Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two: Unlucky rabbit

November 29, 2012

The original Epic Mickey was full of potential. It was clear from the start that the team at Junction Point had a lot of love for Disney, and wanted to make a game that brought back Disney’s past in an original way. It succeeded in how it handled those moments, but failed to create a compelling gameplay experience in the process. With the release of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Junction Point is hoping to recapture the magic from the first game while improving on some of the fundamental issues that plagued the original. It is clear, however, that this formula is more flawed than I originally realized.

Following the events of the first game, the Wasteland, where all of the forgotten Disney characters live on, is once again under attack by a new force of… let’s just say evil, and Mickey Mouse, being the courageous hero he is, is whisked away back to the strange world in order to save it. The story has its charm, and hearing Mickey and Oswald fully-voiced this time around adds some interesting dynamics between the characters. And then there are the musical numbers provided by the Mad Doctor, the first game’s antagonist who swears he has turned over a new leaf. These moments are just plain fun (and funny) and really showcase that the developers still have plenty of interesting new ways to approach the original’s concept.

Not only that, but this is a pleasant-looking game. The cartoony visuals that benefited the first game return, and look even nicer in HD. The best parts are the 2D animated cutscenes that almost look like they were taken right out of an Epic Mickey cartoon series. They fit perfectly with the game’s style, and really showcase Disney at its highest quality.

The paint and thinner mechanics have returned, and are the main way to deal with puzzle solving and combat. The actual act of making “moral choices” involved with choosing whether to use paint or thinner is barebones at best, and it never really plays into any main morality system like the developers want you to think it will. The actual mechanics of painting or thinning objects in the environment is still neat and can be used in some interesting ways, but these mechanics are never as fleshed out as it seems they could be.

While the combat is never great, the handful of boss battles scattered throughout the game are interesting and introduce new ways to approach the otherwise-tame paint and thinner mechanics. They are fun moments that really showcase what Epic Mickey can be at its best, but once those battles are over, you feel the loss of potential once again as you return to the same mundane combat and platforming.

The 2D stages return, however, and these are actually the most interesting parts in Epic Mickey 2 (as they were in the original). You play through relatively short levels designed around old Mickey Mouse cartoons, many of which are excellent tributes to a bygone era. Not only that, but the levels are enjoyable and have multiple paths to explore. Before you begin each level, you can select one of two different pathways which add to the replayability of these levels. I found myself returning to them just to escape from the otherwise uninteresting level design found in many of the main areas of the game.

The new hook in Epic Mickey 2 is the addition of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as Mickey’s faithful sidekick. He doesn’t have the same abilities as Mickey does, but can hover and use his special remote to stun enemies and unlock doors and hidden chests. He was added to the game because of the addition of a co-op mode, but playing as Oswald is surprisingly dull and I can’t imagine a second player really enjoying going through the entire game without the central mechanics to work with.

When playing solo, Oswald’s A.I. tends to be more of a problem than any enemies you face. Sometimes Oswald will get in the way during combat, or simply not do something he needs to do in order for you to progress. There are many points throughout the game when you need Oswald to do something to unlock a door or activate a switch, but at least half of those times he would get stuck somewhere else in the level or simply not do what he was supposed to. I was forced to reload from the last checkpoint and that usually solved the issue, but the fact that I had to do that multiple times throughout the game was troublesome. Playing co-op solves this problem, but it would require someone to actually play as Oswald, which, as mentioned earlier, is a bit of a chore.

The Wii U GamePad doesn’t add anything particularly interesting aside from using it as a map, which is rarely useful. The Wii U version does have one exclusive “feature” over the other versions though: awful framerate. Whenever you choose to paint or thin anything, the game’s framerate will slow to a crawl, which can actually interfere with gameplay when you’re trying to perform specifically timed jumps or attacks. This is a huge issue during particular boss battles too, as it can actually hurt your ability to properly dodge specific attacks or perform actions in a set amount of time. It’s a huge issue that turns what could have been the best version of the game into the worst.

Epic Mickey 2, like the original, is a game chock-full of unfulfilled potential. It’s clear from the start that the developers love Disney and treasure the old, forgotten characters just as much as the new stuff. This is a franchise that would make for a terrific and memorable animated series. As a game, however, it falls flat on its face at almost every instance. There are moments of brilliance, but those are few and far between, leaving you with a rather simplistic and somewhat dull platformer with mechanics that aren’t as developed as they should be. This is a game that massive Disney fans will get enjoyment out of, just be sure you avoid the Wii U version at all costs.

Pros: Charming presentation and story, fun 2D levels, interesting boss battles
Cons: Wii U version has atrocious framerate, Oswald’s A.I. gets in the way

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.

{ 6 comments }

WesFX December 12, 2012 at 7:42 am

I enjoy this quite a bit more than most people. Well, at first I didn’t. I was quite in line with the popular (reviewer) opinion for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then the pieces started sliding into place, I guess, and gradually I began to love it.

I have to assume that a lot of people are disappointed at the ways that this game didn’t improve upon the first game, a game I didn’t play. I don’t have that above my head, at least, and maybe it makes a world of difference. I also never really considered this a platformer since it’s much more exploratory than that.

Andrew Passafiume December 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm

It’s far from a terrible game and I did have a bit of fun with it, but it really could have been so much more. They establish a world that seems full of life in cutscenes and yet utterly lifeless during gameplay. That and the slowdown in the Wii U version is absolutely inexcusible in this day and age; you should consider yourself lucky if you played any other version of the game.

But yeah, I can see why some people would like this game. I might even consider myself one of those people despite my many problems with it, but there’s just so much wasted potential.

WesFX December 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm

“utterly lifeless during gameplay”

Just curious if you know how much time you spent with this game? Those first two hours or so, I felt it was particularly lifeless as well, and just a bad platformer. Maybe on purpose since you don’t get to go back to many of those areas.

But then I started noticing more stuff to be done and figured out in the levels and really started loving that sense of discovery. I’m curious about your playtime only as some reference of how much time you might have spent doing more than forward story progression. I mean, the game doesn’t require you to do the extra stuff, so it’s all a matter of play-style, probably something you would develop long before playing this game.

Andrew Passafiume December 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I finished the game and it took me around nine hours. This includes doing some (but not all) of the side content, which was generally okay. It’s mostly the feeling that the paint and thinning mechanics are just plain tedious and the game relies on them for almost everything. You never really get that sense of exploration that you got from, let’s say, the older Mickey Mouse games (Castle of Illusion and World of Illusion in particular). It’s all about these mechanics that, at the end of the day, add nothing to the world or change it in any meaningful or long term way.

Basically, the game was designed to serve the mechanics more than the amazing Disney history. The first game definitely suffered from this too, but the sequel has no excuse. They fixed some problems while adding a slew of new ones and seemingly learning nothing about what was really wrong with the core of the original. Since you never played the original, I’m sure the feeling of this game being “more of the same flawed experience,” so I can understand it being more enjoyable for you. And honestly, I would still say I had some fun with it, even if it was less about the gameplay and more about seeing the story unfold. I even played through the worst version of the game from start to finish, so that’s saying something!

WesFX December 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm

And you bring up something else about my situation; I don’t really have an appreciation for the era/slice of Disney that these games are referencing. I just enjoy the twisted aesthetic. I’m an American 23 year old, so, I dunno if that’s too young or if I just wasn’t really exposed to the right stuff.

“these mechanics that. . .add nothing. . .in any meaningful or long term way.”

I’ve only felt this way about a few games’ side tasks. The one I’m recalling right now is Wario Land 4, where every hidden path just lead to money that didn’t serve any purpose in the short term. Though if it is true to Wario, it probably determines what your end-game house looks like. Anyway, it started to feel like a big waste of my time to do the extra stuff, and ended up bringing down the entire experience, so I think I know what you mean. In EM2′s case, I wasn’t struck with that feeling and I couldn’t tell you why.

Andrew Passafiume December 17, 2012 at 8:41 am

I’m glad you were able to enjoy it then! I certainly didn’t hate it, I just wish it was better.