Epic Mickey 2 Review (Xbox360)

At the height of the Wii’s popularity it was perfectly acceptable for a lot of publishers to release exclusives for the platform, despite most non-Nintendo third-parties often not doing that well out of them. Evidently the original Epic Mickey did fairly well at least, since we’re now here with a multiplatform sequel. Developer Junction Point have Warren “Deus Ex” Spector as their head of course, so hopes are high for any new games bearing his name. Perhaps too high, as Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two proves.

In the first game which you probably haven’t played (shame, since story-wise it was pretty good), Mickey travelled to a world of forgotten Disney ‘toons called Wasteland and discovered it was being overwhelmed by the forces of the monstrous Phantom Blot. He also met Wasteland’s leader, Disney’s first creation Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, who utterly despised Mickey for stealing his rightful place as mascot of the company.

The Painting/Thinning mechanic works identically to the first game – create or destroy, basically.

After Mickey proved his worth by defeating the Blot and saving Oswald’s girlfriend Ortensia he was forgiven by Oswald, who in a moving moment at the very end (after Mickey was returned) realised that he and Mickey were essentially brothers. Epic Mickey showed a dark side to Disney while also celebrating a lot of the company’s forgotten history.

In Epic Mickey 2, the Blot’s cohort (The Mad Doctor) returns, sings a lot, and says there’s trouble coming. Mickey’s pulled back in and he and Oswald team up to find out what’s happening. And, er, that’s kind of it for the story really until you get later on in the game.

It’s certainly not as interesting as the first game, which I personally enjoyed. Almost all the darkness has been stripped away this time, making both Wasteland and Oswald less compelling as a result. It’s all gone very wacky, especially with the new voice acting. The voices and hijinks suit the cartoon characters, but unfortunately they leave you unable to take anything in the game seriously. That’s one area in which an attempted improvement affects Epic Mickey 2 negatively, and it’s certainly not the last sadly.

The big new deal with The Power of Two, apart from being multiplatform, is the new co-op between Mickey and Oswald. While playing with two people is generally entertaining the majority of gamers will be playing the game as Mickey alone, whereupon the enforced AI partner basically ruins what fun there was in Epic Mickey. Oswald shocks every enemy, opens most doors, and seems to be able to fly for some reason… except of course when he’s supposed to. Half the time there’ll be a panel for Oswald to activate and he’ll totally ignore it, and if he’s not doing that then he’s knocking you into acid pits or off a platform (when he’s not getting stuck somewhere). The AI is utterly abysmal, and seeing as the single-player game is completely reliant on it this means Epic Mickey 2 becomes a bit of a slog.

If only the interaction between these two worked so well all through the game.

Mickey’s main role consists of traversing platforms and using the Brush to either Paint or Thin objects and enemies, which is where the game’s supposed good/bad angle comes in. Painting and befriending an enemy Blot is more difficult but can yield extra rewards. However the range of objects that can be manipulated with the Brush seem significantly lower than it was in Epic Mickey, as in several sections of the game I could spray Thinner all over the place to no effect.

Furthermore, the bosses, which massively contribute to whether you get a good or bad ending, were often so vague about how to get a ‘Paint’ victory that I just Thinned them and was done with it. With the first boss for example, an animatronic Pete’s Dragon, I still have no idea how I was supposed to have befriended it. I’m guessing it had something to do with the electrical terminals that Oswald utterly refused to interact with.

The most important part of any platformer though is the controls, and this is the point where Epic Mickey 2 really stumbles. The Wii controls in the original weren’t so hot either, particularly the camera, and we were promised a massive improvement in the sequel. There is none. The camera gets caught on scenery and always fails to track Mickey adequately when jumping between platforms (particularly when one’s slightly higher), but Mickey himself just has such bizarre physics that it’s impossible to judge his double-jump correctly or where he’s going to land.

There are two particularly aggravating things about Mickey’s control: the first is that he often fails to grab hold of ledges, and secondly when he gets hit he flies backwards. Remember that from old-school games and how irritating it was then? It’s just as bad now.

Just to make things even worse, the game is almost schizophrenic in the way it either bombards you with information or withholds it completely. Gus, your “helpful” Gremlin, continuously shouts “help” in your ear along the lines of “both of you must work together to solve this problem” over and over again with mere seconds between saying it, but then gives no other clue about how to make the co-op or AI mechanics of the game work in your favour. Being repetitively shouted at in a funny voice isn’t conducive to calm puzzle-solving Junction Point, and certainly doesn’t help.

So, what’s actually good about Epic Mickey 2? There are numerous side-quests, areas are filled with secrets and alternative solutions/routes, the music is excellent, graphics remind of an upscaled Wii game, but being such a colourful Disney title this problem is alleviated. In fact the Epic Mickey games are an utter delight for Disney fans, packed as they are with references to films, cartoons and games from Disney past.

In how many games will you find a reference to Club 33, the ultra-secretive club hidden in Disneyworld? Furthermore the 2D levels set in old Mickey cartoons remain a delight, especially as you can now play them with Oswald in the background of the level (although once again he regularly fails to push switches when he’s supposed to, ruining even these entertaining levels).

The Projectors send you through a 2D level based on a classic Mickey cartoon. Excellent fun, if a bit too easy.

When Oswald works correctly, the camera isn’t trying to kill you, Mickey controls right, you can work out what to do, and Gus the Gremlin’s advice doesn’t make you turn off your console and snap the disc in half, then Epic Mickey 2 can be quite a fun game. Unfortunately those things I just mentioned regularly turn up to spoil that fun. Oswald’s AI is basically non-functional, and even when there’s a real player behind him all the control and camera problems will put off at least one player fast, if not both. Even just attempting to jump between platforms, something regularly done in a platformer, is made far too difficult thanks to the slow unhelpful camera and the wonky controls.

Epic Mickey 2 is like a wonderful celebratory book of Disney lore where 80% of the pages have been torn, ripped, doodled over or spilled coffee on. On a base level there are numerous things to love, but the actual playing of the game turns that joy into hard, bitter anger. I enjoyed the first game despite its flaws, but the lack of a compelling story and a less interesting world combined with the variety of problems enforced co-op brings has rendered the sequel painful to get through. If you throw your pad down in disgust more than five times in a single play session then you’re not having fun. I certainly didn’t have fun with Epic Mickey 2. Shame.

Top Game Moment: The 2D levels based on old Disney cartoons remain a highlight, and this time around they have multiple routes through.

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By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Dec 07, 2012
Incidentally, I've just been watching videos of the Wii version's boss battles to try and figure out how you defeat them in a "good" way. It turns out the 360 version only offers advice to get a bad ending - it doesn't give any clues at all about the good version. Plus the middle boss has half its fight missing.
By wowwowgold (I just got here) on Jan 11, 2013
I agree with So, what’s actually good about Epic Mickey 2? There are numerous side-quests, areas are filled with secrets and alternative solutions/routes, the music is excellent, graphics remind of an upscaled Wii game,