If nothing else, at least you cant say that Epic Mickey 2 doesnt try hard to be different. After all, its not every day you come across a game thats part platformer, part musical, and part shouting-at-daft-computer-player simulator. In fact, we cant remember that last time we came across a game that was part-musical at all...
The sequel to the Wii exclusive Epic Mickey, Epic Mickey 2 takes place in the cartoon graveyard of the Wasteland, where forgotten characters, rides, and toons go to wallow in their own obscurity. After being partially demolished at the end of the first game, the renovations just starting to get under way, when all of a sudden, an earthquake strikes, demolishing much of the hard work, and signalling the appearance of the villain from the previous game, the Mad Doctor. As the music starts up (its a surprisingly catchy tune), the Doc begins to warble on about how hes a changed man, and the earthquakes only happened to coincide with his mysterious return. In fact, he was only on his way over to warn them that something terrible their way comes a new enemy, who look set to take over Wasteland and he needs help to stop it. Realising the lands in trouble, Oswald the lucky rabbit puts in a call to the only person who can help in their time of need Mickey Mouse.
When the singing dies down, its up to you to step into the bright red shoes of the mouse himself, as you platform your way through the levels although there is a little bit more to it than that. Armed with a magical paintbrush, you can spray both your enemies, and the levels with either paint, or paint thinner, which each have different effects. Spray an enemy with thinner, and youll destroy him but spray them with paint, and you can befriend them, rendering them almost completely harmless. Even the environment isnt safe spray a pot, pan, wall, or platform with thinner, and you can erase it entirely. Look for thin, white outlines throughout the levels and spray them with paint, however, and you can draw new objects in, helping open up paths to different parts of the world.
Rather than being divided into specific levels, Epic Mickey 2 is a lot more free form, with different areas connected to a hub that youll have to trek to and from in order to progress through the story. At regular points, youll be given quests to complete, whether youve got to help rebuild a train station, blow a hole through some rubble, or solve a puzzle to get the energy (or as its alternatively known, neon paint), from the rainbow falls into the machine to power Wasteland.
Most of the puzzles revolve around some combination of thinning things, or painting new objects in, but often, youll have to work together with your partner, Oswald, in order to get things done. Coming with his own set of moves, Oswald can, somewhat bizarrely, tear his own arm off and chuck it at things, and zap electrical items with a remote control-cum-lightning conductor thatll dish out a nasty shock to any enemy that comes near. So whether youre pulling on a switch to open a gate thatll let Oswald zap the controller inside, or sliding Snow White and her Prince Charming together in order to unlock a door, there are plenty of times youll have to work together (much like in the LEGO games) although unfortunately, when Oswalds under the games control, hes not all that much use. While you can press a button to tell Oswald you need your help, at times it seems like his giant ears arent all that much use, as hell completely ignore you. At other times, hell simply mistime his jump, or land on something youre carrying and knock it out of your hand. Luckily, you dont have to rely on the useless AI, though, as an extra player can drop in and start playing at any time by simply pressing start on an extra controller and youll appreciate the extra help.
At times, Epic Mickey 2 has a rather odd feeling. On one hand, youve always got loads to do characters to find, things to collect, quests to complete but you often have no idea where youre meant to be heading in order to do them. Whether its a question of poorly designed levels, or the lack of signposting, finding your way from one end of the Wasteland to the other can be a bit of a chore. Even more oddly, you cant simply choose to jump from one side to the other instead, you have to work your way through a mini-level, based on an old cartoon, every time you want to enter that area. When youre having to backtrack there for the third time, having to play through the same level again before you get there can be a bit grating.
If you dont have to repeatedly use them though, these 2D levels offer a nice change of pace. Connecting the various worlds together, the levels offer a change of perspective, as youll be playing side on, and a welcome change of pace. Mostly based on the black and white cartoons that Mickey found his fame in, youll have to balance on beams, bounce off balls, and, as you may expect, paint things in, thin things out, and zap things with Oswalds magic remote. Sadly, things are a little bit trickier than they really should be here too, as it can be awkward to aim your weapon. While Mickey can only fire in an arc, you have the freedom to move your cursor anywhere, and the disconnect can be a bit disorienting. Point your cursor at a switch, and Mickey will often simply fire straight up into the air, as though he hasnt a clue what you want him to do. Its disappointing and could have been easily fixed by matching your cursor to where Mickeys going to fire.
But in the various lands of the Wasteland, things start to come together a lot more nicely. Packed full of Disney characters from days gone by, if youre a fan of the house of mouse, or youve ever been to theme parks, youll notice the many references scattered around the lands from the bugs from the Main Street Electrical Parade, to the signs from Autopia, and various murals to films from days gone by. The whole game has a dark ride style feel, and the characters all sound rather authentic too, with a special mention going out to Big Bad Pete (and Small Pete, who for some reason is dressed like one of the dolls from Its a Small World). In fact, one of the quests in the game asks you to hunt down and take photos of hidden mickeys and oswalds that are scattered throughout the lands objects, pieces of scenery, and arrangements of things that bear more than a passing resemblances to either a mouse or rabbits head, which are a popular feature of the real life parks. The levels themselves are packed full of secrets waiting to be found walls that can be thinned out, with treasures waiting behind, or passages just off the beaten track full of collectibles its just a shame so much of the game is so hard to get your head around.
When playing through the tutorial, we actually ended up getting stuck, and had to look the solution up on the internet. For a game thats designed to be played by families and children as much as it is experienced players, thats a bit of an embarrassing show. The problem in question came when we were trying to get over a large gap in the castle courtyard. The gap was too large for us to jump, and all the advice the game would give us was When Oswald is ready to help, press B to give him the OK. So we did and chucked Oswald into the air. Turns out the problem happened because we were playing in co-op. Play through in single player, and not only do you get a much better explanation, but Oswald also drops down after being chucked into the air, and hovers above you. In co-op, we eventually managed to leap up, grab Oswalds legs, and make it across but only just. Mickey grazed his knee upon landing, and we almost slid off had we not hammered jump quick enough.
But sadly things dont really get much better. The game seems to jump between telling you what to do far, far too often, and then not telling you anything at all even when you spend ten minutes wondering around an area thinning things and painting them back in. The co-op seems a bit flawed too, as one of the most basic requirements an arrow to tell you where the other player is is notable by its absence. Making it that much harder to meet up when you get separated, its a surprisingly frustrating thing. And there are other little niggles too the jump buttons on the same button as the action, so try and go through a door and youll end up jumping a few times before you open it; only Mickey can be given quests talk to a character as Oswald and you may end up missing out; and a lot of the plot is fairly poorly explained if you havent played the first game like why Goofys part robot when you first meet him.
While its not quite the epic it hoped it would be, Epic Mickey 2 is a fairly solid platform adventure nonetheless. With plenty to see and do, puzzles to solve, and a fair sprinkling of that Disney magic, theres enough to keep you and your co-op partner occupied here but if youre going to be playing on your own, or you prefer a little more hand holding when youre finding your bearings, it may be worth thinking twice about Epic Mickey 2 or perhaps going for the Wii U version, which features a map on the GamePad screen (and would likely solve many of the problems we had with this).
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360