Jarrod Mawson
03 Nov, 2010

Disney Epic Mickey Preview

Wii Feature | PALGN goes eyes-on with Epic Mickey.
Warren Spector is a rather intriguing man. A veteran developer as old as the industry itself, most gamers recognise him as the driving force behind the highly revered Deus Ex. With his resume of developer and producer roles mostly made up of gritty science fiction games, it was quite a surprise to hear that his studio Junction Point was heading the development of the Disney’s upcoming action adventure Epic Mickey. Of course, once you hear about how big of a Disney fan Warren is (seriously, he’s like an encyclopedia of all things Mickey Mouse, and then some), it all makes sense.

But no matter how passionate Mr. Spector might be about Disney, nor how aggressively he promotes the game, many are still baffled as to how this will all come together. How will the man who created one of most widely respected role-playing games of all time reinvent Mickey Mouse? What creative ‘Warren’ touches will we see throughout the game? THQ heard our questions and was prepared to answer, inviting PALGN down to witness some new gameplay, some new Mickey, and go eyes-on with the game’s various choices presented to the player.

The lonely old tollbooth.

The lonely old tollbooth.

One of the first levels we were shown takes place early in the game, in the middle of a Goblin village, rampant with oozing creatures spawned from the Phantom Blot. Made up of machinery, gears, and theme park like attractions, it was here that we were shown a few demonstrations on how the paint and thinner mechanics are integrated into gameplay, as well as the choices players will be faced with.

As most people will be aware by now, the painting ability allows Mickey to create and rebuild objects in the universe, while the thinner ability erases objects. Integrated into the puzzles and exploration, there’s no biased sway towards either ability. Sometimes Mickey will need rebuild sections of levels, such as walkways, while other times he will have to erase components, such as parts of moving cogs, to slow down rotating platforms. The actions in both cases are necessary to progress, but often alternative routes will present themselves to players who find more creative uses of the paint and thinner.

The paint and thinner mechanics also stem into the questing system and the choices given to the player. At one point during the mission Mickey was shown an engine-like machine that was operating much of the Goblin’s amusement park. Using either paint or thinner, Mickey could fill the engine with either, with the appropriate consequences. Paint would ‘fix’ up the park’s amusements, allowing access to treasures at higher points, while thinner would ‘destroy’ the devices, giving Mickey access to treasures held within, much to the frustration of the Goblins.

I told you no sugar!

I told you no sugar!

In another choice, Mickey came across a Goblin trapped in a cage atop a weighted catapult. At the other end; treasure. Mickey was warned that removing the treasure would catapult the Goblin far away, but ultimately it is up to the player as to the direction they chose. Treasure hungry players can open the box, at the consequence of the poor little creature being launched far across the map. While we were not shown the outcome of this event, we were promised that decisions like this would play out consequences as the game progressed, and in the above scenario gamers may later discover a rather disgruntled (and we’re guessing quite sore) Goblin whom they will have to deal with.

These treasures, consisting of mysterious film reels and unexplained loot, dont always require puzzles and quests to find. Players who really feel the drive to explore the large worlds, painting and erasing the landscape as they go, will discover that under every rock, behind most walls and doors, and scattered throughout the lands are treasures and collectables as far as the eye can see. During our demonstration we were informed by a THQ rep that despite having played the demoed level a number of times, he was still discovering new secrets and treasures. OCD gamers beware, as attempting to find every secret and collect every treasure will at the very least double the standard twelve hour playtime.

You don't own me.

You don't own me.

Next up was one of the side-scrolling intermission levels used by Mickey to travel between major locations. Each is based on a classic Disney cartoon, with a staggering attention to detail. Artistically, all assets are drawn from the cartoons, perfectly capturing the associated style right down to the character details, and the musical scores for these sections are written identically to what was originally played, note for note.

The level shown to us was created from the 1947 cartoon Mickey and the Beanstalk, and as expected was complete with a giant beanstalk base and floating leaves. The heavier focus on platforming in these side-scrolling sections was evident here, with Mickey’s goal simply to ascend the beanstalks via jumping on the giant leaves, working his way up to a floating cloud at the top. A few minor collectibles littered the path, but mostly it was pretty straight forward and simple.

Simplicity in these segments seems to be the entire point, however. THQ commented that Warren considers these 2D areas to be a comfortable, relaxing break from 3D areas, and a nice change in pace from the rest of the game. Whether or not they get more difficult as the game progresses is impossible to tell, but they may just, as we were told there are a whopping forty or so of this classic cartoon moments to be found throughout the game.

Bean there done that.

Bean there done that.

Lastly, we were then presented with one of the later levels in the game, set within a Peter Pan style tropical jungle. Rampant with Phantom Blot minions dressed as pirates (they are styled for each level theme), here we got to witness some of the stronger enemies players will need to battle in the more challenging stages.

One enemy, a mechanical pirate, made use of the age old game mechanic of attacking the weak point for massive damage. Unfortunately for everybody’s favourite mouse, this weak point happened to be on the pirate’s back, and he wasn’t going to let Mickey get anywhere near it. He wasn’t a boss, or even a mini-boss, but he sure put up one heck of a challenge. Doing a ton of damage to Mickey, our THQ rep finally sent him packing by summoning a classic cartoon anvil to drop on his head.

We were then shown another enemy, this time a more evolved version of the standard Phantom Blot minions. This new type came across as giant, lumbering overweight beasts of purple goo that didn’t do a whole lot of moving until Mickey got close. When in proximity, it seems the only way they know how to respond to a threat is to slowly lumber over and, when close enough, explode. However, these are not your typical gunpowder explosions. When these grotesque creatures explode they spray gallons of paint thinner around the environment, erasing walls, floors, and other important parts of the environment that Mickey could otherwise interact with using his paint and thinner. This makes them a particularly dangerous threat on unstable terrain, as one wrong move could have the ground disappear right under Mickey’s feet, causing him to fall into the swampy pits below.

THQ did not want to spoil too much of the level, engaging in a minor puzzle that involved collecting gems and slotting them into statue heads, but did hint that the stage’s end boss would be a particularly popular pirate who may or may not be associated with missing hands.

And I, for one, welcome our new Oswald overlord.

And I, for one, welcome our new Oswald overlord.

Epic Mickey is shaping up to be an extraordinary project. Not only is it a new direction for Warren, but the might of the Disney empire seems to be a real driving force behind the presentation. Junction Point has had access to an immense archive of Disney related goodies spanning time from the company’s birth up to today, and there’s an undeniable charm to recognising all the little gems and nods towards long forgotten Disney classics that are sewn into every inch of the game.

We don’t have long to go until we’ll get to see more of Epic Mickey, with the game expected to hit shelves later this year. Action adventure fans who haven’t put this on their radar, now is the time to do so. As for all the hardcore Disney fans out there? Well, I don’t think any argument needs to be made that this will be one highly memorable walk nostalgia lane.

Related Epic Mickey Content

Epic Mickey Review
25 Nov, 2010 Of mice and PALGN.
The music of Epic Mickey
30 Oct, 2010 A good old fashioned hoedown.
Epic Mickey gameplay trailer
23 Oct, 2010 Oh Mickey you're so fine...
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