Epic Mickey has had a pretty eventful ride since its announcement in the eyes of gamers: first it was Wii exclusive, then it was rumored to be multi-platform, and now the non-exclusive rumors are put to rest – like it or not, Epic Mickey is only available on the Nintendo Wii this Fall.
As a Disney fan (of the films, and theme parks), I was very pleased to see that creator Warren Spector really knew his history – the game is injected with various obscure Disney characters and lore (the Enchanted Tiki Room? Yes please!). As a gamer, I couldn’t help but notice that the similarities between Epic Mickey and Nintendo’s 3D Action-Platformer Mario Galaxy are hard to avoid – read on to find out whether or not that’s a good thing.
The easiest way to describe Epic Mickey’s gameplay is to imagine a mix between Mario Sunshine’s F.L.U.D.D. system mechanic and Mario Galaxy’s platforming and spin mechanics. Shaking the Wii-mote executes a spin attack; aiming the cursor with the IR sensor and pressing the B button fires paint (a projectile that builds objects and converts evil minions); and aiming and using the nunchuck’s Z button fires paint thinner (a projectile that kills enemies and erases objects): simple enough.
Despite similar gameplay, the way you access levels is set up a bit differently, and there’s an additional step to go through to get from the hub world to the core 3D realms. In Epic Mickey, there are three types of stages:
- Hub worlds – Areas that have characters you can interact with, and access transition stages
- Transition Stages – very short 2D platforming sections that lead you to 3D worlds
- 3D Levels – Mario Galaxy/Banjo Kazooie-esque maps with multiple objectives
The transition stage that I played was the one from the Nintendo Conference announcement: Steamboat Willie. It was very cool and authentic looking, but it was literally 30 seconds long – hopefully in the finished version these transition stages will increase in length as the game goes on.
The 3D stage was a never before seen pirate level, with murky, deadly inkblot water surrounding a series of small islands. Although it was kind of uninspired, it featured a lot of cool mechanics like erasing the tops of masts so that the floor could be used as a platform, and erasing anchors so that a pirate ship could be raised out of the sea. Mickey can double jump with ease, and killing enemies is as simple as shooting, spinning, or stomping them. Fans of Fantasia will also be pleased to know that Yen Sid’s brooms make an appearance as enemies.
As much as I liked the game, I do feel like it would have been much better suited for an HD console. While the actual characters look fine, a lot of the magic, and nuance of the game is lost in the very dull effects – I can’t help but think that if the paint look shinier, and more colorful, it would help add to the allure of “painting things right”.
The same goes for the audio – it has a Banj0-Kazooie “gibberish” sound to it, which is fine, but Mickey himself is disturbingly silent – I came in expecting a Kingdom Hearts fully voiced original cast, but later found out that Spector nixed Mickey’s voice because “it was too high pitched to believe he was a big hero”.
In my opinion, that’s a bit of a cop-out, considering Mickey kicked major ass in Kingdom Hearts 2 with the late Wayne Allwine (who was Mickey from 1977, to his death in 2009) at the helm. I think the real reason may either be a limitation in the Wii’s hardware, or the fact that Warren wanted to market to the Zelda crowd (which also has gibberishly voiced supporting characters next to a silent hero).
Despite this odd design choice, Spector adds his Deus-Ex morality system in the game, in a pretty cool way. If you thin out (kill) too many enemies, the world will change to accommodate that – likewise, if you paint a ton of enemies, you’ll gain more allies for the war against the Phantom Blot. The details are scarce at the moment, but the demonstrators promised that it would be very cool, and unique to the game – stay tuned as we gather more info over the coming months.
Overall, Epic Mickey is shaping up to be a pretty solid title for Disney fans. Although it’s not nearly as good looking as Mario Galaxy, it’s definitely something you’re going to want to check out come this Fall.