Released in 2010, the original Epic Mickey game was exclusively on the Wii and took advantage of the Wii’s motion controls. Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is now here and is available for all consoles. Label anything with Disney or Mickey Mouse and it is bound to sell well with both the younger gamer audiences and those like myself who love the Disney universe as a whole. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a good game though. So, let us venture on and find out how Epic Mickey 2 fares on the Wii U.
As evidenced by its title’s tag line, Epic Mickey 2 focuses heavily on cooperative play. The narrative centers on the return of The Mad Doctor (the antagonist from the first game) to the Wasteland, which is being decimated by earthquakes. Instead of facing things alone Mickey joins Oswald the Rabbit who has been recruited by the reportedly reformed Mad Doctor to help stop these earthquakes. Epic Mickey 2 can be played solo or via split-screen coop. Players are locked into playing as Mickey using the Wii U’s GamePad when playing alone. The AI controls Oswald unless a second player joins using the Wii Remote. This second player can join game sessions at any time via the game’s drop in/drop out anytime gameplay.
Where Mickey uses the familiar paint/thinner combination, players controlling Oswald use a remote control to perform complementary moves to that which Mickey does not possess. This sets up plenty of situations where Mickey and Oswald must work together to achieve things. Various challenges beyond that of the narrative also exist and can be completed in the various levels. These are optional and for the most part are simple collecting type of objectives. I found myself trying to get everything but after a while these side objectives tended to become repetitive. Throughout the course of the game you are presented with key points where you must make decisions between two options. While these have bearing on the rest of the game, don’t expect the uber-dramatic consequences that you might have seen in other more mature games.
Gameplay controls are a mix of both free roaming third person where both thumbsticks are used in a traditional manner to aim and sections where the camera is fixed, similar to what is seen in God of War. Overall things felt too loose and imprecise for my liking. At first I thought the default aiming sensitivity was too high. There is an option to adjust it (thank you) but even after turning the sensitivity to its lowest setting I still found it pretty hard to be as accurate as other games I have played when aiming with the thumbsticks. Parents take note. You might want to do this too if younger players are having difficulty with the controls. This caused the most problems during gameplay when the aim changes from a typical first or third person style to one where the cursor moves away from the center of the screen (essentially any time when you go from normal gameplay to where you are aiming paint or thinner). Herein lies my biggest issue with this game. Epic Mickey 2 feels like it should be played with the Wii Remote, but you can’t. Wii Remote control is only available during cooperative play and only for the second player controlling Oswald. If you are playing alone your only choice is to play as Mickey using the GamePad. I found it far easier to control with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk when I was playing as Oswald than when I was controlling Mickey with the Wii U GamePad. Is this a result of designing a game for consoles other than the just the Wii? Whatever the case it is a bit ridiculous.
The Wii U version offers very little differentiation over what the other console versions offer. It certainly doesn’t attempt to be overly gimmicky with the GamePad. That’s something I can appreciate after playing some of the other Wii U’s launch window games. The Wii U GamePad’s display is simply used to display a map that can be interacted with using its touch capabilities.
The fact remains that this is a Disney game. Kids, and perhaps fans alike, will eat this up purely because of the subject matter. Epic Mickey 2 is littered with references to several other Disney franchises new and old. Being a fan of Disney I loved this and the presentation in general. They integrate in to the gameplay well and make for a fun sense of discovery.
Right from the opening cinematic, Disney’s strong presentation values are present. After playing a demo of the game at E3 on the Wii, the move to high definition is welcome and really helps the visuals pop. Epic Mickey 2’s graphics are reminiscent of an animated Disney film. They don’t have that modern day 3D look to them but sport a bright and detailed look. Environments are decorated well enough to really hide the fact here are not a ton of wide-open areas to play through. I also noticed the framerate does stutter from time to time. From a technical standpoint this is disappointing, especially on a “next-gen” console, but younger players probably won’t pay much attention.
While the original game featured little voice acting it is a completely different ball game in Epic Mickey 2. All of the dialogue in the game is voice acted and for the most part is very good. Mickey is performed especially well, Oswald isn’t bad, but Ortensia is overly cute to the point where I found her a little bit annoying. The Evil Doctor steals the show though. He’s absolutely brilliant. In regards to the music, it has that Disney magical feel to it. It integrates well into the gameplay and various actions on screen. The game plays out as a sort of musical much like Disney movies. Cutscenes between levels often break out into musical interludes. I tend to glaze over in musicals but Disney seems to know how to do these just right with a nice dose of comedy.
The great presentation values present in Epic Mickey 2 are regrettably unbalanced by mediocre gameplay while imprecise and questionable control schemes drag things down even more. The game looks and sounds great; especially thanks to the frequent cut scenes and Disney’s trademark musical comedy pieces. Despite what criticisms I have, kids will probably still really enjoy this game and the ability to play local co-op should lead to some mild family fun. Average is disappointing for Epic Mickey 2 though because the potential here is huge, but it remains untapped.