When Epic Mickey first graced the shelves in 2010, it was met with both pleasant surprise and underlying frustration. The brainchild of legendary game designer Warren Spector, this Wii exclusive was certainly not lacking in style, originality or potential and proved to be a bold move for Disney at a time when they seemed to be stepping back from the gaming market.
Unfortunately Epic Mickey was not free of problems. Poor camera, sketchy controls and some bizarre mechanics only served to taint what could have been one of Disney’s greatest IPs to date. This left plenty of room for improvement in what was ultimately a flawed but charming experience.
Two years later and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is finally upon us, so does it fix the franchises problems? Despite addressing some issues, I hate to say this sequel unfortunately falls short of the mark once again.
Much like the first game, most of Epic Mickey 2 takes place in the Wastelands. This almost post-apocalyptic area is host to all the toons and ideas that have been long forgotten in the realms of the Disney Universe.
Although not the most beautiful game you will ever see, Epic Mickey 2 makes up for it in style and art direction. Once again the eerie, cold, mechanical feel is juxtaposed perfectly with the lingering magic of Disney’s forgotten relics making for an almost palpable visual experience.
Players once again must save this forgotten world from danger, except unlike before they are not alone in their quest. Epic Mickey 2 reunites Mickey with Oswald but this time as a playable character, altering both his bearing on the tale and the games main mechanics from its predecessor.
The story itself is a charming, if slightly formulaic tale that will, at the very least, hold your interest throughout. However it is the new way in which the story is told that makes Epic Mickey 2 interesting, especially when compared to many other games of its type.
It is clear that Disney and Junction Point Studios have listened to their fans here. Characters are now voiced and subsequently more fleshed out, cut-scenes have been overhauled and there are even songs this time around. Add to this a choice and consequence system and a much longer campaign and you have a yarn that feels both adult but also worthy of Disney’s name.
Despite all these positives however, much of the game’s campaign is repetitive and by the end feels more of a chore than a journey. This is partly due to the game’s reliance on repeated mechanics to ensure length. Many sections require you to do the same things you have been doing for many hours previous and that unfortunately is a recipe for boredom.
Much like the first, the best parts of this journey are found through exploration. In this regard Epic Mickey 2 shines, offering many side quests and optional areas to keep you straying from the beaten path.
The real difference here is the franchises new cooperative dynamic. The talents of both Mickey and Oswald are needed in order to beat Epic Mickey 2’s campaign. This in turn means that it can be played both alone with AI or with a friend.
It is at this point that Epic Mickey 2 begins to show its major problems. The fundamental issue here is summed up quite easily. The AI is poor. When trying to solve many of the games puzzles or access its optional areas, I lost count of how many times Oswald screwed things up by refusing to jump or follow. There were also several occasions when he disappeared altogether, limiting or stopping my progress completely.
On the plus side, Epic Mickey 2 is at its best when played with a friend and so (if you are not relying on the AI) this new co-op focus is arguably its best feature. This coupled with new paint types and abilities as well as Oswald’s satisfying control scheme makes Epic Mickey 2 somewhat of an enigmatic improvement on its predecessor.
Another point worth noting can be sighted before even buying this title. Epic Mickey 2 brings the franchise to multiple platforms, a change that is sure to please many. While the original premise does lend itself to the Wii’s control system, it has to be said that Epic Mickey would certainly have felt at home on all consoles right from the word go and it’s great that Disney have recognised this.
This said, not all of the first game’s problems have been addressed here which is a real shame, especially given the two-year development cycle. The platforming is still hard to judge and possesses the same bizarre attributes (mainly the feeling you could slide off them at any moment) and the camera still makes you want to snap the disc on occasion. None of these problems are any worse than the first outing for Epic Mickey, but to not address them is a missed opportunity to say the least.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of two is a real mixed bag. While some of the original’s problems have been addressed many of the issues still remain making for a somewhat frustrating experience. The look and feel is back, as are the great characters and locations with some great new content thrown in. Unfortunately however for every step forward Epic Mickey 2 takes, it also takes a step back with issues both new and old. Add to this a flawed co-op AI system and you end up with a competent sequel if not a great one.