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!!