Unlike most septuagenarians, Mickey Mouse has effortlessly embraced interactive media. While the Disney icon’s television appearances are now limited to programs for the potty-training set, his video game career has blossomed over the last twenty-two years. From his beginnings in Mickey Mousecapade for the NES, through the spite-based splendor of the Magical Quest series, and more recently his cameos in the Kingdom Heart franchise, the beloved rodent is one of the few cinematic luminaries who have successfully managed to make the jump into gaming.
While not without fault, recent Wii release Disney Epic Mickey seeks to maintain the mouse’s illustrious record. By combining a rousing narrative, dazzling level design and a heaping helping of Disney mythos, the title offers an enjoyable fifteen hour expedition which will likely please a wide swath of Nintendo owners. Players enamored by Mario’s forays into the third dimension should seek the title out. Sporadically, the game can evoke both the craftsmanship and ambitions of Miyamoto’s efforts.
Recalling the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence from 1940’s Fantasia, the game opens as our protagonist clandestinely observes Yen Sid building a miniature kingdom from enchanted paint and thinner. As the sorcerer concludes his work, Mickey mucks around with the model, unknowingly releasing the Phantom Blot. As years pass, the ink-based baddie wrecks havoc on the miniature landscape, reworking it into the Wasteland- a dystopian Disneyland variant. Consumed by annihilation, the Blot seeks out Mickey, pulling him into the ruined region. After realizing that we was the cause of the calamity, our hero becomes resolute on restoring harmony to the once-magic kingdom and defeating the nefarious antagonist.
To assist the Mickey on his endeavors, players are given a magic paintbrush armed with two functions. Painting an area restores a removed object. For example, by splashing some of the colored stuff on an inaccessible area, walkways can be formed. On the other hand, thinner removes items from the environment, which can be useful when gamers may need to stop the grinding gears of a giant machine. Although the duality of the paintbrush may seem simple, it does hold a surprising amount of depth. Players may remove enemies from the environment by covering them with turpentine, but a bit of paint makes them allies, potentially coming to the mouse’s aid later in the game. Consequences play a large part in Epic Mickey‘s world- players are continually thrown sets of intriguing ethical dilemmas. How participants approach each of these quandaries has surprisingly far-reaching effects, influencing the availability of side missions and even affecting the game’s conclusion. Those disappointed by the removal of Scrapper Mickey need not worry- while the graphical representation of a mischievous alter-ego may have been excised, the mouse’s impish abilities haven’t been condensed.
Unfortunately, only pre-selected parts of the landscape can be tampered with. While it would have been fascinating to tweak more of each environment, the developers decided to err on the side of playability, halting players from creating unsolvable situations. As such, Epic Mickey can feel rather linear at times, despite the presence of brief detours and a healthy amount of collectables. From E-tickets (which act as the game’s currency), three different types Mickey Pins, to pieces to films reels, completionists will be combing the Wasteland for weeks. Personally, I thought the platforming sequences which connected each main stage were the game’s greatest asset; not only did they disguise any load times, but they masterfully recalled the classic Mickey cartoons.
Although Disney enthusiasts will relish the title’s malformed interpretations of renowned landmarks, navigating these areas can occasionally be problematic. As players persevere through Epic Mickey’s depths, the title’s framerate becomes increasingly inconsistent, especially when a few enemies appear on-screen. One persistent problem is the game’s camera system which often needs continuous attention when traversing the game’s frequent platforming sections. Despite the player’s best efforts, Mickey will occasionally be obscured by a wall or squirt paint in an inadvertent direction. Matching the richness of the game’s architectural design is the Jim Dooley’s score, which impeccably captures the both Mickey’s whimsical side along with the urgency of his quest.
Mouseketeers of all ages will delight in Disney Epic Mickey‘s fantastical reimagining of the tragic kingdom. By reinvigorating misplaced characters and giving players and offering players a gripping quest peppered with enough collectables to fill a Disney Store, Junction Point has crafted a worthy stage for the ageless rodent icon. Much like the animatronics figurines which fill Disney’s actual amusement parks, looking too closely at Epic Mickey will reveal its unnaturalness- potentially tarnishing the game’s otherwise meticulous crafted allure. As long as player’s visit the Wasteland with open hearts and ingenuous eyes, the mouse’s amiable expedition can certainly be beguiling.