With a 2010 release already under their belt, Juntion point, headed by industry veteran Warren Spector, now look towards the future with their latest release: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. The game brings everything fans loved about the original Wii-exclusive title to the front and more, yet, it retains some of the more frustrating elements its predecessor had.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two sees players return to the Wasteland to try disover the reasoning behind a series of devastating earthquakes that has ravaged the toon world. The Mad Doctor, who you might remember from the first title, offers to help Mickey and his friends repair the world and, by doing so, make amends for the trouble he caused previously. Equipped with his magical paintbrush, Mickey sets out with his pal Oswald The Lucky Rabbit to find the source of the recent troubles, and save the otherwise tranquil world.
What’s interesting about The Power of Two, and something that appears quite early on, is the newly introduced feeling of choices the player can make. Decisions can change the narrative slightly so there’s a revived sense of an RPG-element to the game, a feeling you could argue the previous Mickey outing lacked. Decisions can also bleed over into gameplay mechanics too with Mickey’s paintbrush deciding the aesthetics of some of the regions in the game. The brush offers two basic attributes to gameplay; a filler and a thinner. The filler will paint back in missing ledges, missing bridges, missing pieces of puzzles and even paint back in some areas in the game, while the thinner will simply dissolve and remove them. A concept used in the first game that still, to this day, remains as slick and intuitive as ever. That said, the actual aiming can be a little off sometimes, but generally the painting experience works well.
Oswald The Lucky Rabbit now takes on a prominent centre stage role as he becomes an active member in the gameplay itself. Enjoying a upgrade or sorts, Oswald can now help the player with enemies they encounter – defeating them or turning them into friendlies, locked doors that need to be hacked, crossing canyons and more. You can, if you wish, play the entire single player campaign by yourself, and Oswald will be controlled by AI. Not for you? You can also boot up split-screen mode and let a pal control Oswald, but the fact that the game doesn’t support online co-op feels like a squandered opportunity. The ablities wielded by both Mickey and Oswald compliment each other quite well with the former proving to be the leader of decision making and combat, while the latter will act as support for the adventure. There’s also a surprising amount of side-quests under the hood – once you get into the thick of things. Aside from the general population needing the oddjob, there’s pins to collect, areas to photgraph, clothing to collect – one outfit sees Mickey dressing into his Steamboat Willy look, film reels to snap up, metal to collect – which can be used to repair various broken machines and buildings throughout the game and much more.
During your exploration of the campaign, you’ll also notice that there’s a 2D element to some levels – levels that can be played in conjunction with Oswald. These pre-level areas are broken into foregound and background paths – with each offering a selection of items unique to that very path. While the idea is simple, they offer a small distraction between regions and prove to be a delightful scrolling experience. The foreground for example, might offer players a range of selective pickups, with the background offering something different like a collectible pin, clothing item, photographs and even old film reels – so there’s a real sense of replayability here. Acting as a buffer between the narrative, the levels showcase a throw-back to previous Disney/Mickey Mouse adventures with each offering an overwhelming amount of of detail and charm.
The overall gameplay experience is generally a positive one, and while Junction Point has clearly addressed some of the issues that existed in Epic Mickey, there’s quite a few that remain. Take for example the camera – an awkward contraption at the best of times, the camera is something you’ll literally fight while wading through the game. If you have played Epic Mickey, you can tell that Junction Point has indeed worked on it, yet it still remains a troublesome element to the gameplay. In fact, it’s a troubling element that that will see your gameplay confidence reduced significantly when precision jumping or attacking is needed. That said, you can adjust the camera to suit whatever viewpoint you want, but even then you won’t feel comfortable as you’ll spend more time wrestling with it as it strays from place.
There’s also issues with navigation and general gameplay fundamentals need to be addressed. Navigation around the world can be a frustrating affair with very little to indicate the intended objective, route and/or location. We also encountered, on more than one occassion, a platform that, after leaping to it, led to nowhere. To close this loop, and return to our original location, we simply dived off the ledge until the continue screen appeared, and started from that area again.
Gameplay mechanics aside, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two offers a rather unique threatrical experience to the player. Musicals offered up during the campaign can be a little hit and miss at times if truth be told, but that doesn’t stop Junction Point keeping with Disney traditions as The Mad Doctor bellows out tune after tune. Later on in the game, these musical moments might prove to be a little tiresome to an aged gamer, but there’s no doubt they’ll keep the younger gamers entertained and interested until the curtain drops.
Despite its downfalls, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two offers players a worthwhile experience that, in its own right, is magical from start to finish.
TGL SCORE 6/10
Format: PC, Wii U, Wii, Xbox 360 (version tested), PlayStation 3
Developer: Junction Point Studios
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Release Date: Out Now (US), November 23rd (EU)