Thanks to the guys at Disney, we at Vooks were invited to get some hands-on time with the upcoming Nintendo 3DS title, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion. I took this opportunity to try it out and left elated that this game brought back some familiar Disney characters such as Beast, Peter Pan and Scrooge McDuck and some of the newer Disney characters like Tangled’s Rapunzel. This game added a new gameplay element that utilises the touch screen in a unique way.
Arriving at the Disney offices in Sydney, I sat down with a Disney representative as they handed me a 3DS and had a very extensive one-on-one playthrough of Power of Illusion. Upon opening the lid, I was presented with a very colourful display of 16-bit sprites overlayed on the background at varying depths thanks to the 3D screen. The 3D effect was minimal when playing through a level, but this is a good thing, it does not strain the eyes when you crank it to full 3D. Thanks to the high resolution of the 3DS’s top screen, the sprites were very crisp and vibrant whilst the game was playing smoothly. I have not encountered any cutscenes of sorts, but most of the dialogue was on the bottom screen with each character having snippets of voice acting, such as Mickey’s giggle and Goofy’s comical catchphrase: “Gawrsh!”. Haven’t heard that in a while.
Gameplay wise, it’s very polished. Having not been familiar with Castle of Illusion, the general mechanics of a 2D platformer still applies in this game and also included is the touch screen where you are presented with an alternate dimension of the top screen to see where parts of the environment can be drawn/erased. You use the traditional controls of using the circle pad or d-pad to control Mickey and the face buttons to jump, attack and shoot paint/thinner blots at enemies that are out of your reach.
The touch screen component of the game allows Mickey to draw and erase parts of the environment to assist in traversing through obstacles. These include drawing bridges to cross spiky floors and erasing spiky blocks that can hurt you. When drawing objects, the bottom screen presents you with an outline of the object. I did like how the game rates how well you trace the outline and provide different outcomes based on your performance. One example of this is a cannon that can be drawn right infront of the enemy. If you draw this object with an overall rating of good/perfect, the cannon will fire cannonballs at the enemy, hurting them but it will go straight past you, causing no damage to you. If you score okay, then it’s just a regular cannon that can hurt anyone, but if you score a bad rating, the cannonballs will only hurt you, not the enemy. This is just one example of just how the game’s dynamics is under your control and this applies to many other objects in the stage. As you improve your sketch, based on how well you draw the outline, another feat of doing this is that it builds up a starred meter. After completing the sketch, whatever has been gathered in that meter, it comes into effect and allows Mickey to run faster and jump higher, not to mention that he also glows.
As I progressed in the game, I found that Mickey has the special ability of drawing a sketch at anytime but he can only carry one sketch during his adventures. As he completes quests (more on that later), he is able to unlock more sketches and even hold more at one time. There are a large number of sketches to collect, each with its own unique ability. Some sketches include drawing a block to create a massive spiky block to crush enemies, drawing Master Yen Sid’s sorcerer hat to be invincible for a short time, or even drawing a platform to jump on to reach those hard to reach places.
Throughout the level, you will come across a number of Disney characters that you have to rescue. After talking to them in the level, they will transport to an empty chamber in the Castle of Illusion. Each character has their own chamber within the castle and is upgradeable using stars to increase the chamber level. Each chamber level increases the aesthetics of the character’s room suited to their respective themes in their cartoon, such as Scrooge McDuck with his mansion and money vault from DuckTales. Other than the aesthetics being upgraded for each chamber, they could possibly be upgraded to become item shops and other things, but that was not shown in the demo that I played. These stars are collected from quests that are awarded for completing favours from each of the Disney characters. Some quests can vary in difficulty such as finding an item in a level or finding certain people, it could be as simple as talking to someone in another chamber. This little metagame does not detract from the main gameplay as a chore, but adds more replay value by unlocking sketches and new secrets. Although with the build that I was playing, I was advised that the quests might have been sped up to show most of the content.
As my time was up, I left with a desire to play more, maybe finish it even! Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion gave me a warm smile. It brings back the nostalgic moments of platforming games back in the day, with the addition of some interesting concepts such as changing the shape of the environment with a simple scribble from the stylus. Some of the puzzle elements in the game that I played through were quite puzzling and stumped me for a bit, but when I got past it, it gave me a smile and gave me a feel good moment. Personally, I would like to see more of this type of genre for the 3DS and I can’t wait to get my hands on this when it comes out in Australia on November 22nd, just to get a good feel of the whole game in its entirety and hey, you can’t go wrong with M-I-C K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.