We’ve all seen the concept art, heard the stories, and watched all the YouTube videos we could find. But it’s here. Disney’s Epic Mickey. The game that brings the loveable and huggable Disney company to the dark side. But is it as epic as the title suggests? In a word, yeah.
The story is a simple one. Mickey one day stumbles upon Yen Sid’s lab where he is created an alternate version of Disneyland for the rejected and forgotten characters of the real world can live in happy retirement. To create this world, he uses the magic of Paint and Thinner. Mickey, in one of many homage to the cartoons in his career, decides to experiment with these things but only makes things worse. The world of forgotten characters has become The Wasteland.
After several decades of fame and success, Mickey is suddenly pulled into Wasteland by The Shadow Blot because he has the one thing that is needed for any forgotten toon needs to escape: a heart.
The game takes off sprinting. Not running, but sprinting. And if you know anything about sprinting, then you know that means you start off strong and fast but end up using up all your energy by the end of the level. Which is true for the first level. Much like Mickey, you are dropped into the darkest Disney castle I have seen in recent history and are tasked with escaping. Once out, you are introduced to The Gremlins, a race of toons from World War II that Disney never made into a full short. Their leader, Gus, acts like Jiminy Cricket for Mickey and helps guide him through the Wasteland. And even he is puzzled as to why Mickey is in the Wasteland!
Thankfully, once you get to Mean Street, the game’s pacing starts to even out into a Zelda-like RPG. You have a main set of goal, which is to get home, but you have several side quests that help your reputation and how the other characters act towards you. If you are a jerk, they’ll hate you. If you are friendly, they will be more helpful and understanding. And much like any RPG, the story is very much quest based that helps getting you through the story. There are even story acts that will cause certain side quests to expire for one reason or another, more often than not because a certain area is locked.
The gameplay has a bit of a learning curve that the first area attempts to teach you. I found that if you hold both the Wii Remote and Nuncuck close together in a mock Classic Controller hold, controlling Mickey is slightly easier and more intuitive. The real star of the gameplay is the painting and thinning ability. You paint with the B button on the Wii Remote and thin with the Z button on the Nuncuck. The Wii Remote acts as a proxy for the brush. Simply point it to the screen and Mickey will paint or thin the area.
Now let me clear up some confusion. You can’t thin or paint anything in the environment. You can only use this ability on “Toon” elements. Ever seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Well, there you go. It would be too easy to thin out a door that is blocking your way, after all. Thankfully, identifying what is and isn’t toon is as simple as looking for a ghost outline, which can be simple in some areas like the Gremlin World but stupidly difficult at time in areas like the Hangman’s Tree. Also, you can't befriend all your enemies, since some of the are made out of discarded animatronic parts.
If you’ve read any other review on this game, you no doubt have heard about the camera issue. In my playthru, the camera wasn’t that big of an issue. Yes, it did get in the way, especially during heavy combat where I couldn’t see anything going on around, but I was always able to find a way to get out of the situation. You can also center the camera pressing the C button on the Nuncuck, but this doesn’t auto lock the camera to a 3rd person position.
Okay, now that THAT’S out of the way, let me talk about what makes this game so great to me. It’s so dark. And I mean, DARK. How dark? Well, the Blot kills a character, you have a full assault on the Wasteland castle that results in its destruction, and there’s Toon Zombies. No, you read that right. There are zombie versions of the forgotten Disney characters that Mickey will have to face, and they are completely immune to both paint and thinner. Hell, their idle animation freaked the hell out me, seeing a proto-Goofy with a cracked neck and melting limbs as it limbers around the room. Oh, and the boss battle against The Shadow Blot itself? I haven’t been that scared of a Disney character before now, if only because of how big the guy is! His mouth alone could swallow one of the houses from Oswald’s Toon Town!
Unfortunately, the story isn’t that dark. It’s your standard “stranger in a new world becomes a hero” kind of story, that is more involving as a video game than it is as a feature film. Everywhere you go, you see the effects of Mickey’s mistake and your choices during the course of the game. But there comes a point where your actions don’t mean shit and the story takes over. That’s where the intimacy of the story ends up losing its grasp on you and it becomes your standard “save the world” faire. But I’ll be damn if I didn’t get laugh at Gus’s reaction to the Lonesome Manor, tear up when Oswald finally forgives Mickey, or have my mind blown when the game’s true villain is revealed. And thankfully, those moments are well deserved and not forced at all.
Because this is also a platformer game, there are tons of unlockables for you to collect. There are pins to collects based on your choices or on how skilled you are. Shops will sell you concept art, or you can hunt for them throughout Wasteland to see what Tomorrow City was originally going to look like. Probably the best unlockable in the game is done by collecting Film Reels. These will unlock two real-world cartoon shorts, one from both Oswald and Mickey’s film history. If you’ve seen them before, the fact that these shorts are on a video game disc and not on some collectible DVD is kind of cool. (Then again, I have the Oswald Shorts Collector’s Tin, so take that as you will.) However, to get a full 100% collection, you’ll need to play the game at least three times. I don’t know how true that is, because after my first playthru, I was able to find half of the film reels and 60 of the 100+ pins, and I know at least 5 of the pins can be bought from the stores.
There’s a reason why this game proudly points out on the box that it won Best Wii Game from G4 and IGN. Despite its flaws, it keeps the frustration level low and the fun rather high. It’s very entertaining to drown some enemies in paint and see them do your dirty work for you, and it’s just as gratifying as it would be if you decided to thin them out yourself. The puzzles are not too difficult, but will cause some headaches if you don’t think things through. And after the climax in the story, Disney goes to the dark side with their most child-friendly and iconic character in their ownership.
This ain’t Kingdom Hearts; this is something else. Something epic.
Loading Bar Rating: Full Price Game!
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