Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Wii) Review
I enjoyed the original Epic Mickey game. I admit I was a little bit let down by a few things but this was more of an issue with my expectations being unrealistic or not within the scope of the project rather than the quality of the product itself. The concept remains fantastic and interesting, and Warren Spector seems to have love for the franchise that he is slowly building up. I even think I enjoyed the game more so than most of the media did. Still, I was a bit nervous when they announced a sequel – there was an obvious internal conflict, could a sequel really improve all of Epic Mickey’s major flaws and more importantly, could it build upon the original game to create something truly special. After some serious time with the game, I can happily confirm that only one of these concerns of mine was addressed.
Epic Mickey 2: Power of Two (what a redundant sounding title, by the way) takes place once again in the Wasteland – a place where long forgotten and/or rejected cartoons go to…errr…waste away. Following a spate of earthquakes, and return of a now apparently reformed Mad Doctor, Oswald contacts Mickey to return to the Wasteland to clean up the mess the earthquakes made. Of course, nothing goes as planned and the story slowly unravels. It’s a very simplistic story that kind of shakes things up a bit but the most surprising thing of all (ironically) is how predictable it is as well. Nonetheless, the story is told in a charming and visually striking way so it is hard to complain about Epic Mickey 2’s presentation.
As with the original game, Epic Mickey 2 upholds the fantastic artistic vision that was brought to the table with the original game’s release in 2010. Players will enjoy walking through the Wasteland, recognising discarded Disney paraphernalia on show, seeing broken down machines (a nod to the animatronics movement of old) and some rather ghostly looking citizens. The visuals do a great job at bringing the Disney familiarity to the forefront, but giving them a dilapidated coat of paint to give them that “wasteland” feel. In cutscenes, all the characters are drawn in a very cute manner, giving them loads of personality while the odd CG scene looks beautiful too. It’s encouraging to see the production values so high for this title, and it’s also thankful to see so much care going into a game. Overall though, talking about in-game graphics, Epic Mickey 2 isn’t an amazing looking game – it is clear we are at the end of a consoles life span here. We really can’t improve it that much from what’s offered here.
The audio production is also worthwhile, with every character in Epic Mickey 2 now actually having a voice – allaying a major concern I had coming from the original title. The voice work itself is, for the most part, bearable however at times I was getting a little bit annoyed by the grating over the top acting of the voice actors. As I’ve eluded to in my other Epic Mickey review for the 3DS, I understand that they cannot just change these voices as they are “iconic” but I did find Oswald’s specifically to cross into the grating territory. I believe, upon research, Oswald’s voice actor is not actually working on this game so perhaps that’s why. It’s hard to make tangible why I don’t enjoy the voice of Oswald, but it just gets a bit annoying to listen to.
The soundtrack is a little bit more bearable, fortunately, and mixes a lot of orchestral pieces with almost anthemic choruses really helping to induce or evoke nostalgia for Mickey’s big years. The sweeping nature of most of the tracks that play throughout the levels gives you sense of adventure and gives the adventure a sense of importance. The game also takes a few cues from older Disney films and belts out a musical number every now and then too. While these are okay, they are also a little bit unbearable (but thankfully skippable). The musical offerings in Epic Mickey 2 are easily its weakest asset.
Epic Mickey 2 attempts to shake things up a bit by making Oswald and Mickey playable together this time around. This means what you think it means – a second player can take control of Oswald at any time or the AI can control him. Which begs the question – how good is the AI? Well, it’s not atrocious, but it’s not fantastic either. It’s bizarre that the developers didn’t implement a way to zap between the characters when the AI fails to be functional. There will be cases where Oswald will jump in and help solve a puzzle for the player instantly, other times he’ll just stand there insisting he knows what to do but won’t actually do anything. It’s a bit annoying but I will be honest, it didn’t happen to often in our playthrough and didn’t affect us that much.
Of course, being a game supportive of co-operative play means that it is built around co-operative “puzzles” too, and I use the term “puzzles” very loosely. At times, Oswald can glide across gaps (carrying Mickey with him) and Mickey can throw Oswald up to high ledges. When it’s not that simple, the most complex puzzle you’ll be faced with is one that requires you to press two switches in tandem, or hold a door open while another character grabs something inside. It’s incredibly simplistic and been done to death, but then again it is accessible to younger players too, which is a plus.
Both characters have both unique combat abilities and special abilities. Mickey uses his paint and thinner, as you’d expect while Oswald employs a more electronic set of skills. While Mickey’s power remain largely the same, Oswald can glide over gaps, manipulate machinery, and even has a boomerang detachable arm (I’m not sure why) to retrieve objects in the distance. Mickey has access to two new inks, one turns him invisible and the other provides protection against the elements. These new additions are nice ideas, but their implementation feels almost pointless given how non-essential they are in reaching your goals. Battle remains the same, and as such still gets tedious. Boss battles are just as disappointing with no clear strategy to defeat them, instead requiring the player to tediously repeat phases over and over again.
Easily the most publicised issue with the original game is the camera, and thankfully this has been improved in Epic Mickey 2 though by no means perfect. Spector claims that he wanted players to be able to play the game without adjusting the camera at all (yet included the option to anyway). With a camera system that is similar to the Super Mario Galaxy series, Epic Mickey 2 definitely improves in this aspect. Sure, problems still occur with the camera in small, enclosed spaces here and there, especially during tight corners.
Between levels, players can enjoy more homage to Disney’s classic cartoons, with side scrolling levels that look fantastic. These charmed me in the original game, and continue to charm me in Epic Mickey 2 however as with most of the game, I’ve seen it all before and the effect is really diminished.
And I think that’s the biggest issue with Epic Mickey 2. The game is large, I have a lot of places to visit are just too similar to the original game with artistic changes here and there. It gives a nice sense of continuity, but it makes it hard to be interesting or compelling – the level design in particular is a small step down from the original game. Nothing feels overtly new or interesting, nothing feels like it’s been substantially thought out and added on. Co-op is great, and probably had the most work and attention paid towards it. Of course, the original game had a solid foundation, and by extension this does too. But those who’ve played the original recently might find the lack of evolution a little bit off-putting.
Thankfully, the game is packed to the brim with content, but depending on your own values of this content, it may prove to be a moot point. The main story can take anywhere from roughly 12 to 20 hours to compete, depending on how “deep” you choose to immerse yourself in the game. It’s a lengthy adventure, that’s for sure, but it does get repetitive and there’s really little incentive to replay the game after you’ve finished unless you’re desperate to see everything again. There are side quests too, which add a bit of (optional) depth and length to the game, but these unfortunately amount to nothing more than mundane fetch quests. This mundaneness is exacerbated by the game’s main story objectives – players will surely grow tired of repeating what is essentially the same tasks over and over again across the lengthy campaign.
Finally, the “choices” system returns. Choices that must be made by the player are good in that they present two very valid approaches and allows the player to weigh up the dilemmas and benefits surrounding each. However, after playing for continued bouts, the decisions become easier as many players will realise just how little impact these choices have on the overall game. As with the first game, I feel this aspect feels rather pointless and honestly, quite out of place. This is the primary reason why they don’t really add value or longevity to the package that Epic Mickey 2 attempts to provide.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is a very fun action platformer that brings a few new things to the fray, including co-operative play and a new (if not predictable) story. While the concept of Epic Mickey continues to intrigue many players throughout the community, it is disappointing to find that Epic Mickey 2 does not innovate enough to really bring the artistic vision of this concept alive and envision it in a way that’s majorly compelling. The charm and production values are still here, for sure, but after having played the original game through twice this just doesn’t feel like a natural evolution, it feels like more of the same while only slightly being improved. Of course, as I eluded to earlier, this isn’t a bad thing, the original game was quite fun and interesting, but so many years later the novelty has worn off and I left Epic Mickey 2 feeling like I wanted something more. A fantastic concept, as always, but not-as-fantastic execution.