With Epic Mickey: The Power of Two debuting on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and soon to be on the Wii U, you’d be forgiven for either thinking that this Epic Mickey is a terrible, stripped-down port or for not knowing about it at all. It’s actually a spin-off, by the way.
The evil witch (yes, there’s always one) Mizrabel is pretty angry about being forgotten in the Wasteland, so she kidnaps a load of Disney characters and plans to use their ‘heart power’ to… well, I’m sure you can fill in the gaps. The storyline is just an excuse to bring together a lot of fun, friendly and familiar Disney characters. The game involves journeying through a variety of ‘lands’, themed illusions created by the witch, rescuing trapped characters.
Epic Mickey looks, feels and plays like a retro side-scrolling platformer, so it comes as no surprise to hear that it follows on in a way from Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, a similar style of game originally on the Sega Genesis and Game Gear. There are little references here and there to old Disney games – one of my favourite nostalgic moments was a tip of the top hat to the old Ducktales game on the NES. It’s enough to make me wish I had played more Disney games, because there are certainly references I’ve missed.
Between levels, Mickey can talk to the characters and obtain extra quests which enrich the game. For example, finding Lumiere lights up Beast’s room, which means he can make a sign for Scrooge McDuck, which means Scrooge can open a shop for Mickey to purchase upgrades that will help in his journey. If you go through the games without the sidequests, not only will you be disappointed by its 3-4 hour length (there are only really three bosses as well!) but you will miss out on the game’s best part. It’s a shame though that the game should have to really coerce you into paying it this amount of attention before you get a payoff… At first glance the game seems like a very basic platformer, a poor man’s version of the ‘real’ Epic Mickey games, so to speak.
Such a comparison is unfair, but it’s unavoidable. With little promotional drive for this 3DS game in comparison to the larger console versions, it’s hard not to feel cheated, especially if you don’t have that connection to retro Disney or attachment to side-scrolling platform collectoramas. The only real similarity to the other Epic Disney games is the magical paintbrush, used to add an extra dimension to the platforming gameplay. A layout of the level appears on the bottom screen with outlines of objects you can either paint in, or use thinner to erase. Tapping on them brings up a mini-game in which you either trace objects or erase them, but you need to be careful of how much paint and thinner you have in your supplies. It adds a neat little dimension to play, because sometimes situations are very difficult to pass without a little bit of this kind of creative thinking, increased by special skills Mickey can gain such as the ability to draw a block that will appear to crush enemies on his behalf. Another addition is that if you are rated on your tracing skills, and if they aren’t up to scratch objects will be of poor quality and will be a hindrance rather than a help.
It’s an entertaining touch, and it complements the beautiful environments and near-perfect Disney soundtrack. Don’t let the glossy touch fool you however because the difficulty ramps up considerably if you decide to rescuing everyone. Not only will you have to get through the level to the secret parts, you’ll have to make it all the way to the end without dying. Health hearts can be in short supply and dying kicks you right back to the beginning with nothing. The first time it happened to me, I let off a few very non-Disney expletives.