Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Review
Almost two years ago, Epic Mickey hit the Wii after years of hype and delivered a flawed game, but one with a clear vision that revitalized many players’ lapsed interest in Mickey and his story. It pushed the Wii’s limits more than most third-party software, but was greatly held back by major camera issues and control problems caused by only using the Wii Remote. It was clear that at least some aspects of the controls would work better with a regular controller, which is why I’m thankful this follow-up is on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. The latter system not only allows for controller support, but also the Wii-esque Move controller, making it the definitive version of the game.
No matter which version you buy, you’re going to get an adventure that follows up on the original. With Oswald back on the side of good, you’ve now got a partner to help you save the Wasteland, which is back to being in danger thanks to the information of the now-friendly Mad Doctor, who’s clearly benefited from some anger management. The co-op gameplay works very well with a friend, but suffers with the AI. Normally, a situation will arise that requires their unique skills. Some are easy, like having both operate a turnstile at once to get to higher ground, while others require precise timing – like Oswald jumping and hovering while Mickey jumps onto his legs to get across a gap too large to jump over. Then there are times when you both need to be somewhere and Oswald just gets stuck, requiring you to backtrack in order to find him and bring him to where you both need to be. Playing with another person solves the AI problems, but results in the screen being split vertically in 3D play and horizontally in 2D areas. This is a minor distraction for the former, but a huge one for the latter given how detail-heavy and cramped the areas are.
Outside of co-op, the core gameplay is much like the original – which is both a benefit and a curse. When everything worked, and when it focused on platforming, EM was a blast to play. Mickey’s spin worked well and aiming using the Wii Remote for painting and thinning was a breeze. Unfortunately, camera issues made its platforming sections a chore, and those moments of things working in sync were few. The slew of fetch quests got old fairly quickly too, and generally felt like things to pad out the runtime of the game as opposed to things that were compelling. Sadly, those are back, and just as much of a chore as before although they’re usually optional and not required to progress in the game. The 2D platforming sections are back, and like with the first game, are easily the part that is done the best and with the fewest issues – although Oswald does have a tendency to get stuck in areas you’ve thinned/painted over to get items.
360 owners only have controller options available since the Kinect isn’t supported, while PS3 owners can use controllers and the Move. The Move works really well in most regards. Using the move button to jump feels really natural, and the point moves around much faster and more naturally with it on the default settings (you can change the movement speed in the options menu for controllers). T works for painting and L2 still works for thinner, while swinging the wand around does the spin attack. Unfortunately, the Move setup doesn’t work as well as the controller for the camera since moving the wand also moves the camera around, and it can sometimes be very jarring. Thankfully, the Move setup works better for everything else, and even with that problem, the issues still aren’t as bad as they were in the first game.
If you’ve got the 360 and PS3, but don’t have a Move, then your system of choice will largely depend on which controller you prefer. I normally like the 360 pad more for 3D platforming, but here, using the PS3′s trigger buttons just felt more comfortable than the 360′s given all the constant pressure you’ll be giving them on larger areas. The 360 pad’s curved buttons are perfect for the vast majority of games that use them, but here, I found the PS3′s buttons a bit more comfortable to use for extended periods of time.
While none of the control setups are quite perfect (although the default PS3 pad comes the closest), I’m glad to see that the controls have been greatly improved. They were my biggest issue with the original game. The camera was never where you wanted it to be and either moved too quickly or too slowly to be where you wanted it to be. It’s a testament to its strong vision that despite its problems, it wound up being a must-buy game in other ways. Now though, with a regular controller, you don’t have to worry about camera issues killing your fun. The right stick controls the camera and it allows for far more accurate camera movements and as a result, more accurate character movements in platforming sections. Jumping was purely trial and error before, but now it works as well as you expect it to in a top-shelf 3D platformer. Depending on the area you’re in, you can even spin it around to form a perfect 2.5D appearance for some retro-inspired platforming.
Another benefit of the new camera controls is that they enable you to see just how big some of the areas are, and thanks to EM2 hitting HD consoles, the adventure seems even more epic in widescreen. The right stick is also used to aim your paint or thinner, which work like they did before, only now you don’t need motion controls. LT/L2 shoots thinner, while RT/R2 blasts people, places, and things with paint to either turn them good or make them solid. In some cases, they’ll be made solid so you can destroy them for items, but still – you made them solid for one brief, shining moment and allowed them to bask in the glory of non-life.
The only issue I have with the controls now is that there’s a delay between the on-screen prompt for something and being able to actually do it. If A/X pops up for a co-op goal, you can press it, but it will only jump – you have to wait a few seconds for A/X to work for the goal you need to accomplish. It’s very annoying and adds a good second or two to these simple sequences. It may not sound like much, but you get these prompts all the time and they become annoying fairly quickly.
Beyond the environments’ scale seeming greater due to HD, the graphical upgrade makes the whole world seem so much more alive. That, along with using the sequel’s control setup, really makes me pine for an HD remake of the original game. There are also some really impressive lighting and shadow effects here, and the depth in colors adds a lot to the environments. Despite little things like jagged textures, EM 2 is still a noticeable improvement on the original game, but probably won’t impress those used to playing a 3D paltformer on a 360 or PS3. Compared to a Wii-level game, they’re outstanding with more detail and better texture work than before, but not quite up to par with the finest-looking platformers of the current generation.
Another improvement over the original game is full voice acting. There wasn’t much voice work in the original, and while it didn’t hurt the game, in hindsight, it’s amazing to see how much it benefits the sequel. The characters had plenty of life before thanks to their lush animation and little gibberish, but full voice work makes everything come alive. It’s apparent from the start too with the Mad Doctor’s giant musical opening that it just seems like something that was so perfectly Disney that it should’ve been in the original, but wasn’t. The music is full of Disney whimsey, and while there isn’t a whole lot new compared to the original game, everything fits its situation perfectly, and given that the game shifts between being either really happy or super-gloomy, it’s fairly impressive.
Epic Mickey 2 leaves me feeling conflicted because it remedies the original’s control issues to some degree and does something new with co-op that alternates between being very helpful and annoying, depending on how the AI is when playing solo and is hurt by distracting viewpoints when using it with another person. As a result, Epic Mickey 2 feels like only a partial step forward instead of the huge one it could have been if everything worked perfectly. It’s still worth playing if you liked the first, but not something I’d recommend as a full-price buy. Given that it’s been going for $15-$20 during holiday sales, it’s hard to recommend renting it when you can buy it for so little, and it’s easily worth that price.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two provided by Disney Interactive Studios.