Disney Epic Mickey Wii Review
Once upon a time, in a land far far away, Yen Sid the sorcerer (from the Sorcerers Apprentice portion in the Disney Fantasia film) creates a small model of a place he calls the Cartoon Wasteland. This is a place for the forgotten Disney characters of yesteryear, more so in this day and age of Pixar and the impetus on computer generated animation. The first inhabitant is Oswald (the Lucky rabbit), Walt Disney’s first creation and the inspiration for Mickey Mouse himself. Cartoon Wasteland is not fully complete however and Oswald has to finish what was started. He fleshes out the land by basing this world on the theme parks and how he feels they should look, but he has only images and plans to base Cartoon Wasteland upon. Anything that was rejected, designed or considered for Disney Land but for some reason not used, ended up becoming a part of Wasteland. Over time Oswald makes this place comfortable for the retired characters as they enter the world.
Oswald however grows increasingly resentful of the popularity of Mickey his half brother. Later Mickey accidentally stumbles into Yen Sid’s home and plays with the model of Cartoon Wasteland, accidentally creating the Phantom Blot, who scares away Oswald and effects Cartoon Wasteland for the worse. Some time later, Mickey is pulled into Cartoon Wasteland to rectify his mistakes and regain the trust of Oswald to help overthrow the Phantom Blot and save the forgotten land. The introduction sequence is an impressive re-envisioning of the classic ‘Through the Mirror’ animation and is a frame for frame recreation of the original down to the voice over.
We cut to the first playable part of the game and witness as Mickey is held captive and in the process of being tortured by the Mad Doctor who utilises a plunger mechanism to try and suck out Mickey’s heart. This cues the first fight against a boss made out of what looks like a huge mechanised Swiss Army knife. On the Wiimote the A button is used to jump and a flick of the wrist is used to spin attack to smash the machinery powering this mechanical behemoth.
Control of Mickey is sleek, slick and responsive. Junction Point have spent a lot of time finely tuning and honing the controls. It is satisfying to play a game that responds so well to each button press and makes bounding through the many wonderfully aesthetic visually and well designed levels an ease and enjoyable experience.
This game is full of unforgettable moments. From when you first enter Mean Street through the projector screen and land only to see the camera pan from low down behind you, only to be greeted by what looks like a twisted rendition of your first visit to Disney’s theme parks. Taking in not just the cartoon worlds themselves, but also elements of the theme parks, the animatronics, the films and many of the characters. This is not just a game, this is a sadistic (in a great way) reinvention of everything that we know as Disney, presented in an interactive format. Memories from your childhood (and adulthood) will be tested and your knowledge of the Disney world will be compounded, elements of Disney you had never imagined are presented before your eyes.
There are many collectables to get, from the E-tickets based on the original ticketing system from Disney theme parks (and cancelled in the late 80s). This is something now in the Cartoon Wasteland, forgotten in the age of speed passes and swipe cards. E-tickets are the in-game currency used in the many scattered shops. Other collectables are the collectable Disney Mickey pins, which come in three types: Gold, Bronze and Silver. There are also film reels to be pieced together to create whole Disney cartoons and undoubtedly the Disney fan in us all will want to complete each one to watch with glee.
As you know, Mickey is charged with making things right in the Cartoon Wasteland. Surely you need a weapon or tool of redemption? So what else can you be armed with except the same type of magical paint brush you caused such chaos with in the first place? Armed with this magical brush, Mickey goes about setting to rights the wasteland. Utilising the paint brushes powers, you have two tools at your disposal: paint and thinner. These have differing outcomes and not just in battle. With the appearance in the world of the Phantom Blot, everything is not quite right; certain parts of scenery are thinned out and lifeless, the water is not water but a turgid flow of thinner that sucks the life out of everything it touches. You cannot simply paint and change it as there is more thinner flowing throughout the world than there is paint. The odds are tipped against you. Certain parts of scenery can be thinned or painted to impact on progress, for example in one of the earlier stages there was a pile of boulders blocking the way, and the only way to pass was to thin the platform underneath causing them to fall, and then re-painting the platform in to continue on. These elements of gameplay are an interesting change from the norm as they let you make a choice. Do you thin out objects and paint them back in after or do you leave them gone?
Each choice made leads you down a different path and this path in turn takes you on a different route through the story. For example in Mean Street, Gus the Gremlin had been captured, I was tasked with freeing him to enable him to start the Penny Arcade again. He was surrounded by Spatters (a type of blot), so I had to remove the threat. I decided to paint them and thus ‘friend’ them, this action in turn was noticed by the residents of Mean Street who respected me and felt the need to follow my example of peace making in the future. Elements like this to the gameplay are really conducive to your experience as a whole and one that will encourage you to play the game differently to see how differently things pan out.
Interacting with the inhabitants opens up new quests a plenty. Do you help the ghosts scare Louis on Bog Easy or do you get his courage medal and take it to him to help him overcome his fears? If you choose to take the good route, there is always another opportunity to turn around and create an air of mischief which does diversify the plot somewhat and livens up the pace of the game.
As is often the case in 3D platform games, there is an element of fetching quests and the way this is balanced can add to or negate from the whole experience. For example fetching body parts of the animatronic characters to rebuild them whole can be quite frankly a bit of a boring experience for the majority of you, but the completionist out there will thrive on such ‘depth’ being added to the play.
If there were any gripes it would have to be the thing which is always troublesome in a 3D platform game, the camera. Whilst it is obvious a lot of time and effort has gone into eradicating most of the camera issues, there are moments when the game puts you in a battle against the blots and the camera. The (admittedly infrequent) fixed camera positioning impedes your vision to infuriating effect, making you wonder why the freedom from using the d-pad to adjust was not implemented in those sections? Also when I try to use the Wiimote pointer to spray an object it sprays immediately infront of me instead because of the current position and not to the object I am aiming at. This can be avoided with careful movement and positioning, but in the heat of a battle it can be frustrating. These are merely minor niggles however.
If you have followed any of the progress of this game throughout its development and lets be honest, if you have followed any of the games conventions coverage still managed to miss any of the announcements regarding this title never mind the anticipation, that is a marvel within itself. Since its announcement in April 2009 the interest for this game has not steadily risen, it has been at fever pitch since day one. Warren Spector announcing he had the intention to create an adventure based in the Disney world with Mickey as the main protagonist and it would be unlike anything we have seen before, who wouldn’t be excited? The target renders and storyboard art certainly indicated that we would see the Disney world like never before, so how does the Nintendo Wii handle all this ambition? I am happy to say it performs admirably in this feat, producing arguably some of the best visuals seen on this system and is certainly in the top tier for visuals from a third party developer.
Seeing the world full and vibrant, taking elements of the theme parks and creating new and unique (in various grotesque ways) elements of the game’s areas. For example the majority of the Tomorrow Land Beetleworks characters; they have elements of Tomorrow Land from the theme parks in there. So you will see lots of bits and pieces a lot of Disney die-hard fans will be able to pick out and parts of the game you cannot help but coo over how Junction Point have managed to put a twist on a certain area or character design aesthetic.
Audibly the game is in a class of its own, Junction Point were given the freedom to utilise and recreate sounds from Disney’s impressive audio back catalogue and no expense was spared in reeling in wonderful voice and sound design talent. Although the characters in the game do not talk, that does not mean there were not voice actors brought on board to provide sounds relative to feelings and emotions conducive to each moment of the game and this is done without any air of cack handedness and with wonderful effort and believability. Almost reminiscent of the incomprehensible but totally emotive tones used by Navi in the Zelda games of recent years, the “Ooh’s”, “Aah’s” and even the groans all fit each moment perfectly and certainly add to the whole spirit of the Disney world. Also featuring a new Jim Dooley original soundtrack, this compounds the experience as a whole. Working wonderfully as a great companion to the game, it is neither intrusive nor forgettable in anyway. There were moments when I just stopped running around and took a moment to enjoy and bask in moment to the music and the characteristic sounds of each of the game’s sections.
There are black-and-white 2D gaming sections between each level, these are piece for piece recreations of the scenes from the old Mickey Mouse cartoons of the 1930s, with actual sound from the cartoons, right down to the grainy sound. These bite sized sections offer a break from the action, whilst the next area loads on the sly, and are always a joy to play through allowing you to gain more e-tickets, health and possibly even part of a film reel.
Disney Epic Mickey is up there amongst the best platform games. Warren Spector and Junction Point have managed to create a game that is finely balanced, well crafted and visually wonderful. It’s a game that should be in every platformer fan’s collection, or indeed on the shelf of any gamer. This is not just a wonderful experience but it is the perfect homage to the rich Disney heritage.