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Jarrod Mawson
25 Nov, 2010

Epic Mickey Review

Wii Review | Of mice and PALGN.
Everybody knows Mickey Mouse. You, your grandma, your neighbour; everybody. You’d be hard pressed to find a soul on earth who hasn’t heard of the beloved Disney icon. But what about Oswald? You know, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? Not many remember Oswald, despite coming before the mouse. What about Horace Horsecollar? Or Clarabelle Cow? No? Shame on you! Shame on all of you! So many characters make up Disney’s legacy, and all of them are forgotten, lost into the archives by newer flasher characters called Buzz Lightyear and Hannah Montana.

Well somebody out there remembers all these forgotten characters, and that someone is Warren Spector. An overt Disney fanatic with a knowledge of Disney history that would make even Walt blush, the industry veteran was given the opportunity to combine the force of his studio ‘Junction Point’, with the might of the Disney empire, to create the game he has no doubt been dreamed of creating for his entire life. Revealed just over a year ago for the Nintendo Wii, they called it Epic Mickey, an odyssey of one mouse against the odds in a strange yet familiar world, trying to find a way back home...


Yeah that sounds like a GREAT idea.

Yeah that sounds like a GREAT idea.
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This charming tale begins with the ever mischievous Mickey sneaking into the lair of Yen Sid, to discover the wizard’s latest creation; Wasteland. A miniaturised world for long forgotten Disney icons, the oh-so-curious Mickey gets a little too hands-on, and accidentally topples over jars of paint and thinner, each oozing into the world to make a right mess of things. He soon learns that he’s unwittingly unleashed an incarnation of the Phantom Blot known as the Shadow Blot, who drags Mickey down into the depths of the world he has ravaged. The overall premise is quite simple; the Shadow Blot is soaking up the paint of Wasteland, king Oswald is pretty upset about it, and it’s all up to Mickey to defeat the blot, save the world, and find a way to return home.

Story progression is mostly told through lovely animated cut-scenes. Character murmurs and grunts replace true voice acting, so players will have to read and watch, but the cheeky writing and creative animations manage to capture the unmistakable charm of a true Disney animated feature. When not told through these animations, Mickey will learn about the Wasteland and where to go next through the numerous Disney cartoon ‘extras’ and retired characters that populate the world, such as various revisions of Mickey’s archenemies Pete, and mechanised Donald and Goofy, as well as some truly forgotten characters like Horace Horsecollar, who is now a detective, and Mickey’s wisecracking telephone from Thru The Mirror, all of whom will give some insight into their lives in the Wasteland as well as their opinions of Mickey.

The story tends to lose its footing here and there, and can become a little lost on players who spend a copious amount of time exploring and dillydallying around the world, but usually manages to pull itself back together thanks to the charming characters and cut-scenes. Best of all, the writers manage to capture the heart string tugging of so many classic cartoons. Many characters will make you feel downright guilty for how forgotten they have become, and there are some wonderful light hearted emotional moments between Mickey and Oswald towards the end. As a whole, the story finds an appreciated balance between family friendly and grown up substance that should be very enjoyable to players of all ages.


If the crown fits...

If the crown fits...
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Which such an intriguing premise for the story, it is unfortunate then that much of Mickey’s adventuring is hindered by unpolished and clumsy mechanics in the form of platforming and painting. Platforming, the basis for exploration and travel, is nothing short of a chore thanks to imprecise collision detection and confusing level design that lacks the high standard set by other games. Too often the player is required to meticulously jump up platforms or reach an area in the distance without any real sense of direction. Usually the game demands the player make use of the painting and thinning mechanics to build and remove parts of the environment to reach their goals, and this is hurt by wonky pointer aiming that can lead to paint spraying in an unintended direction. First person painting controls help when precision is required, but is unintuitive during the faster paced moments of the game, particularly all of the clunky combat that is bound to test your patience. To make things worse, both the painting and platforming mechanics are further hindered by a truly atrocious camera system. Sure, players have the freedom to control the camera with the d-pad and centre it with the press of a button, but all too often it will align itself in the most awkward of positions or simply refuse to budge at all.

During the more placid stretches of the game, such as exploring the hub worlds, the problems of platforming and painting are minimised somewhat thanks to reduced pressure to meet goals, but herein lies another problem; it’s all just a bit boring. There’s plenty to explore and much to see, but the gameplay is rarely stimulating or exciting. In an effort to inject some variety into the game, a number of side quests are available in the hub worlds, but most of these boil down to simplistic fetch quests or tedious item hunts, sometimes requiring the player move back and forward between multiple hub worlds, and in turn fail to reward the player with not much more than token collectables.


Climb any mountain.

Climb any mountain.
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Whether Mickey is battling a boss enemy or completing a side quest, he’ll usually be given the choice of finishing it in either the good way or the naughty way. This purported system of choices and freedom of play may seem intriguing on the surface, but it really has little impact on the adventure, at least not until the very end. During the final cut-scene you will witness the fate of Wasteland, complete with a montage of consequences from the game’s major decisions. Play nice for a happy ending, play nasty for the bad. It’s a very welcome cap to all the choices presented to the player, but feels a little meaningless in the long run, especially since the actual adventure itself will progress almost the same way each time regardless of your decisions. Choices instead seem to reflect the kind of bonus you will be rewarded with, usually access to treasure in the form of pins and badges. Do you repair the gremlin ride, or do you destroy it? One gives you access to one treasures, the other opens a small path to another. The lack of any true consequences hurts the importance of these decisions, and blocking off access to treasure based on the choices you make comes across as a superficial means of increasing replay value.

And really, replay value is hinged entirely on the player’s desire to collect treasure. Treasure is scattered all over the wasteland, hidden in all kinds of places, and more often than not require players to thin and paint the landscape in order to reach them. Here again the platforming and camera issues raise their ugly head, which makes for rather uninviting exploration, especially when the trouble of nets nothing more than a shiny collectable. Players who adore this kind of collect-a-thon gameplay will find themselves right at home, but for everybody else it’s all a bit too shallow. There are a few collectables potentially worth striving for, mostly for unlocking the likes of concept art, but most collectables lack any real value or importance to the game.


Mickey working hard to get Gears 3 out on time.

Mickey working hard to get Gears 3 out on time.
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Having access to so many Disney properties and wealth of artistic material, one naturally expects presentation of the highest standard, and for most part Epic Mickey delivers. Numerous theme park attractions and locations are wonderfully recreated with a disturbing twist, taking familiar Disney landmarks and warping them into a Wasteland equivalent. Paint thinner rivers wash between half painted buildings, and statues and pictures of Oswald replace props that would otherwise feature Mickey Mouse. One standout location, Mickeyjunk Mountain, is a colossal dumping ground of forgotten junk, strewn with real world Mickey Mouse memorabilia, from dolls and lunchboxes to abandoned Super Nintendo carts of old Disney games. It is places like these that Disney fans will have the most fun, spotting plenty of little detail and references to Disney related work.

Even though these Wasteland recreations are mostly well imagined, too many are quite dark and gloomy. This is likely intentional, to convey the dreary mood of the Wasteland, but it would have been nice to see a few more vibrant areas like OsTown. The neon green paint thinner rivers and murky purple colour tones found within nearly every environment usually work well, but by the end become a little too repetitious and uninviting. But even so, whether you’re wandering through the alleys of Mean Streets (a recreation of Main Street U.S.A), or climbing to the heights of Skull Island, it’s easy to absorb yourself into the world, as there is a huge sense of authenticity to each environment, even when ever so slightly altered to fit their new, gloomy world.

However, it’s the 2D side scrolling stages that really steal the show. A treat for the eyes and ears, each perfectly recreates the style and animation of their associated cartoons, accompanied by the original musical scores and beautiful animations. Disney fans will adore taking a trip down memory lane, recognising all the little animation details and nods to classic Mickey cartoons like Clock Cleaners and The Mad Doctor, and take a step nearly a century back in time with Oswald’s Trolley Troubles. Each is a joy to behold and will have Disneyphiles frothing at the mouth at the wealth of Disney magic compressed into the little white box.


Time to wrap this up.

Time to wrap this up.
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Nobody could deny that Warren and co over at Junction Point have an immense passion for all things Disney, as the game is practically a love letter to almost a hundred years of cartoons the company has produced. It’s an archive of Disney history and memorabilia dating back to the very beginning, and a wonderful recreation of worlds and material with an unprecedented attention to historic accuracy. In terms of assets, what Junction Point has crafted in its worlds and reimagining could stand proudly as its own Disney cartoon, and we’d certainly pay to see a Disney animated feature in the same art style as the cut-scenes found throughout the game. For a Disney fan this praise alone will be more than enough to play through the game.

But Epic Mickey is not just a homage to Disney, it’s also a video game, and when it all comes together it’s an unfortunate disappointment. It is never a bad game per se, but it’s also never a great game. It’s too unpolished, too unrefined, and too often seems like the Disney art and referencing of Disney material was prioritised above creating a truly engaging and interesting gameplay experience. For fans of Disney Epic Mickey will play on enough nostalgia to keep the game interesting from start to finish, but others will likely find it too clumsy and uninviting for their taste. Unless they really dig collecting things.
The Score
A wonderful love letter to Disney art and memorabilia, but a disappointing gameplay debut from Junction Point, set back by unpolished and unrefined design.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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41 Comments
3 years ago
Such a shame but I had a feeling this would be a letdown in some ways. Good review, sounds like a hire.
3 years ago
Dam. Disappointing.
3 years ago
oh bummer I was excited about this. epic yarn now the great cute hope
3 years ago
bugger... thats been the trend of the year for the Wii though. Tons of promise and potential never quite reaching expectation.
3 years ago
Horace and Clarabelle used to give me nightmares. But then, I was scared of my local theme park because it had ONE skeleton.

Shame to hear that this one turned out to be disappointing, but I think I might get it nonetheless. It's $40 from ozgameshop.com, if that helps anyone.
3 years ago
Disappointing, but not unexpected. I still maintain that this game would be better on the HD systems; it could look really great with the extra detail. I wouldn't rule out a port either if the sales are disappointing.
3 years ago
Remember guys, 6/10 does not mean it is a bad game. There's still fun to be found, and its worth a look for Disney fans.
3 years ago
In terms of games, 6/10 is a terrible score by any scale!
3 years ago
disappointing... so what does Nintendo have left now?
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
In terms of games, 6/10 is a terrible score by any scale!
Naah. 4/10 is terrible.

Shadow Wave wrote
disappointing... so what does Nintendo have left now?
Donkey Kong for this year. Next year...Zelda, who knows. Probably huge shift towards 3DS.
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
In terms of games, 6/10 is a terrible score by any scale!
No it's not, it's just not great. A terrible score would be 1-3 or so.
3 years ago
Honestly this game always looked kinda average to me.
3 years ago
not to be a nintendo fanboy but since when is the Wii full of disappointments this year?

Super Mario Galaxy 2, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Goldeneye, Metroid Other M..... etc, etc.
3 years ago
Robob wrote
not to be a nintendo fanboy but since when is the Wii full of disappointments this year?

Super Mario Galaxy 2, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Goldeneye, Metroid Other M..... etc, etc.
Wasn't metroid other M a big disappointment to a lot of people?
3 years ago
When combat was reduced to spamming SenseMove and the music was completely forgettable, yeah Other M was pretty meh.

I still think we have been so influenced by how the games industry rates things numerically that it's quite difficult to draw the conclusion that a 5 (not in direct reference to this review) is simply average. Some fun to be had but probably nothing you'd go back to.

Still, I do enjoy the premise of it, and from the very dark concept art that I saw way back when, I'll still come around to buying it, if only to see how wonderfully each character animates in the world.
3 years ago
I was looking for a true successor to Mickey Mania. I supposed the search continues.

I simply can't spend money on gameplay that is a notch or two under a standard. Such a shame that this wasn't polished.
3 years ago
Damn, was looking forward to singing "Oh Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind." Because that's not lame or anything.
3 years ago
When Nintendo throw around words like "QUALITY AAA GAMEPLAY LIKE ZELDA" its no wonder we get excited. Luckily I always viewed this with a pinch of salt.
3 years ago
There is a "major consequence" isn't there? Something to do with Oswald?

Well, the platforming must be bloody terrible then.
3 years ago
Guaranteed sale to parents wanting that special game for little johnny and little jenny. Hope they have a fun Christmas.
3 years ago
The game got an 8.5 in another review, so while its clearly not as good as DKCR, it might still have some merit. Hey atleast its cheaper than DK!
3 years ago
It got an 86% from ONM too, I think it was. Some Dutch mag gave it a 6. Dont be surprised if this is one of the lower scores.
3 years ago
Robob wrote
Super Mario Galaxy 2, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Goldeneye, Metroid Other M..... etc, etc.
etc, etc,?
I think you listed pretty much everything good on the wii this year.
3 years ago
Wow @ Nic_231 and Robob.

Monster Hunter 3, Red Steel 2, Sin and Punishment 2, No More Heroes 2, MW Reflex are just a few examples of why you really shouldn't speak if you're not capable of having an informed opinion.
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