If you would have asked me what I thought about Epic Mickey a year ago my reply would most likely have been a shrug of the shoulders, but ever since E3 my interest in the title has been growing. I was able to see the potential with my own two eyes during a visit to Junction Point Software, and ever since I have eagerly awaited a chance to experience the full game.
I was a bit nervous as I placed the disc in my Wii. Everything I had seen showed promise, but I just didn't know if these glimpses of promise was indicative of the complete experience. My doubts disappeared as I immersed myself in a relaxed state of childish joy. Epic Mickey was living up to all of my expectations.
The game is played out in Wasteland, a magical world created by a wizard called Yen Sid to house all the cartoon characters we have forgotten about. Wasteland is ruled by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the very first cartoon character Disney created. He resents Mickey as he feels the mouse robbed him of fame and fortune.
As the ruler of Wasteland he tries to make sure it's a fun place for all its inhabitants, that is until Mickey finds his way into Yen Sid's chamber and happens to dabble in the wizards creation. He creates a mysterious creature called Shadow Blot, and in his panic he spills thinner on the wizard's model of Wasteland. Mickey flees, Wasteland is in ruins, and Shadow Blot escapes to the land of forgotten cartoon characters.
Time passes and Mickey is suddenly kidnapped by Shadow Blot, who brings him down to Wasteland, and tries to steal his heart with the help of a mad doctor. Mickey just barely escapes, but now finds himself trapped in Wasteland. In order to find his way home needs to make friends with Oswald, defeat Shadow Blot and save Wasteland.
The central gameplay mechanic of Epic Mickey is his brush that can draw and erase objects. Wasteland is a cartoon world and with a bit of thinner things like barrels, brushes or even houses can be erased. And you can paint them back into existence with a bit of paint. Wasteland was devastated in Mickey's thinner-gate scandal, and you will see outlines of platforms, roads, buildings all over the place that Mickey needs to bring back into existence.
The brush is also Mickey's primary weapon. Splatters, henchmen of the Shadow Blot, can be fought off and erased with thinner, but if you paint them they will instead turn and fight on your side.
It's a pleasure to run around in Wasteland. Most of the time you can complete the main objective in each stage rather quickly, but if you take the time to look around, there is always something that catches your eye. Small little hints of things you can discover and little side missions to complete.
The brush mechanics is pure bliss for the game designers, as they did not have to really solely on proven platform mechanics (those are rock solid in Epic Mickey, by the way). Instead they were able to fill the world with hidden passage, rooms, and platforms. A floor could just be a floor, or a wall just a wall, but at other times they may be hiding treasures or secrets. You will start to use your thinner a lot and paint as soon as you see outlines of something erased.
And once you get your reward, regardless if it's just a collectible (that's just there to be collected), a bit of concept art or item that is actually used in a quest there is a definite sense of achieving something.
Many missions can be completed in more than one way. You may for example be asked to find and activate a number of cogs in order to activate a door in order to progress. But you can also achieve this by finding and freeing a creature who will then open the door for you. You often have a choice of how to achieve something, and the quickest route is usually the most difficult one.
You will also be forced to make choices - whether to help this or that character, free someone or not, and so on. The developers have made a big deal about the fact that the games doesn't moralise over things and that there is no "proper" or "right" choice to make. However, there are times when one choice appears far more advantageous than the other, and the little helper character Gus, who guides one through the game, will not hesitate to give you a piece of his mind if he feels you've made a poor choice.
The game keeps track of how much paint and thinner you are using, and your relationship with the various in-game characters will reflect your choices. It adds an incentive to replay the game, and you will have to play through the game at least two times to be sure you've experienced it all.
It's a well known fact that the Wii can't compete with its HD competitors when it comes to graphics, but Epic Mickey still manages to be easy on the eyes. It's a perfect example of where great design and art direction triumphs over HD-resolution and shaders. The cartoon style works perfectly on Wii, and all areas have a living, breathing quality to them. The animation of friends and enemies is excellent, and full of expression. It's on the level of classic Disney films and modern Pixar masterpieces, very impressive.
The sound is also excellent. There is no voice acting, all dialogue appears in text highlighted by a few exclaimations by the characters. It may sound a bit old school, but it works brilliantly. The music also deserves a mention, and it changes with the mood of the story and is at times very dramatic. There are many great and memorable themes along the way that I find myself humming after finishing the game.
Epic Mickey is the complete package. Innovative ideas, varied and polished gameplay, strong visuals and sound, humour, challenges and replay value. It's a game without any real downsides, everything works fine. At its core this is a game for Disney fans, if you don't have fond childhood memories of Disney or just aren't really in to cartoons, then perhaps this game won't appeal to you.
But if you feel like playing a game with Mickey Mouse, then things just don't get any better than Epic Mickey and it might just be the best non-Nintendo game on Wii. It's fun, charming, well polished, entertaining and fairly challenging. I have enjoyed every moment spent with Mickey, Oswald, Pete, Animatronic Goofy and the rest, and I'm already thinking about my next playthrough. Don't miss out on Mickey's journey through Wasteland.
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