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Jeremy Jastrzab
29 Jun, 2010

E3 2010 Feature: Epic Mickey Hands-On

Wii Feature | Epic Mickey can be epic.
As far as unique gaming partnerships go, this one has got to take the cake. Mickey Mouse has been an entertainment legend for over 80 years now, but outside of the genius blend in Kingdom Hearts and a few decent SNES platformers, he probably hasn’t had the best gaming representation. Warren Spector has made some of the biggest and most influential games of yesteryear, including Wing Commander, Ultima, System Shock, Thief and Deus Ex. So when the two get together to make a game, you know this isn’t going to be just any Mickey Mouse title… Well, it is but… *Ahem*…

Having left the now defunct Ion Storm in 2004 to set up his own studio, Junction Point Studios, Warren Spector has been out of the development action for some time now. However, Disney Interactive acquired Junction Point Studios in 2007 and following immense speculation, Epic Mickey was announced in October 2009. Due for a release before the year’s end, Epic Mickey takes a vastly different approach to your typically Disney associated title, combining the Disney’s vast history with Spector’s penchant for the cyberpunk genre.

Exclusive to the Nintendo Wii, Epic Mickey tells the story of a wizard who has built a theme park model, the Cartoon Wasteland, to house his forgotten and unused creations. Mickey accessss the Cartoon Wasteland through a mirror in his room one day, but accidentally spills paint and paint thinner over it. Mickey quickly cleans up and escapes, but doesn’t realise that he has created the ‘Phantom Blot’, who takes over the Cartoon Wasteland from Mickey’s older half-brother, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. After years of being terrified by the Phantom Blot and jealously over Mickey’s success, Oswald conspires for Mickey to be drawn back into the Cartoon Wasteland.

Welcome to Adventure World. It's a good thing you came in the summer...

Welcome to Adventure World. It's a good thing you came in the summer...
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So as you can hopefully see, this is a much darker and more sinister tale than what you’d usually expect from a Disney creation. To add to this, Cartoon Wasteland has been filled with robot and animatronic versions of Mickey’s friends and common Disney characters, as evidenced by early artwork from the game. Mickey must use the magical paintbrush, that he brought as he was taken into Cartoon Wasteland, to defeat the Phantom Blot, save Cartoon Wasteland and win Oswald’s trust.

Epic Mickey will play like the once popular action platformers that were prevalent until the middle of the last generation, with a smattering of RPG elements. However, aside from the heritage and development pedigree, Epic Mickey has two primary hooks to it. The first is the use of the magical paintbrush, which is controlled by pointing the Wii Remote in the desired direction. Mickey can use either paint or paint thinner. With paint, Mickey can fill in designated parts of the game world, or take them away with paint thinner. Players will gradually learn to spot the faint silhouettes around the game world as objects that can be ‘painted’ so that they can be revealed. Furthermore, any object with that looks more vibrant than the rest of the drab surroundings, can be erased with paint thinner.

The demo that we played through had us in ‘Adventure Land’. Some example of objects that could be painted primarily included platforms and other fixtures. However, world objects such as plants and trees can be erased. Also, players will learn to look out for walls and building fixtures that have more colour and ‘life’ in them. For example, if you notice that one part of a building wall is more brightly coloured, looks newer and has ‘straighter lines’, chances are it can be erased with paint thinner as well. It was explained to us that basically anything with water in it is subject to creation and erasure. This brings us to the second game hook: choice.

Green to paint. Blue to paint thin.

Green to paint. Blue to paint thin.
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A lot of games boast an the ability of making real choices, but few really come through with the goods. While we don’t want to put the mocker on Epic Mickey, we’ll explain some of the situations that were presented to us. With the potential for several objectives at once, we had to find something for Pirate Smee, as well as help another Pirate woo Henrietta the cow (the one with the snorting laugh). This required us to deal with Tiki Sam, who runs a shop, in order to buy the items we needed. However, Tiki Sam would only do business once we brought him three Tiki masks.

You could approach this in a couple of ways. You could go find and collect all of the Tiki masks, where everyone would be happy and Mickey would be on the way to being a ‘Hero’. Or you could have collected a mask, then headed behind Tiki Sam’s shop. Here, we found that the back wall stood out form the rest of the building, showing that it was eligible for erasure. As such, you could steal the mask and pass it off as if you had found one. And the game goes on. However, if you had collected two masks and then stolen them, Tiki Sam would get wise to what you were doing. Aside from hating you and jacking up his store prices, these kinds of actions set you on the path to being a ‘Scrapper’. Whether you’re a Hero or a Scrapper, your appearance and how you’re treated by others will be affected.

Once you had access to Tiki Sam’s shop, you could then help out the Pirate, who has an important item for you too (the one that Smee wants). To help him, you can either buy flowers or ice cream. However, the ice cream comes with a weight warning, and in an earlier dialogue, we were informed that Henrietta is watching her weight. For fun, it was demonstrated what would happen if we bought the Pirate the ice cream. Following the inevitable rejection, the now upset Pirate is still willing to give you the item… but only if you pay for it. It’s early days, but Epic Mickey does have us interested.

80 years and still going strong.

80 years and still going strong.
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To get between worlds within the game, players will be treated to 40-odd 2D side-scrolling levels. Each of these levels is to be based on classic Disney films and shorts, and it was the first time that we got to play the game. The only one we saw was the one that started it all, Steamboat Willy. While extremely short, it was very authentic and gave the players a couple of paths to work with, where one would yield more in-game currency collectibles than the others.

While the direction of the gameplay seems to necessitate development on the Wii, it will be interesting to see how far the game can be taken graphically and whether the early art work can be replicated in game. Otherwise, the progress of Epic Mickey is very positive. It certainly has some interesting ideas at play, so we look forward to getting more time with the game before its final release.

Related Epic Mickey Content

Epic Mickey Review
25 Nov, 2010 Of mice and PALGN.
Disney Epic Mickey Preview
03 Nov, 2010 PALGN goes eyes-on with Epic Mickey.
The music of Epic Mickey
30 Oct, 2010 A good old fashioned hoedown.
1 Comment
3 years ago
This game certainly has a lot of potential to be a standout in the Wii's library.
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