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Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

Score: 78%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Junction Point
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

Unfortunately, we didn't get the opportunity to review the first Epic Mickey title, and while my impressions of the game (without having played it) were little more than Mickey meets Super Mario Sunshine, I've heard a lot of pros and cons concerning the original title. Since I didn't get a chance to play the game myself though, I can't really speak to what Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two has improved. What I can talk about is how the game feels to a newcomer to the series.

Epic Mickey 2 is an entertaining game, both visually and audibly. Both the 3D and 2D areas have a unique feel to them that truly makes them stand out. I enjoyed the feel of the early cartoon 2D areas, but was disappointed by how short those tended to be, meanwhile the large 3D hub world and levels still retained that classic cartoon feel, and Mickey's ability to paint or thin the surroundings in order to change not only the look of the structures, but also the structure itself was convincing.

As for The Power of Two's audio, the press material claims it to be a musical experience, but quite frankly, I never really got that impression. One character, the Mad Doctor (the antagonist from the first game), sings all his lines, but he is the only one and most people seem more annoyed than anything else about this trait. That being said, the voice acting gets the job done and is generally entertaining. I found the game's music fit the overall classic cartoon feel of the rest of the game and stayed nicely out of the way… though I guess that isn't necessarily a good thing for something claiming to be a musical.


Gameplay:

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two brings Mickey back to Wasteland, the world inhabited by all of Disney's retired cartoons. While Mickey left this world thinking all was right, it seems a series of earthquakes and a new threat has gripped the world and Mickey is once again called in with his magical paint brush to help save Mean Street and the cartoon inhabitants.

This time around, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit joins Mickey on his quest as a co-op character, although I found myself questioning his purpose more times than not. This character can be controlled by a second player, or the game's A.I. Unfortunately, the second character doesn't really have a lot of work to do, so asking another person to sit next to you and be ready whenever you need an extra boost or a switch to be flipped is a bit of a waste. That being said, the co-op A.I. doesn't always do what you want, so some human intervention is sometimes required.

While Oswald does come in handy in order to shock enemies and helicopter you across large gaps, I always felt like these were obstacles thrown at me for the sake of giving the co-op experience a purpose and never really felt like a necessary part of the game. While co-op is all the rage and there is a lot of potential for a truly fun co-op experience here, there just isn't enough in The Power of Two to make it feel like more than a simple gimmick to make this title different from the first.

Epic Mickey 2 not only has the main story, but it also throws a ton of side quests at you. You are tasked with everything from finding rare objects, to collecting items, unlocking costumes and even taking pictures of the world around you to look for hidden Mickeys and Oswalds. Actually, I found this to be quite overwhelming, especially when you first get to Mean Street and every person you talk to seems to give you a new task to be competed somewhere along your journey. While the main story itself clocks in at around 10 hours, there is still a lot of work to be done afterwards.

As with most games headed by Warren Spector, there seems to be an emphasis on choices you make in Epic Mickey 2. It seems most of these choices are tied to your decision to paint or thin the objects around you. This supposedly influences a good-guy/bad-guy scale in the game and changes how some dialogue plays out, but quite frankly, I never really saw any evidence and I never really felt invested in the characters or choices enough to really care, especially since thinning an object rarely left lasting results since I could just paint it back.


Difficulty:

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two has some uneven difficulty issues. Some of it comes from shaky platformer functionality, but there are also other places where parts of the game were simply inconsistent. As for the platformer aspects, I found most jumps were hard to pull off, but not because they were cleverly tricky bits of level design, but simply because it didn't feel natural and smooth. That particular problem was found throughout the game from beginning to end. The inconsistent nature of The Power of Two typically comes in when you are trying to figure out how to move forward.

Often you are pointed to your next level thanks to a gremlin named Gus, but in levels, the number of times that I knew exactly what I was supposed to do were about the same as the times I just stood there not entirely sure how I should progress. I can't even say this was an issue that got more and more frequent as the game progressed. It had nothing to do with Epic Mickey 2 getting harder as you made your way through the story, it just felt like poor design and direction scattered evenly throughout the game as a whole.


Game Mechanics:

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two has two main mechanics, Mickey's paintbrush and Oswald as a co-op character. The first mechanic feels right. Mickey's ability to shoot paint or thinner at objects and see them fill in or disappear works well, though I don't know exactly why only certain areas are affected by these abilities, or at least I don't know what in-game reason for this there is since it seems like everything should be affected by the thinner. As for technical reasons, I've seen at least one game, American McGee's Grimm, essentially overlay two skins on a level that could do a decent job of portraying a thinned vs. painted version of the world, but that was a PC game and there might not be enough power in the Wii to pull off a trick like that.

As for the co-op aspects, I feel like there is a lot of potential here, but it is lacking in many ways. Oswald feels like that little brother constantly tagging along and getting in the way more times than not, only to be useful on the rare occasion where an obstacle is specifically designed for his specific set of abilities. Maybe I've just been playing too many LEGO games lately, but I would have felt a lot better about the co-op experience if Oswald was just as handy in a fight and I had the ability to switch between Mickey and the lucky rabbit at will (when I didn't have a human co-pilot, of course).

Like I said at the beginning, I can't really compare Epic Mickey 2 to the original and talk about what got better or worse. What I can say is that I enjoyed Power of Two, but there are definitely quite a few issues that still need working out before I would come close to recommending this game to most Disney fans. As it is, I'm sure there are those that will love what it has to offer, but it definitely isn't for everyone. Rent this title before buying it.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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