With great power comes great disappointment?
When you’ve grown accustomed to a franchise establishing an exceptional level of excellence, it’s hard to fault an avid fan when a sequel doesn’t measure up. Warren Spector, a highly respected video game designer who is best known for his work on such projects as Deux EX and System Shock, delivered one of the most remarkable Disney-themed fantasy platformers to ever grace a video game console. It showcased a rich, engaging story complimented by an assorted cast of familiar characters of past and present, making it compelling experience for gamers young and old.
And I somehow never played it. Don’t judge me – there are greater sins I am guilty of as a gamer.
Well in this instance, that probably was a good thing since the sequel doesn’t come close to the caliber of its predecessor. It’s clearly easy to see this was an ambitious project. The release was now expanding on multiple platforms, and essentially the objective was to craft an experience that was bigger and better. That’s what we’ve come to expect from secrets, right? Usually. Epic Mickey 2 doesn’t just fail on delivery of rudimentary concepts, in spite the welcomed co-op play, the rich cast of Disney favorites and their lovable, unique personalities, the whole experience felt doesn’t carry the same wow factor. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to script a story driven by woe and sorrow as countless superhero films have been cashing in on as of late. Emo tones have their place and to me, it just doesn’t dial in on the digits of being wholly immersive. It’s not edgy. It doesn’t scream “action-packed”.
I guess that’s why fans have been endlessly groaning when the predecessor delivered such a better selection of villians, one mad scientist with an affinity to sing a few bars on cue (note: he’s back again by the way); the vicious toon that desperately wanted to end Mickey’s existence and a destructive threat known as the Blot who obliterated Oswald’s homeland. I can think of numerous games where I actually developed something of an emotional connection to the characters, despite the fact they were evil. Liquid Snake. Dr. Robotnik. Kefka. Heck, even Bowser has come a long way to the point of being almost whimsical with his evil schemes to capture the Princess.
Never felt like that in this game, not to mention the game is short enough to complete within a day. (What is it lately with relatively short adventures?)
The fundamental concepts for the co-op didn’t flow too well either, despite the fact his unique abilities including hacking into terminals, using his floppy ears as a helicopter and electrocuting enemies on site. I actually get a kick out of seeing Oswald take down enemies like the Slobber so Mickey can drop an anvil on its head. On paper, it sounds rather fun and creative, a concept that’s slowly starting to creep its way back in amongst a sea of single/competitive-type releases, but that sadly it fails to translate well when the AI is in control. Often I’d lose a life or grumble in frustration since my partner failed to respond when it really counted. It made me think that the AI had better things to do then to help me get through the level. If you’re fortunate, getting a human player to take command would be the more ideal choice, although Oswald doesn’t come equipped with the same type of abilities, which may not seem quite as cool since Mickey has the tools to create and taketh away.
Yes, that’s the core mechanic that drives Epic Mickey 2: the brush. When equipped, he can literally thin objects into nothingness or with a few strokes, paint an object back into the virtual world. Naturally you can’t paint anything you come across (although that type of ability would truly be remarkable), the player has a vast amount of freedom to decide how they wish to advance through specific scenarios. At the risk of dating myself here, the puzzle elements haven’t introduce anything that I haven’t seen in the past two decades, but they are rather clever to someone that’s a casual gamer, or even for the younger demographic that often envisions the ability to turn things invisible and make them reappear. Those of you that are much older now, don’t try to act is if you never loved invisible ink as a child either.
Unlike the original, Epic Mickey 2 was able to grace all the current platforms, sporting a greater bump in the visuals that greatly benefited the characters, cinematic sequences as well as the game environments overall. It’s unfortunate the coolest adventure will never see the light of day beyond Nintendo’s original platform, but that’s nowhere as disappointing that the sequel came up short, especially when the same development team was behind the wheel. With all the amount of research, time and energy invested, one would expect that Junction Point would have knocked this out of the park.
If there is a third adventure, I hope they carefully analyze their roots and restore the franchise back to its rightful glory. My childhood memories can only take so much disappointment in one lifetime.