Epic Mickey 2 Preview (Xbox360)

Sitting there, watching a presentation about Mickey Mouse through the ages, I couldn’t help but think I was in the wrong presentation. Which was rather amusing because I actually had gone to the wrong presentation to start with, and if it wasn’t for the presence of my fellow writers either side of me; I might have thought I’d made the same mistake twice. But no, I didn’t, and if Warren Spector has anything to say about it, neither will Epic Mickey 2. Speaking to us (after that slightly unnecessary history lesson) about where things stood for the second game, the legen, wait for it, dary Deus Ex creator was refreshingly up front and frank about things.

Brush vs. Zapper

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
’s most obvious draw is co-op gameplay, and surprisingly enough its local split-screen only – pretty gutsy for a console generation that’s all about the online multiplayer. Your partner in crime is none other than Oswald the Rabbit, who was prominent in the last game too. Oswald is not another clone though in terms of abilities – both toons have their own ‘skill’. Mickey will still wield his magic brush, whilst Oswald favours a hand-held remote, with which he can affect all things mechanical. The game is built around that idea that there are certain things only Mickey can deal with, and others that only Oswald can help with. Not to mention there’s certain platform elements that come into play, like Mickey grabbing onto to Oswald as they drift along in the air.

Key to any co-op based game though is the strength of the co-op AI – something that Spector was initially wary about doing as he recognised how hard it was to do. Still, his team gave it a go anyway and so far Spector claims its satisfactory (and we’re inclined to believe him as not ten minutes before he said the camera on the 360/PS3 build still needed some work, but we’ll get to that. We haven’t had a chance to see it in action though as we had the fortune of having a partner to play the build with, so that’s something we’ll need to keep an eye out for next time. The co-op mode is also drop-in/drop-out as well, and is very free form in the sense that you’re not dragged along with your partner (unless they trigger something that takes you to an entirely new area).
Oswald just wanted to find Sky Atlantic for the new Game of Thrones Season...

Apart from this, the top three things that were highlighted for us were Camera, Voice and Persistence. Camera was an obvious one, as even he admits the first game struggled there. It’s already known that apparently over 1000 individual improvements have been made to the camera system – it’s not really obvious what they are but we can say that Spector is happy with how it is on the Wii, but not how it is on the 360/PS3, something we can verify when we tried it out hands-on (it wasn’t rubbish, but a little too stiff maybe). Voice refers to the game being fully voiced (and even scored with musical numbers); even Oswald has a voice now. It’s rather surreal to witness history, as for the past 80-odd years Oswald has never had a voice associated with him (mainly because Universal had the rights to him and never did anything with it for most of that time), but now Frank Welker is the official voice of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Persistence is probably the biggest major change in terms of gameplay, namely the idea of consequence has been dialled up, and choices really do stick now – there’s no getting both outcomes like in the first game. The reason for the first game’s more tame approach was actually quite interesting – whilst gamers ‘get’ the idea of choice and consequence, when the first Epic Mickey was tested with ‘non-gamers’, they didn’t get it at all, and so that aspect of Epic Mickey was adjusted to how it ended up. Now though Warren is confident that everyone will get it, so now you’ll be faced with dilemmas that are just as tough as they are in Mass Effect or Deus Ex… maybe. It’s a Disney game.

As we’ve hinted at, it wasn’t all talk – we did get some hands on time with an early build of the game… in terms of gameplay, it seems more of the same really, although that’s the problem with out-of-context demos, you rarely get a real feel for the thing. Something we did pick up on though is that the first bit of actual gameplay we got to try was a little hard to figure out. And this is speaking as a person who’s played games most of his life – either Epic Mickey 2 could do with some more sign-posting, or I’ve just gotten dumber. Something else we witnessed as well were the musical numbers – it’s already been reported that The Power of Two will be more musical… if Spector has his way he’d find a way to create a game around Disney musical numbers, but for the moment they are confined to non-interactive, skippable cut-scenes. They’re alright… the one we got to see was a bit in-your-face and a tad too long, but again, it’s Disney. If they can do Aladdin then I’m sure this will be ok.
That's right Mickey, jump through the mirror that leads to another dimension

So far, so good for Epic Mickey 2? Well Warren Spector is a man who knows his business, and we feel confident he’ll improve on the second game – whether the ‘core’ console crowd will accept the game conceptually is another matter, but this isn’t strictly a kid’s game. And that’s not even including the PC audience… Junction Point is certainly going all out on this one. With limited gameplay time, all we can really say at this point is that it looks more of the same, but improved. We suspect a lot of the fun from this game is going to derive from playing with a friend, so it remains to be seen whether that ends up being a good or a bad thing. Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is due sometime in September 2012 on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (and Wii, of course).

Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing what other musical numbers they have up their sleeves. If they can top the Genie song, my hat goes off to them…