1 and a 1/2 out of 5 Cookies
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is an incredible looking game. I mean, look at that box art. Its a lush, colorful, vibrant world. On top of that, it has got some great ideas like animated operatic musical numbers, delightful 2D gaming sections, and an off-kilter Disney universe that mainly features the characters and art-style of the early Disney – the 1910’s through the 1940’s – rather than the modern Disney universe.
This seems to be heading right into 5-Cookie territory except for three things: Its playability is hampered by less than exact controls, it’s never quite clear where to go or what to do next, and a pretty punishing difficulty level made even more baffling by the fact that its main market is children. In a word, despite amazing art and ideas, as a videogame it’s got issues. Okay, two words; Serious issues.
I’ve listed each of these failures into sub-topics that show how each problem was divided into this would-be masterpiece and notched it from a 5-Cookie to a less than 2 –Cookie game.
The Controls Quotient: Mickey’s main item to interact with the game world is a paint brush which works to spray paint and thinner all over the game world to solidify things, or to make things disappear to get tasks done. While the first Epic Mickey was a Wii exclusive, its control-scheme based primarily on the Wii motion controls that allowed the player to point and aim the controller directly at the screen to paint whatever he or she wanted, this one relies on the right-stick of the controller for all the aiming. It’s an inexact process which is perfectly tolerable in relaxing portions of the game, but becomes infuriating while fighting enemies and bosses which are designed in such a way that you have only a second or two to shoot them, and that precious time is wasted trying to aim and pinpoint the brush.
How I felt trying to aim in Epic Mickey 2
As a platformer Epic Mickey 2 also is tolerable, and you can tell that a lot of inspiration was drawn from the Mario games like Galaxy, Sunshine, and even Super Mario 64. It works but still lacks the precision of a true Mario game. When you’re trying to jump onto a small surface, often you’ll miss, or not grab on. You can easily retry, but hell, getting from point A to point B shouldn’t be a labor.
“The Power of Two” in the game’s subtitle refers to Oswald, your sidekick who stays with you throughout the entire game. Oswald does stuff you, as Mickey, cannot do, such as electrocute baddies, open doors, shock consoles to make stuff happen. Oswald doesn’t really do exactly what you need him to do and is pretty worthless. In fact, Oswald has the power to revive you when you die, but as often as he does it, he just as often ignores your slow melting into the ground ala the Wicked Witch of the West and lets you die. He sucks. And there most certainly would have been a way to give Mickey his abilities and allow the player to rely on themselves instead of rely on a sidekick they have no control over. (Actually, there are some walkthroughs on the web that recommend that even as a single player you keep a second controller handy to take control of Oswald just to make sure shit gets done.)
Optional Oswald shirt in-game Easter Egg in alternate universe
The What The Hell Am I Supposed To Do Next Quotient. I will be honest, if I had 47 hours to devote to this game’s campaign/storyline, I probably would have finished it without help. But seeing as I have a job and other responsibilities, as well as other games I’d love to get to it took me about 2 hours of wandering around clueless to realize that without a walk-through I would be devoting the rest of 2013 to this game. I used IGN’s walkthrough Wiki which wasn’t as thorough as it might have been, but did get the job done.
The problem here was two-fold; Often, the game just didn’t bother to tell you where to go or what to do next. At one point I got stuck so kind of started going back the way I came. Once I realized that that was no solution to my problem, I retraced my steps back and kept moving forward. Sometimes the game actually did bother to tell you what to do next through another character, a gremlin named Gus. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, Gus’ advice is so vague that you don’t even know what exactly he means. The game is a long game as it is – there is no reason to be vague or even have the player question what the next challenge is in order to artificially lengthen it. When part of your challenge is to figure out the next challenge – not good. This feeds right into the next issue…
The Difficulty Quotient: This game is hard. Unnecessarily hard. Especially for kids. Now, while exploring other people’s online thoughts on the game I came across multiple message boards featuring nerd arguments actually arguing that the “dark” aspects of the game were a cue that it was “not for children” and thus the ramped up difficulty level should not be an issue. If your game is emblazoned with a giant Disney logo and features Mickey Mouse on the cover, guess what? It’s for kids. This is not to say that it doesn’t have aspects to it that adults can and will enjoy, but its main market is children.
But that’s beside the point anyway. A difficulty level shouldn’t necessarily be dictated by the age of your customer. The last game I played was Lollipop Chainsaw which is definitely intended for an adult audience, but the difficulty level is completely set by the player. In fact, I praised the game exactly for this feature.
There was a point in Epic Mickey 2, a boss battle about half way through, that I was almost going to just stop playing. I tried and failed for about an hour on Thursday evening, and then again on Friday evening, even bringing the teenager in to take over the Oswald character to see if the co-op may make the battle easier. We tried for about another hour that way, and failed. I threw in the towel and went to bed, pretty much having decided I was done with the game. On Friday morning I decided to give it one last shot and just happened to win the battle. I say “just happened” because I actually didn’t do what the boss battle required me to do – I was trying to do it for about 20 minutes straight and suddenly it jumped to a cutscene. As though the game felt sorry for me but decided to reward me for just surviving as long as I had.
It’s a shame really because I really, really, REALLY want to recommend this game. It’s something that should be seen and experienced because there’s so much there for Disney fans, multimedia art fans, and video game fans. But unfortunately, for basic mechanical issues that would be easily correctible, I just can’t. It’s as though everyone that was on board in this game brought their best to the table except the people in charge of making it eminently playable – basically the video game experts.
Like a Mario game, this one’s got many different worlds, themes, and game spaces all of them with a very old-school Disney flair that is not celebrated and highlighted nearly enough. Just for that it is worth a look. But unlike a Mario game the beauty on the screen is never complemented with ease of use. If I could ask the creators and producers of this game one question it would be, Did you fellas even play your own game? Because you realize that it’s almost unplayable, right? Right?
If this had been a smaller studio and publisher I probably would have rated it 2 out of 5 cookies, but Disney, with gobs of money and experience in making products that appeal across the board to everyone, but especially children should know better than to allow the release of something that is pretty much just going to frustrate their target audience and ultimately, waste their money.
Epic Mickey 2 was released for the Christmas season 2012 and is now generally available in the $30 price range.