Disney Epic Mickey is a platformer designed and developed by Warren Spector and Junction Point Studios. The game is the initial salvo in Disney’s attempt to reboot Mickey Mouse. While current generations know Mickey Mouse as the cheerful face of Disney and not much else, he was a fairly mischievous scamp in his early days. Despite what the concept art had many believe, Mickey Mouse isn’t getting “darker and edgier,” he is just getting back to his roots as a bit of a troublemaker.
The story begins as Mickey Mouse goes ‘through the looking glass’ and causes some trouble in sorcerer Yen Sid’s workshop by playing with a magic paintbrush around a world Yen had created for “things that had been forgotten.” A malevolent creature made of ink appears and in his haste to get rid of it, Mickey spills thinner onto the world, turning it into a Wasteland. Mickey escapes unharmed, but he is later pulled into the Wasteland by the Ink Blot.
Disney Epic Mickey follows Mickey’s quest to escape the Wasteland using the Magic Brush. The Magic Brush can shoot Paint, which restores objects in the world, and Thinner, which erases them. While both paint and thinner are needed to proceed in the game, the player often has the choice of using either paint or thinner to solve problems, giving the game a simplified ‘moral choice’ system. One early dilemma involved a Gremlin that was trapped in a catapult’s launcher. The catapult’s activation switch was being held down by a treasure box. I had the option of either freeing the Gremlin and leaving the treasure box or taking the treasure box and launching the poor Gremlin to who-knows-where.
Along the way, the player will come across many long-forgotten Disney characters such as Clarbelle the Cow and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: the first inhabitant and ruler of Wasteland who envies Mickey’s success, which came at the cost of his own.
OH MICKEY, YOU’RE SO FINE
A Visual Wonderland – The game as a whole appears to have been inspired by classic Disney cartoons. The areas affected by Thinner appear dark and foreboding but the unblemished parts of Disney Epic Mickey’s world feature bright happy colors. Characters resemble their ink-and-paint counterparts without that slightly odd look that usually accompanies toons when they are rendered in three dimensions.
Old is New Again – Unlike the Kingdom Hearts games which feature Disney’s more current characters, Disney Epic Mickey is rooted in the past, featuring characters from Walt Disney’s earliest works. In addition the different areas of the Wasteland are based on Disney theme parks instead of the usual levels based on ice, lava and so on.
Paint/Thinner Mechanic - The ability to heal the world or destroy it using the Magic Brush keeps Disney Epic Mickey from being just another platformer. Using the Wiimote to splash paint and thinner around the world is fun, and the player will need to use both in order to fully explore Wasteland. Using thinner to destroy enemies and being a mean Mickey resulted in him having more of that ‘drippy’ look featured on the box art and also affected how other characters treated him.
Solid Controls – In addition to wielding the Magic Brush, Mickey can run, jump, double-jump, and do a spin attack. He’s no Mario, but he’s no slouch, either. The game’s controls are very responsive and getting Mickey around is a breeze.
2D Bits – In order to travel from world to world, Mickey must traverse 2D levels based on various Oswald and Mickey short cartoons. These sections provide a brief break from the 3D action and have an old-timey charm to them.
Lots to Do and Find – There are many badges and film reels to collect in Disney Epic Mickey as well as subquests once you reach a certain point in the game. Unlockables include the in-game animations, concept art and classic Mickey and Oswald cartoons. A second playthrough will probably be necessary in order to get all of the unlockables.
That’s the E-Ticket! – E-Tickets are currency of the Wasteland and can be used to purchase some items that players may have missed. As the items don’t come cheap, this is a good compromise for less-experienced players that may not be skilled enough to find all of the game’s many badges and items.
SLIPPED A MICKEY
Silent Stars – The story of Mickey’s adventure in the Wasteland is told via animated cutscenes. The cutscenes are a joy to watch…and less of a joy to read. Instead of having fully voiced dialogue, brief grunts and squeals are used at the beginning of each character’s interaction to express their feeling while text scrolls and scrolls across the bottom of the screen. Considering the high production values displayed throughout the rest of the game, I found this to be a minor, yet glaring omission.
Repetitive – Disney Epic Mickey has only a few enemy types that are recycled over and over throughout the game. Given the variety of worlds you will experience while playing the game, it is a pity that the same variety is not to be found in the antagonists.
Goofy Camera – At times, the game’s camera controls got finicky and sometimes refused to work at all. The camera can really get bothersome when fighting multiple enemies or trying to target objects, and makes the game harder than it should be.
Not Enough Checkpoints – The platforming gets trickier and the number of enemies you have to fight at a time increase as the game progresses. Late in the game, I felt that the checkpoints were too spread out. Often times, I would have to replay a big battle after falling into a bottomless pit a few minutes later, which led to a few frustrating moments.
Play It Again and Again, Mickey – While the 2D levels are fun the first and even the second time through, the player will be forced to play them over and over again in order to go back and forth between different parts of the Wasteland, which is annoying.
Disney Epic Mickey is a good game, and fans of platformers will find plenty to enjoy here. The Magic Brush adds an additional level of depth to what could have easily been another hop-and-bop adventure, and the game’s classic cartoon and Disney-inspired settings feel fresh and new. Without doing all the sidequests, my first playthrough clocked in at thirteen and a half hours, and I am playing through it again to see just how different the game is when you are a mean Mickey. Camera issues and repetitive enemies are the few ink spots on this otherwise charming and enjoyable game.
It’s a little premature to say Mickey Mouse is back, but Disney Epic Mickey is a step in the right direction for the character, and perhaps even for Disney videogames as a whole. With the right amount of effort and care, Mickey Mouse and friends just might find a place next to Mario and Master Chief in the hearts of gamers. It is a small world, after all!