Epic Mickey (Hands-On) (Wii) Preview

By Karn Spydar Lee Bianco 07.08.2010 7

Review for Epic Mickey (Hands-On) on Wii

Back in the days of the NES, SEGA Mega Drive and Super Nintendo, Capcom and Disney struck a deal for several of the animation company’s properties to be converted into videogame products. The deal proved to be highly lucrative, as well as extremely successful in terms of overall quality, with games such as Aladdin (SNES), Duck Tales (NES), Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers (NES) and Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (MD) still revered by many gamers the world over. Since then, though, any games featuring the Disney mascot have fallen considerably in terms of overall quality to the point where they simply don’t receive anywhere near as much attention anymore. Could Epic Mickey finally change that situation?

Leaked concept art for Epic Mickey caused quite a stir last year, revealing a steampunk aesthetic and startling post-apocalyptic versions of classic Disney locales. Working at the Disney-owned studio Junction Point, System Shock and Deus Ex creator Warren Spector is the creative driving force behind Mickey’s new, darker portrayal. Epic Mickey is just the first step in a campaign by Disney to totally re-imagine their most popular character for the first time in decades. A bold proposition given the $5 billion in merchandise sales the company makes from Mickey each year!

Set in a place called Cartoon Wasteland, chock full of long-forgotten Disney faces and places, Epic Mickey is divided into three core segments: hub worlds that can be fully explored, action-packed missions, and snappy 2D platform levels that serve to connect the two. The first two aspects play out much like a platform-heavy Legend of Zelda title, with some light role-playing elements thrown in for good measure. I played an example of the last style, with the game switching to the form of a side-scrolling mode, with this example being a take on the classic Steamboat Willie cartoon; the simple Mario-esque gameplay and vintage visuals delivering much nostalgia.

Screenshot for Epic Mickey (Hands-On) on Wii

Hub levels entail a lot of chatting-up local NPCs and running errands for them in order to unlock new missions, some of which will be optional. Adventure Land, the hub level in the E3 demo, is home to Smee (of Peter Pan fame) who is concerned about pirates being taken to Skull Island and turned into robots. It falls to Mickey to round up ship parts from other local inhabitants (via platform shenanigans, item collecting, and bartering) before he can set off and investigate. Smee’s (and other’s) exposition is delivered via positively charming cut-scenes that are rendered in a unique hand-drawn style.

Missions are more action-packed, putting Mickey’s platform skills to the test and requiring the use of a magic paintbrush that can be wielded with either paint or thinner. The former allows Mickey to paint in missing parts of levels, such as platforms, while the latter allows him to remove obstructions. The paintbrush also serves as a weapon, with blasts of paint able to convert enemies to friends and thinner able to destroy enemies. Choosing between the two determines Mickey’s path as either the “hero” or the “Scrapper” and affects plot development and available missions.

Screenshot for Epic Mickey (Hands-On) on Wii

Extra Thoughts

Clare Stocks-Wilson, who used to work as part of the Nintendo UK PR double-act, alongside Rob Saunders, now Senior PR Manager there, was on-hand to demonstrate Epic Mickey in her new lofty role at Disney and deftly walked me through the very first part of the demo version on offer, explaining to me how whilst this world on show was filled with what appeared to be a whole host of Disney cast-off characters (similar to how Skip’s Captain Rainbow on Wii is littered with numerous ‘forgotten’ Nintendo creations), they are not all quite what they at first seem, in actuality taking on a rather darker than expected form. It is your mission, in the leading role of a rather murkier than normal Mickey Mouse himself, to change the face of this unusual world, either for the better or worse, dependent on your particular preference.

As mentioned earlier, in Karn’s part, there are various quests that can be undertaken in this mixed-genre adventure. Wandering around the hub world, in one instance, Mickey had to collect 20 icons in the shape of the hero’s ears in order to purchase essential equipment. Most were in clear view, but a few were well hidden, such as at the top of a water wheel in this particular case, with Mickey having to jump upon one of the slats and ride the wheel upwards to reach it. Once enough had been collected, progress could be made and other characters in the hub zone helped, such as when Mickey was asked to find the perfect present for Clarabelle the cow. Now, if you blindly go into the nearby store and buy her ice cream, you will find you have just wasted all the tokens you meticulously collected. Instead, a little diligence was required, and characters around the area had to be spoken to, and in this example it turned out she is in fact lactose intolerant, meaning the only other option from the shop was to grab a bouquet of flowers to impress her instead!

Once the ball had started rolling and the extremely glum-looking Smee had received whatever items he required from you, a portal opened up, granting access to open worlds for Mickey to explore, as in any Super Mario 3D platform adventure, like Super Mario Galaxy or Super Mario 64. As Karn pointed out, any cut-scenes between characters are acted out in the form of beautifully hand-drawn images, and the interludes between hub world and main adventure areas are connected via delightful 2D platform stages that leave you yearning for more side-scrolling Mickey goodness in the future. There are also so many little references to the Disney company of yore that will go totally over the heads of the majority, yet are those little pieces of extra detail that Miyamoto and company include in Mario outings to keep faithful fans content. Junction Point has put so much care and attention into Epic Mickey that the oft-used phrase ‘labour of love’ most definitely applies to the whole project here. The game has a special personal feel to it throughout that helps to distinguish it from other games in the 3D adventure genre.

Screenshot for Epic Mickey (Hands-On) on Wii

Whilst in a main stage, in the midst of trying to achieve the objective of stopping pirates being turned into robots (either using thinner or paint to reverse the machine’s effects or simply killing it dead in its tracks, each outcome changing the story slightly further down the line), there are clever little touches to be found. In general, shaking the Wii Remote makes Mickey attack, just as it makes Mario spin in Super Mario Galaxy, whilst use of the B and Z buttons on the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, respectively, control the out-pouring of paint (to re-draw items and platforms previously erased from sight, or turn enemies into allies), or the shooting of paint thinner (to dispose of pesky critters, or remove obstacles that prevent Mickey’s movements through the world). Along the way, special items can be collected, with certain ones unlocking features further into the game. There is one particularly fun item, though, in the form of an old television set, which can be thrown into the general playing field in order to distract groups of enemies for a short time. The TV expands to full size upon impact with the ground and begins showing classic Disney / Mickey cartoons to keep the bad guys enthralled whilst you make a hasty retreat.

The game does not escape without a few little niggling faults, however, and the age-old issue of an in-game camera going awry is ever-present. There were times when getting too close to an object resulted in the camera trying to squeeze itself behind Mickey’s head, resultantly obscuring everything around you at the time, and then there were moments where you simply could not rotate it the exact way you needed to when faced with intense enemy encounters, causing frustration to creep in and, subsequently, more camera issues as your hand-eye co-ordination goes completely out of the window.

The other issue that raised its head was in the actual control of Mickey. Although once you have managed to get to grips with the Nunchuk and Wii Remote each separately controlling the firing of paint or thinner, the other main aspect to come to terms with was the running, turning and long-distance jumping Mickey is able to do. For the most part there were no problems, and everything felt as tight as a Nintendo product. However, there were times when you felt a jump could definitely be made, yet Mickey refused to control entirely accurately, instead falling into swamps filled with paint thinner that reduce his life bar (since he himself is indeed a cartoon!). These, thankfully, turned out to only be minor issues that hindered the game marginally, looking as if to stop it from becoming the potential Mario-beater it could well be. It did not, however, mar the whole experience, and Epic Mickey certainly looks set to become one of those Wii games you simply must try.
Adam Riley, Senior Editor, Cubed3

Screenshot for Epic Mickey (Hands-On) on Wii

Final Thoughts

Epic Mickey takes its inspiration from Zelda’s action-adventure elements, Mario’s platforming, and Deus Ex’s freedom of choice. The 3D platforming works well, and aiming the magic paintbrush feels intuitive thanks to the Wii Remote. Disney’s storied history provides an excellent backdrop, and there is sure to be a slue of hidden extras in the final game. It looks good, plays smoothly, and is full of unique touches; Epic Mickey definitely has a lot of potential.

Developer

Junction Point

Publisher

Disney

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (18 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Wow, this does indeed look/sound epic. Smilie

( Edited 07.08.2010 21:36 by Mush123 )

Minnie M (guest) 08.08.2010#2

It's interesting how a lot of the game appears to be a mixture of Super Mario Galaxy, Legend of Zelda, with a bit of Mario Sunshine for good measure. I wonder just how successful this will be in the end??

Garsh (guest) 08.08.2010#3

Dude, those weren't Capcom games on the Mega Drive. Aladdin and Lion King were Virgin, and World of Illusion was Sega itself

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse was indeed Capcom, with Disney helping, and SEGA acting as publisher.

The SNES version of Aladdin was developed by Capcom, whilst the MD one was by Virgin, with the SNES game then ported to the GBA further down the line by Capcom again.

Lion King...well, you're spot on there, sorry Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
Tom (guest) 09.08.2010#5

This will be perfect for me after completing Super Mario Galaxy 2! I can't wait! Shame it's only coming out at the end of the year

For me, this was my favourite game at E3 2010.

I found some the gameplay elements fascinating and the visuals really look a lot better than in those first images we saw of the game.

I seriously think that Disney would have a better chance with this if it had launched it last year.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

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