By all rights, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two should’ve been a fantastic cooperative adventure for Disney fans of all ages. It should’ve featured a compelling world, a great co-op gameplay dynamic, and a lengthy, memorable adventure that elicits smiles from players. Sadly, while you might smile every now and then, the charm and undeniable appeal of the game is mired beneath major mechanical issues and outdated AI that can be tiresomely frustrating. In fact, a fair portion of this game just screams “outdated,” despite all its good intentions. And that’s kinda depressing.
One would expect a Disney game to be full of color and wonderful, family-friendly design and detail. And while the developers made a valiant effort at producing an attractive, engrossing world, the end result just isn’t very polished. The first Epic Mickey was only available on the Wii and in truth, the sequel looks somewhat like a Wii title, too. They just didn’t do enough in the way of upgrading and refinement; there’s still an unfortunate blurriness and a number of graphical snafus that hinder one’s enjoyment of the otherwise alluring presentation. In short, we needed a more technically advanced production to fully realize Disney’s magical quality.
The sound is a little better and in some ways, the best part of this ultimately disappointing title. There’s a lively, diverse soundtrack that always seems to fit the setting and style, and the effects are quite competent. It’s just that even here, one senses the lackluster technical proficiency, as the audio – despite its relative quality and lightheartedness – can’t really compete with the more accomplished sound found in competing games on store shelves. That being said, I’m sure some of the younger players will enjoy the music, effects and voices, as they all do contribute to the fantastical landscape that can fully envelop and entrance.
Well, it could envelop and entrance if we weren’t continually battling sloppy controls and a lamebrain AI. But before I get to that, let’s start off on an optimistic note; we can discuss the story and background, which sets us off on the right foot: The colorful, pleasant world has been tragically transformed into the Wasteland, where most everything is dark, dead, rotten, and/or broken. It’s a sad state of affairs and soon, all will be swallowed by the engulfing darkness that creeps across the land. But it seems like The Mad Doctor has repented and would like to help Mickey and Oswald repair the damage. It’s a story of trust and redemption, which is great; the message is positive and uplifting.
Then you start wandering around, realizing that due to the widespread devastation, there’s plenty that needs your restorative attention. Plus, there are lots of side-quests that could keep you running around for quite a long time; these are easily found in the inviting world that includes various towns and hamlets that house just about everyone in the Disney family, including Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Captain Hook and his pirates, etc. Exploration, alternate quests, and optional collectibles add plenty of longevity to the game and acts like catnip for those with that innate completionist mentality. And you can’t help but love that patented Disney flair.
But when your partner Oswald comes into play, bad things start to happen. Oswald’s ability to wield electricity can be useful, but he’s extremely unreliable. He won’t always assist when you’re in trouble, goes flying into battle when he’s hopelessly outmanned, and doesn’t respond perfectly to commands. He just won’t always do what he’s supposed to do. He’ll stand directly in front of you when you’re trying to use your attacks in combat (and then complain that you’re hitting him), and he’ll sometimes flat-out ignore an order, or so it seems. Solving puzzles with Oswald can be very irritating, which is why it’s highly recommended that you have a human partner. At least the game will feel more functional.
However, although a human buddy eliminates the AI issue, it can’t fix the other mechanical flaws. As a platformer, this sequel is less than mediocre; the controls are loose and unreliable and the camera is just plain awful. And again, the outdated aspects of this production rear their ugly heads; glaring issues like collision detection and clipping are obvious, and it’s sometimes difficult to see what needs to be done. How far am I away from the target…? Why did I fall…? Oh, I couldn’t stand there? These are problems that one might tolerate in the last generation but these days, it’s distressing to see a game’s potential so severely hampered.
There’s a fair amount of imagination and creativity involved, especially when it comes to the combat, but that ingenuity isn’t free from the shackles of shoddy gameplay. I realized after a few hours that Mickey was getting hit constantly; evasion is difficult, especially because I always thought I had evaded an attack. Then I turn around and launch my own assault and I have trouble nailing down my target. I’m actually surprised this game is geared toward a younger audience, because dealing with these clunky, annoying mechanics takes a veteran, practiced hand. Although I suppose if you play long enough, you can learn to cope.
I liked the premise and the style and the nostalgic Disney goodness. I liked wandering around, helping people out and restoring the landscape. The magical paintbrush is still a very cool tool, and there are some very clever puzzles for Mickey and Oswald to figure out. The level design isn’t bad at all and there’s a lot of content. The boss battles are interesting and unique (though not devoid of inexplicable frustration), and the wholesome, good-natured virtues found in the plot are admirable. I liked all of that, which is why I desperately wanted to like the game. But how am I supposed to ignore so many shortcomings?
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two has the right idea. It encourages youngsters to work together, that magical Disney quality is prevalent, and the overall design is actually quite good. But a shroud of poor mechanics and outdated technical elements dooms this potentially enjoyable adventure from the start. Bad AI, loose control, collision detection issues, and vague, sometimes boring objectives keep getting in the way. And it’s too bad, too. Warren Spector has attacked the extreme violence in games these days and has tried to give us something inoffensive, entertaining, and even special. Unfortunately, this simply falls well short.
The Good: Decent story and lovable characters. Engrossing world that is fun to explore. Some well-designed puzzles. Lots of great Disney charm.
The Bad: Mediocre, dated visual presentation. Loose, unreliable control. Terrible AI. Goals and objectives not always well explained. Assorted – and annoying – mechanical issues.
The Ugly: “Really not what I wanted you to do, Oswald…really not.”