|Dev: Junction Point|
|Pub: Disney Interactive Studios|
|Release: November 30, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Cartoon violence|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Disney Epic Mickey certainly lives up to its title. The story in the game is amazing, the visuals are stark (and just a little disturbing) and the gameplay mechanics make the world of the game interactive and fun. However, there are some things that hold Disney Epic Mickey back from being one of the best games ever for the platform. And even though a lot of these small issues won't hamper the overall experience for many gamers (especially those who are big-time Disney fans), the game isn't perfect.
The start of Disney Epic Mickey is definitely one of the most memorable moments of the entire game. The game's strongest point is its story, and the way things get started is nothing short of, well, epic. Mickey Mouse is in his bedroom and notices something is amiss with his mirror. Upon investigation, he discovers he can travel through the mirror. On the other side, he sees Yen Sid, a powerful sorcerer and teacher, in a world that looks almost exactly like the Magic Kingdom theme park and is designed for creatures that time forgot. Unbeknownst to Yen Sid, Mickey is watching him from behind a wall, and as he goes upstairs to retire for the night, Mickey picks up Yen Sid's magical paintbrush and paint thinner, and ends up ruining Yen Sid's creation and creating a wasteland filled with an evil Phantom Blot. However, instead of fixing his mistake, Mickey runs away through the mirror and never looks back.
Of course, this turns out to be a horrible decision, and several years later the Phantom Blot finds its way through the mirror and drags Mickey back into the wasteland where he must face his mistake and help restore the wasteland back to what it should have been. Along the way, he meets his brother, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who originally pre-dated Mickey. Although the game presents itself as kid-friendly fare, themes of interrupted destinies, guilt, and of course jealousy come through as strikingly adult.
The game makes it clear from the opening cutscene that the wasteland is not a happy place, but once you actually get to the world of the wasteland, it is hard not to be amazed at the level of darkness put into the game's visual design. One of the earliest areas that you'll visit is a recreation of the "It's a Small World" attraction from the Magic Kingdom Park. But instead of happy, friendly faces singing that familiar tune, you'll see ride boats crashing, ride features in disarray, and decapitated animatronics emerging from the water. The wasteland truly is a horrific place, and the visual design in this game is second-to-none.
Even on a technical level, the visuals impress, which is quite a feat considering the Wii's technical limitations. Levels are fairly lengthy, and there is plenty of room to discover secret areas within each stage. Although the game is built in such a way that you can run through each level, jumping on platforms and flipping switches, that play style misses the point. There is so much to discover in Epic Mickey that you'll miss more than half the content if you just run through. For instance, even though the wasteland is designed for old or forgotten Disney characters, you'll notice plenty of modern elements in the hidden areas of the world. In the game's opening level, I was able to spot the Beast and the Stone Dragon (from Mulan). And if you're willing to look, there are plenty of references to modern Disney that even the youngest fan will appreciate.
But enough about the story and visuals, let's talk about gameplay. The main mechanics in Disney Epic Mickey revolve around the use of paint and paint thinner to restore the wasteland to its former glory. Most of the game will be spent using these two elements to solve puzzles and create platforms to get from one area to another. However, the game also has a strong combat mechanic, and you'll be able to either re-paint enemies to make them friendly, or thin them out to destroy them. This is where things get interesting. While re-painting enemies is the "right" thing to do, it takes quite awhile, costing Mickey valuable time. However, if you thin enemies, you'll get a much faster result, but there will be a moral cost. Mickey's outward appearance will change depending on how much paint and/or thinner you use on enemies, and the environment will also change too. Although Mickey never really takes that step into "evil" territory, you can see how his less-than-noble decisions can affect the world around him, and effect how the citizens of the wasteland treat him. The morality system never really affects the story, but being able to shape your world with the mechanics is an interesting twist, making this game ripe for replayability.