15 days, at best. I love that you don't know how your "deeds" will play out through the game. We are on our second time through and have noticed some huge differences in certain sections. Again, just another lure to keep your interest in playing in my opinion.

I recommend to all who loved Disney. It's a fun game with lots of intrigue at every corner.

Big thanks to Don and Matthew for their comprehensive review of the game. It should certainly help those who may have doubts about purchasing it!

Duckman said...

Thanks Toni! I've been finding it comical the time I've taken in trying to do something, then the light bulb going off and finally realizing what I should have been doing to move forward .. LOL!

What I like about this game (and others like it), it can be a whole new adventure once completed and starting it over, having a totally different outcome. I'm still definitely in the trial and error phase!

Didn't pick up the guide book initially but find it very essential in getting a better understanding in how to play game and most importantly, how to move forward!!

Truly appreciate you and Beth sharing your experiences with the game. As you said, anyone in doubt, highly recommend checking it out!

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

We didn't get the guide book. Though I wish I had! I did finish last night (now I can get back to my regular life!!!). Of course, now I want to start up again just to see how I can change the outcome.

Dessa said...

this is a pretty interesting game. I should give this one a try soon! free wii points