As they grow up, children are inundated with cartoon characters and storybook mascots. There are many out there for parents to pick and choose from, but none are as popular and iconic as Disney’s round eared mascot, Mickey Mouse. Even though he was created years ago, the character’s timeless appeal and his parent company’s great marketing ploys have kept him in the limelight. Of course, it helps that there are theme parks involved, wherein human beings are paid to dress up as Mickey and his pals, in order to bring joy to the millions of children that visit each year.
In today’s world, we look at Disney and its roster of animated heroes, villains and supporting allies as being for kids. However, that’s not the case. The company’s movies may hold more resonance with the younger ones who walk amongst us, but they’re enjoyable at any age. Additionally, it goes without saying that a large majority of today’s adults grew up watching Mickey Mouse save the day, whether in black and white or in colour. Those are the reasons why Warren Spector and his team at Junction Point Studios released Disney Epic Mickey, the slightly dark Wii exclusive starring the one and only black and white mouse, back in 2010.
Late last month, the aforementioned development house produced a follow-up to its successful and much talked-about intellectual property. Referred to as Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, the sequel maintains the paint-filled platforming that its predecessor became known for, though it stumbles when it comes to execution. As a result, the game will only appeal to the most diehard Mickey fanatics out there. Why? Let’s discuss that.
Once again, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two sends its hero to the Wasteland, a fantastical region that acts as a home for the animation giant’s forgotten creations. You may have thought that all would be well, but it turns out that the area is in trouble again. You see it’s been hit with powerful and destructive earthquakes, as well as a resurgence of evildoing enemies. If that’s not enough, the Mad Doctor, whom we previously defeated, is in a good mood, and apparently wants to help his fellow Wastelanders.
After the onset of the environmental devastation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s pink loving wife and her gremlin pal Gus reach out to Mr. Mouse through a magical television set. Unsure of what’s going on around them, the two ask for help, and task Mickey with aiding Oswald, who has offered to assist the Mad Doctor. Thus begins a colourful quest that takes players through familiar regions of the world, which they must save from apparent doom. It’s rather basic stuff, and feels uninspired, especially in comparison to what the first Epic Mickey game offered. In fact, it’s hard to become immersed within this rather basic, predictable and mediocre storyline, and that hurts the game’s appeal.
Like its predecessor, The Power of Two is a platformer at heart, containing gameplay that can be described as a mixture of two and three-dimensional adventure-platforming. The twist is that this outing has two playable characters: Mickey and Oswald. As such, things are a bit different. If you’re playing by your lonesome, which I don’t recommend doing, then you’ll have to worry about the whereabouts of the idiotic rabbit, because his artificial intelligence leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, he will follow you most of the time, but he’s prone to getting stuck, lost, or even vanishing, meaning that you will occasionally need to restart checkpoints or search the area for him.
Mickey and Oswald don’t need to interact with each other at all times. There are quite a few cooperative puzzles that must be solved, as well as platforming sections that require Mickey to grab onto Oswald as he spins his ears in helicopter fashion and glides forward. The good news is that his idiocy won’t become overly frustrating outside of those moments, as he will help with combat, albeit at his own pace. Sometimes you’ll see his avatar standing in place, but not always. There were quite a few moments where he took the offensive in combat, and used his electrical remote to stun foes so that I could jump on their red buttons, ejecting their splatter pilots. The downside was that I occasionally had to wait for him to act, while using paint and thinner to deal bits of damage.
Unfortunately, Warren Spector and company made a big mistake by turning Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two into a drop-in and out split-screen co-op experience. The first game worked well as a solo campaign, and was only frustrating whenever its platforming mechanics failed to produce ideal jumps. This time around, that problem still exists, but it’s outdone by the terrible artificial intelligence that Oswald possesses. In fact, even when he listens and acts like a helicopter, it’s often tough for Mickey to grab hold due to height issues. Needless to say, that became frustrating quickly, as it kept happening over and over again.
Those who end up playing through this six to ten hour-long campaign with a friend will enjoy it more than those who play alone. That’s the simple fact here. However, even then, it’s doubtful that many will be happy with their purchase. That’s because what’s presented is rather boring, and is devoid of the sense of purpose that its predecessor contained. Sure, you once again get to decide whether you want to save or hinder Wasteland by using paint and thinner to either create or destroy, and using the two chemicals to your advantage. Nonetheless, the included storyline doesn’t make you feel for the world much, making this outing seem like more of a cash in than a fully developed sequel.
Although this review has been predominantly negative, this isn’t a terrible game. It works relatively well, has some interesting 2D platforming stages that harken back to yesteryear, and includes a lengthy list of side quests and collectibles. Those are the good things to be found here; that is, if you enjoy finding tons of pins, sketches, gremlins and costume pieces. If you don’t, you’ll quickly become annoyed at the amount of collectibles that Junction Point decided to add in, especially if you’re an achievement or trophy hunter.
The above list is missing one thing: the paint and thinner system. For the most part, the two differently coloured decorative creations are used well here. I actually thought before I used either one, because I wanted to make sure that I played the game how I wanted to. However, Oswald occasionally had other ideas, and would kill enemies before I could befriend them. Going forward, there is one minor issue to be found with the chemical dispersal method in the Xbox 360 version of the game. That would be the right joystick, which is used for aiming, and doesn’t always do a perfect job. With that being said, it works a lot better than the A button. That input doubles as the jump button and the action button for some dumb reason. Entering doorways was always a pain in the ass as a result.
If you’ve been following this sequel since its reveal, this will be old news to you, but The Power of Two is the series’ first foray into true high-definition. That’s a big deal, and the game sort of delivers. While its colours pop and its character models are more detailed than they were before, some of its textures look dated. The same is true of the darker areas, and a lot of that probably has to do with the game’s multiplatform status. That fact surely would’ve affected its visual presentation, but not its audio, which happens to be decent. The included sound effects and musical tunes are solid, but the NPC voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
When Disney Epic Mickey was released two years ago, I spent quite a bit of time with it. For the most part, it was an enjoyable experience, but it didn’t wow me as I had hoped it would. Of course, when this sequel was announced, my hope was that it would fix the problems its predecessor was marred by, and would be a great high-definition outing. That didn’t end up being the case, however, as I couldn’t get into this Mickey and Oswald co-op adventure much. Sure, it has some quality facets, but it’s generally unimpressive. As a result, I can only recommend this one to diehard Mickey Mouse fans. It’s a shame, but Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is a dull and disappointing sequel, which lacks the inspiration and charm that its predecessor featured.
This review is based on an XBOX 360 copy of the game that was provided to us.