Every so often a game comes along with a fantastic “Why didn’t anybody think of this before?” idea that gets gamers salivating. Epic Mickey was one such game. An action-adventure game that can draw upon decades worth of intellectual property and promises choice-making that can affect the game? Yes, please.
But just like Peter Molyneux became infamous for having grand ideas but not seeing the forest for the trees, Epic Mickey didn’t quite live up to the hype due to not doing the little things right, like utilizing a poor camera system. It was also a Wii exclusive, which made sense at the time, but ended up limiting sales, seemingly dooming the franchise to the very Wasteland it featured.
But developers Junction Point were amazingly given a second chance, and now they could make a second game that corrected everything that went wrong in the first game. This time they would make the definitive Disney game featuring one of the world’s most iconic characters, once that could be enjoyed by all ages. One that GamerPops could recommend as a potential Game of the Year.
Instead, they made Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.
I was really excited to see Epic Mickey 2 in high definition, and on first glance it really reinforced that the first game missed out by being a Wii exclusive. This is a game whose visual style needs to be realized at a high resolution, and Epic Mickey 2 at times looks amazing. The 2D side scrolling transition levels remain a highlight. But then some ugliness sets in.
Keep in mind, this is on the Wii U version of the game, so it may not reflect the other platforms, but the framerate would really drop at times, which made animation really choppy looking. Even worse, I played the game with surround sound and there were multiple times where main dialog was coming out of the left-rear channel instead of the expected centre channel. That’s just plain sloppy and offputting, and you don’t need to be an audiophile to notice it, either. If you’re not going to be playing the game with surround sound, then hopefully this won’t affect you, but to me it’s more an indicator of a clear lack of attention to detail that manifests itself in other places in the game, such as the aforementioned framerate problems.
Want more? For some reason, Action and Jump are both mapped to the same button, A, which makes it into a context-sensitive operation. This results in multiple occurrences where I press A to interact with something, and Mickey jumps instead. That’s a poor design choice. Or how about showing objects that Oswald can interact with, but only letting me interact with some of them, with no readily apparent way to tell the difference.
The camera issues from the first game have been remedied to an extent, but what’s been introduced isn’t much better. Yes, you have full camera control. But the reticle that serves as your aiming device moves all over the screen and also controls the camera. Okay, the game’s design kind of forces this behaviour, and it’s a minor nitpick, right? Wrong. Stationary reticles are used not just for aiming purposes, but it’s also believed that they help reduce motion sickness while gaming. With that moving reticle, I could not play Epic Mickey 2 for more than an hour at a time without encountering motion sickness. The better design would have been to go full third-person perspective instead of the hybrid system Epic Mickey 2 uses, and have the reticle remain stationary the whole time.
I found Epic Mickey 2 to be difficult to navigate. The overworld seems needlessly complicated, and half the time I really didn’t know where I was supposed to be going. Open world games are great, but I just felt Epic Mickey 2 needed a bit more structure. Of course, throwing a different side quest at me every 10 minutes or so didn’t really help matters much. It seemed I was always bumping into somebody new who had something else for me to do. Fortunately, the GamePad kept me reminded of my main objective at all times, so that’s one thing it has going for it.
Power of Two does add drop-in drop-out co-op, which is a welcome addition, and it’s implemented with split-screen so that you aren’t tethered together, though there are parts that require agreement between the two players to enter. In fact, you’ll want a co-op partner whenever you can get one because otherwise Oswald is controlled by AI, or in this case Artificial Not-So-Intelligence. Depending on computer-controlled Oswald isn’t always a winning proposition as he sometimes won’t go where he’s supposed to, or even worse, gets in your way. Oswald and Mickey complement each other by having different abilities (Mickey with his paint brush and Oswald with his zapper and magic helicopter ears), and they can revive each other when one loses all their hit points. The co-op isn’t actually that bad, though there are times where it was hard working together with a human partner.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Playing Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two got me quite upset. Not so much the game itself, but with how Junction Point quite frankly have blown this franchise. This should have been a no-brainer, and in fact, at times you can see the brilliance of the vision they had. This could have been an amazing franchise, family-friendly or not (and trust me, this could have been a money family series, all the elements are there). We’ve now seen two games with just awful execution. Did they try to do to much? Probably. A competent platformer with this license would have been sufficient. But sometimes you try to push the envelope too much, and while we LOVE to see innovation and new things, you have to do it right. Like Epic Mickey before it, Power of Two doesn’t do it right, making all sorts of small errors (the QA team should be ashamed of the Wii U framerate alone) that result in a disjointed game that is difficult to play for any age, ruining a lot of the fun you could have had. There’s still some fun in there, you just have to work hard to find it.
I really wanted to like this game. I was so happy that Junction Point got another chance to do Mickey right. And they responded with a game that is long on vision, and woefully short on execution. Again. Mickey deserved better than this.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
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ESRB Rating Summary
Rating: E for Everyone
Content descriptors: Cartoon Violence
Rating summary: This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of Mickey Mouse as he attempts to save a magical land from a mad scientist’s trickery. Players use a magic paintbrush to paint in the world and splash streams of color on robots, blob creatures, and boss characters (e.g., giant animatronic creatures). Players can also stomp on enemies’ heads or use combo attacks to stun them. Enemies generally melt or explode into machine parts when defeated; Mickey lets out comical yelps when struck.