Genre: Action Developer: Junction Point Publisher: Disney Interactive Games Classification: G Release Date: 22nd Nov 2012 Platforms:
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The Wasteland. The phrase alone evokes images of a harsh and desolate place filled with junked ideas and broken inhabitants eking out a miserable existence. The Wasteland also refers to the home of the unfinished remnants of Disney's imagination and the focal point of the Epic Mickey franchise.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two would fit in well with this world, where half-baked ideas exist only to frustrate and bewilder all those who encounter them. Ideas need to be fully fleshed out, tested and explored, not haphazardly thrown together with crossed fingers. Disneyís Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two reeks of this kind of incomplete thoughtlessness.
As previously mentioned, The Wasteland is a magical realm where unfinished designs and animatronic versions of Disney characters reside, and it is under attack from an unknown menace. Mickey Mouse is called to action by Disneyís discarded original mascot Oswald and the two band together to resurrect and save The Wasteland. This involves completing RPG styled quests, a whole mess of 2D platforming and brings co-operative (and I use that term loosely) play to the fold.
After a momentarily promising start in a Fantasia inspired wonderland the pair touch down and prepare to embark on their glorious mission. The inventive character designs, the 2D platforming sections inspired by classic Disney toons and flat animated cut scenes all fit well together from a purely visual standpoint. Using the actual cartoon voice actors added a level of authenticity and impact to the gameís opening, really brought the characters to life and offered the briefest glimmer of hope.
Mickeyís weapon of choice is his magical brush, which has two opposing uses. He can use it to paint in incomplete areas of The Wasteland and return them to their former glory. Or he can use paint-thinner to reveal hidden areas or break down structures. There are also extremely tacked on uses of invisible paint and hardened thinner-resistant paint that youíll probably use once or twice and wonder why they bothered adding it in at all.
Oswald uses a remote control to shock enemies or access electrical equipment/panels and later gets a boomerang to stun. He also has limited flight capabilities in all senses of the word ďlimitedĒ. Heís supposed to carry you to inaccessible areas or those places out of the reach of your double jump. Time and time again I would call for his assistance to help me cross some immense chasm only to have him either ignore my requests, position himself in the completely wrong spot or remain hovering just out of reach as I aimlessly tried to jump and hold onto his legs. He is also the most useless co-op partner Iíve teamed up, period (aside from an ill-fated Resident Evil 5 co-op session with Joaby but I digress).
Iíve pressed the Ďcome hither Oswald and help meí button until my fingers blistered with little or no response. I witnessed him move directly into my line of sight while aiming a burst of paint or thinner. Heís stood directly on top of an area Iím desperately attempting to fill in with paint making it impossible to complete this simplest of tasks (you canít paint anything Oswald is standing on). This behaviour is entirely unacceptable, scratch that, beyond unacceptable.
If a game forces you to work with an AI controlled partner at least get the rudimentary basics right. I havenít seen this level of AI ineptness since Call of Juarez: The Cartel and thatís really saying something. I donít really know what the developers designated as his co-operative parameters as he seems far more intent gazing off into the distance watching your paint dry.
Pushing your co-op partner aside letís take a look at the combat. As Mickey you have two distinct options. Using your melee to stun an enemy you can cover them in paint to befriend them and have them fight by your side. If thatís a bit too touchy-feely for you, you can choose a more permanent solution and cover them in thinner to dissolve them once and for all and be done with it. This is meant to lead into a loose morality system, which I didnít notice impact on the plot in any way, shape or form. It was usually easier to thin enemies immediately rather than run the risk of Oswald accidently stunning them and reawakening their hateful tendencies.
The level design involves constant trudging back and forth between sections joined by the visually interesting though horribly boring to play platforming sections. One wrong turn rewards you with a half an hour (at best) of plodding to make it back to where you originally were. You canít merely turn around if you go the wrong way or bring up a fast travel menu. You have to make your way through several connected sections until you reach a train station or town and only then can you work your way back. It feels more like a punishment for momentarily losing your way as opposed to a magical mystery ride through a fantastic wonderland.
Quest objectives are also muddled with objective indicators confusing making even rudimentary tasks of handing in quests a memory testing process. Many clues are from audio cues in dialogue and the addition of a simple mini-map with indicators of where to go could have alleviated many trying moments for younger gamers out there. The lack of its inclusion seems a very strange choice considering the target demographic.
Given the critiques of the original title, in particular the awful controls and abominable camera, I expected a hell of a lot more polish in the final product. When the fundamentals are broken it doesnít matter if thereís an attractive package surrounding it. If itís difficult to merely navigate your way through the game space how can you possibly drink in the supposed majesty of the journey?
Iíve had the camera have a hissy fit and not even know where to turn when my backís up against a wall. Iíve aimed at enemies to cover them in paint or shock them into submission and seen the reticle move to the right OF ITS OWN ACCORD without even beckoning it to do so. It was as if some poltergeist had taken up residence inside the controller. Iíve witnessed the camera change just before or mid-jump during a platforming section making something that should be as easy as breathing far more challenging than it should be. Itís cheap, frustrating and seriously detracts from any momentary glimpses of promise that may have shined through.
These are not sporadic nor one off instances either. These occur on a minute-to-minute basis and are absolutely inexcusable. Itís hard to get invested in a storyline when the very game mechanics work against you and make you want to repeatedly smash your head against a brick wall in frustration. I am well and truly astounded that quality control did not pick up these glaring oversights. What makes it even worse is that these are the same problems flagged in the previous version.
Now before you start waving around the Ďwell itís meant to be for kidsí banner there are plenty of franchises that get this right. They usually have the word ďLegoĒ in the title. An all-ages release doesnít give you license to make a shithouse game, its just another excuse to use if you do.
Playing through Disneyís Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two was one of the most irritating and unrewarding experiences Iíve had the misfortune of completing in over 30 years of gaming. It should be banished to The Wasteland where other unfinished and incomplete ideas wait in limbo to be restored into a functional, more complete version. I donít think Iíve ever been happier to finish a game and I snapped the disc in two once done to ensure no others would suffer my fate.