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Though Epic Mickey 2 gets all of the Disney-related details right, it's still somewhat frustrating for gamers

Though Epic Mickey 2 gets all of the Disney-related details right, it's still somewhat frustrating for gamers

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Epic Mickey 2 the Power of Two (EM2) is out now on multiple consoles including the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii and Wii U. The game deserves special consideration for readers of JHM because it is layered with several generations worth of material from the Disney Archives, theme parks and film library. The world of Epic Mickey, or "Wasteland" is so saturated with history that it could catch trivia specialists flat-footed. Warren Spector, lifelong Disney fan and creator of the game had said at the San Diego Comic Con that he wanted to create a world with substance. He did not want to have gamers dig underneath the surface and discover that the Wasteland was like other games. His studio Junction Point succeeded in doing just that. In some areas of the game when Mickey Mouse dissolves the walls and floors of the world players can actually see the blueprints. The grey paper of the imagination with penciled out blue lines created by the great architect Yen Sid himself. The feeling that players come away with is more than a wash of nostalgia, it is almost indescribable. Players may recognize a piece of art hanging on a wall or a radio standing in the corner of Mickey Mouse's home exactly as it appeared from the 1936 film Thru the Mirror. Players are not only visiting the home from the film, they are now interacting with it. They are walking around in his kitchen, jumping on his furniture if they choose to. Players then begin to peel away at the walls and floors only to find there is another world beyond, waiting to be explored. The game is filled with these "a-ha!" moments  In addition to capturing the details and minutiae from the Disney legacy the game gives audiences a fresh perspective on the iconic Mickey Mouse without betraying the character. The amount of work that went into the game is staggering. Disney is trying to make Mickey and his friends relevant again in the new media and are sparing no expense in making that happen.


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I've spent the past two weeks with fellow gamer Alice Hill going over the game on multiple consoles. The game has average difficulty for seasoned players but is moderately difficult for younger gamers. The main portion of the game is long but can still be beaten over the course of a weekend by experienced players. In order to get the full experience however a player has to explore every inch of the Wasteland, collect hidden items and accept side-mission that enhance the story and extend the gameplay to dozens of hours. The best way that Alice and I could review this game was by playing it on the different platforms in single and multiplayer modes and trying different options and paths. If you are interested in purchasing the game and do not want to read the spoilers then here is a one sentence review… Epic Mickey 2 is a good game but its faults prevent it from reaching true greatness. For those that want to know how we came to that conclusion please keep reading.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The camera was a major sticking point in the original game, the new camera system is much more user friendly, it follows the action better and can be moved with more precision. The camera and control really shine on the PS3 and Xbox 360 using the regular controllers. It was still a chore to use motion-based controllers in the game, and doubly so when in 2-player mode. The limited screen space and drawbacks of the motion controller were apparent when playing on the Wii and PS Move. We constantly had to keep realigning the camera to line up our targets, not to mention it was harder to perform double team moves on the Wii than the other consoles. Alice and I would not recommend getting the sequel on a different console if available. Those that do have the Wii can at least play using the cool new light-up peripherals, a paint brush and remote control available for Mickey and Oswald respectively. Visually the game was stunning. The lighting, animation, and effects featured in the new game were better than the original. Characters cast shadows, light bounced off of objects and refracted or reflected realistically. Junction Point made good use of the new physics engine as well. Items had weight, paint and thinner flowed convincingly and objects dropped as they would in the real world. These things were put to use on the new levels created for the game. Environments that collapsed remained that way for the rest of the game. Players were warned early on that all decisions they made would have consequences and could ultimately effect the outcome of the game. The level design was as good as the original game, albeit some of the best "Lands" or attractions like Lonesome Manor were featured only in the original title. The scale of the levels was much larger in this game, but like the first game they maintained an incredible amount of planning and detail. Exploration was rewarded with items that could be used in game, pins to collect or even costumes for Mickey and Oswald to wear. There were many details pulled from the parks, movies and even television shows which would appeal to even the most jaded Disney fan. Where else could a fan visit the Rainbow Caverns, fight a robot modeled after V.I.N.CENT from the Black Hole and wear a Tron costume?


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Players could travel from land to land using film projectors. The side-scrolling levels used the setting of a classic Disney film and allowed both Oswald and Mickey to explore, interact and even combine resources to get through the stage. The projectors were featured in the original game as well and contained some of the most memorable experiences. Some of the sequences in EM2 include the Old Mill, Night on Bald Mountain, the Skeleton Dance, Music Land and Building a Building. A second side-scrolling component has also been added. Mickey and Oswald can now navigate the Dahl Engineering Corridors or D.E.C., a series of underground tunnels that connect the remote areas of the Wasteland. The tunnels were named after Gremlins creator Roald Dahl but based on the Utilidoors from Walt Disney World. Each D.E.C. is made up of junk from the Wasteland, of course junk to the residents are actual antiques and merchandise from company history. Look carefully for a tape, doll or record that you might have in your collection!


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

This game also features actual voices for the main and supporting characters instead of the text boxes and generic grumbles used in the original. Veterans Bill Farmer (Goofy), Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Tress MacNeille (Daisy) and Jim Cummings (Pete) are joined by Bret Iwan the new voice of Mickey, Dave Wittenberg as the Mad Doctor, Frank Welker as Oswald and Cary Elwes as Gus the Gremlin. The supporting cast made up of Gremlins and forgotten monochromatic characters also have their own unique voices. Most  blended well with the main characters. The opponents consisted of Blotlings, Beetleworx and Blotworx. Those original creations were made of animated ink blots, machines or a combination of the two. They did not have any voices per-say, mostly grunts or screams. Three additional classic animated characters appear in game if a player searches high and low for them. The Three Little Pigs are trapped in Wasteland and have Mickey try to help them. Fifer and Fiddler Pig sing with the exact high pitched voice and even rhyme and meter from the old cartoons. Practical Pig maintains his raspy voice and serious demeanor as well. Whomever voiced the characters was spot-on. Not all of the voice acting was great however. Some of the residents of Mean Street seemed out of place. Listen for the surfer and overdone Caribbean accents. The stand-out character and voice for EM2 goes to Ian the ghost. His gruff but friendly "Hey Boss!" was a welcome addition to the cast. He was in the first game and originally appeared in the Lonesome Ghosts short. Ian challenges the player to mend the relationships between the citizens of the Wasteland, the Blotlings and Mickey. His was the best developed new personality in the game. A close second would be the robot A.B.E. He is a curator to the diorama museum and can best be summed up as Jimmy Stewart-meets-Tom Morrow. The addition of color characters in the Three Pigs contrasted the black and white citizens of the Wasteland and animatronic representations of Daisy, Donald and Goofy. The addition of cartoon stars other than Mickey is creating precedence for combining the toon and park worlds, these things may be expand upon in the next Epic Mickey title. Hopefully Ian and A.B.E. will be featured more prominently if that happens.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The greatness that Junction Point was going after began to break down when we stopped watching, stopped looking at the details and started playing. Epic Mickey was promoted as the first gaming musical. The plot was all told through song so technically Disney was right. However the Mad Doctor had all of the singing parts with one line reserved for Oswald. The gravely voice did nothing to make the character sympathetic or pull on any nostalgia strings. Imagine seeing the Little Mermaid but only Scuttle the seagull could sing the parts. It was an odd decision considering that the Mad Doctor was used only once by Disney and was allowed to fall into public domain. None of the songs were truly memorable which was odd considering that the music was written by James Dooley. The television and movie composer wrote an amazing score for the first game, X-Play deemed it the best Soundtrack in 2010. Disney never released a physical album of the first game but did make the music available via iTunes. Many players reported crying when they heard the original end credits. The original soundtrack worked on may levels whereas the new soundtrack felt lacking. It was not all bad though. The audio cues in the game were put to good use. When a player was thinning or painting the Wasteland the music on the level signaled whether a good or bad decision was being made. If players listened carefully to the choices being presented by the other characters in the game they could be prompted to make the right choice. Each level could be passed in multiple ways, some of the cues are obvious while others are well hidden. While playing in two-player mode several set pieces, particularly boss battles, were not triggered properly if at all. Gus the Gremlin would chime in and give us a hint over and over but nothing we tried would trigger the set piece. In other cases either Mickey would get stuck in an object or Oswald would fall through the floor and be unable to rejoin Mickey. This frustrated us to no end. For the minor glitches we would quit the game and then restart it. For the larger issues we had to turn off the system and go back later in the day. When we returned to the game the set piece would load properly and we could finish the stage. In several instances we ended up doing the "wrong" thing to finish the stage because the correct option did not load or would not respond to our attempts.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

With two players working independently the majority of the game was very easy. Fighting or befriending enemies was much easier this time around as was compared to the solo battles in the original game. When the set pieces did not load, or when only Player 1 (Mickey Mouse) could trigger an event then it made the game far more difficult. The majority of the game moved quickly for two players, if they were not performing any side missions. The gameplay was smooth and intuitive, as good as most action platformers. The majority of battles were well balanced if not easy as well. Very often however the gameplay would change suddenly into a slow, grating experience. The battles would become extremely difficult and feel very redundant. It would feel like an insult to the players when their progress was suddenly halted. For example Gus the Gremlin would drop the same hint over and over if a puzzle wasn't solved within a set amount of time. He would not offer alternative strategies. When fighting a boss encounter Gus would offer a clue to defeating it. Even if the player used the proper strategy Gus would continue dropping the same hint again and again. This was particularly annoying when a set piece or boss encounter did not load. There was nothing we as players could do about it unless we turned off the console or deliberately made the wrong choices. In at least one case just wandering around the level, not interacting with characters or the environment triggered a bad outcome. Alice said that it felt like we broke the game, which was alarming since we had only been playing it for a couple of days. Disney boasted that during the development they had near 600 employees working around the world in different countries. The sun never set on the production of EM2. Spreading the talent and workload over several timezones meant that something was destined to fall through the cracks. Perhaps the QA testers focused the majority of their efforts on the 1-player experience and did not go over the 2-player mode with a fine tooth comb. Or perhaps Junction Point did not consider what elements would have to be changed if gamers wanted to experience 2-player mode the entire way through. Even in the single player attempts that we tried it seemed that the computer-controlled Oswald slowed down the experience and in certain portions made the game more frustrating than it should have been. The encounters and choices we made permanently affected the outcome of the game, as promised by Warren Spector earlier this year.The good or bad sequences would play during the credits. The endings varied depending on the choices made in game. Even though Alice and I had gone out of our way to try to make nothing but good choices we had amassed a melancholy string at the end of our first play through.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

In the past two weeks Alice and I have found ourselves more frustrated than pleased with the game. We enjoyed the world that Junction Point created, the details that they filled the game with, the pins, costumes, wonderful personalities and experiences. However there is a difference between looking at the game and playing it. Pulling the experience out of EM2 was a chore. The story felt lacking and disconnected. The fear of Oswald being forgotten again was not fleshed out, why Prescott the Gremlin felt unappreciated and how the Mad Doctor set him up and then brainwashed him was a bit deus ex machina. Despite everything added to the game, including the voices, we did not feel as connected to the story as we did with the original game. Other comparative "epic" experiences like God of War, Shadow of the Colossus and Zelda did not feel broken. The player felt rewarded for exploring those games. They did not have set pieces that failed to load or a hint system that kept interrupting the player or insulting their intelligence. Gamers did not feel like they were being punished for missing an item or making a bad decision. In EM2 we were frustrated with some puzzles, boss encounters and even backtracking. For example, the studio broke Mean Street, the Wasteland version of Main Street in two, which meant we had to spend more time traveling through the lands for simple tasks. We wanted to enjoy the game, we really did but several times we were so put off by the game that we swore we would never play it again. We calmed down after a day and tried but the experience felt redundant rather than rewarding. We wanted to say that the game was better than the original but we didn't know if that was a completely true statement. Epic Mickey 2 is not for everyone and that is partially why we say it was good but not great. Those that are willing to slow down their gaming experience, carefully consider the needs of Wasteland residents and revisit locations to search for hidden items will be rewarded. Those that just want to play through a game and feel good about it in the end may need to look elsewhere.

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  • It is interesting for me to hear your viewpoint. I am a huge fan of both this game and the original, and while I did run into the same issues with Oswald as a computer-controlled character, and the camera, I still had a real blast playing the game! I loved it! I also find it interesting that you had set pieces and choices that would not load or function properly. I played the game on the Wii, and did not experience that at all. Again, I really enjoy this review and like hearing what others have to say about it!

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