Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Review

The original Epic Mickey, released in 2010, was a surprise hit for a lot of people, it put an interesting twist on the character of Mickey by putting him in a land filled with long forgotten relics of Disney's past.  Not only that, but the game re-introduced a character not many people knew about, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and the gameplay featured an interesting concept involving paint and thinner, and the effects it could have on both the world and how characters viewed Mickey.  Despite having interest in the title, I never got the chance to play the first game when it came out, but I did manage to play the game's sequel.  This is unfortunate because Epic Mickey 2 isn't that good.
The story picks up some time after the events of the first game, the citizens of Wasteland, a world inhabited by characters forgotten by Disney, are repairing the place when earthquakes suddenly start happening.  The Mad Doctor, the main antagonist of the first game, shows up telling the citizens that he is a changed man and he wants to help the citizens repair Wasteland.  However, Gus the Gremlin and Oswald's girlfriend Ortensia doubt the believability of his statements, and they decide to summon Mickey back to the Wasteland to make sure the Mad Doctor isn't lying.
From there the story never really takes off, most of the time the story is pretty non-existent as a large portion focuses on Mickey and Oswald checking up on the different worlds within Wasteland, with the story occasionally popping up once in a while.  There a couple of plot twists that do happen, but they're pretty obvious, though I do like the plot twist revealing the Mad Doctor's real plan, it's interesting and he's also the best character in the game, as the other characters are bland and forgettable.  The problem with the revelation of the Mad Doctor's real scheme is that by the time his motivations are revealed, the game is over and the credits are rolling.  Not helping things is that even though things are wrapped up at the end of the game, there's some pointless sequel baiting in the form of an after-credits cliffhanger that felt highly unnecessary.
If you were someone who played the first game, then the gameplay will feel familiar to those players, but for someone like me, the gameplay has its share of good concepts, but they're flawed in execution.  The strongest point is the paint and thinner concept, by using Mickey's paintbrush, you can use thinner to erase environmental objects and enemies, but with paint, you can fill back in the missing spaces and make enemies friendly.  Not only that, but there are also some morality choices that come into play in certain parts of the game.  One example is when you come across an area filled with creatures called Blotlings, the person who runs this particular area wants you to use paint to make all of the creatures friendly, and by doing so, he opens up a shortcut that Mickey and Oswald can use.  Should you use thinner to erase the Blotlings, though, he'll criticize the two and won't open up the shortcut.  This is a unique concept that is executed well, though sometimes trying to take the "good" path for completing an objective can be tricky.
This is one of Epic Mickey 2's strong points, but where it falters is in its forced co-op and lazy quest structure.  If you play the game solo, the AI controls Oswald, the problem is that he is a complete idiot when playing single player.  At first, his AI seemed decent enough, but as I made my way through the game, Oswald started to become a hassle.  Often, Oswald will fail to keep up with you, barely help you during combat, or he won't respond to the button prompt that makes him perform a certain function to help you.
Instead of wielding a paintbrush, Oswald uses an electrical remote that can activate panels and be used to stun enemies, but as I just stated, most of the time he doesn't follow through with the command you issue him.  He is easily one of the dumbest AI partners I've worked with in a game, right up with O'Neal from Aliens: Colonial Marines.  If you're able to, play the game with a friend via the game's split-screen co-op as it makes things more manageable.
The other main problem is that the main and side quests are pretty generic in terms of structure.  Most of the main quests involve collecting or finding items in order to progress to the next area, the side quests are similar in that you're collecting items located in one of the various worlds to bring back to the quest giver.  Yet, the payoff for completing side-quests is rather lackluster and most of the items you do need to find are located in different, far off areas, and by the time you do find them, you'll have progressed so far in the story that there really isn't a point to returning to the quest giver for a reward.  As such, I ignored most of the side-quests and by doing so; it decreases the amount of time it takes to beat the game.  Epic Mickey 2 is a short game, because of the paper-thin story the game can fly by rather quickly, and it took me about five hours to beat the game.
While the gameplay is really flawed, there is another aspect to the gameplay besides the paint and thinner mechanic that I liked.  When traveling to another world, Mickey and Oswald have to jump into a film projector that transports them into a side-scrolling level based off an old Disney cartoon.  These parts of the game are quite fun as the inventive level design makes traversing these levels an enjoyable experience, and the way they handle key moments from these shorts by turning them into platforming sections was also very unique.
Visually, the game looks good and aesthetically it does a good job of making the world carry the feeling and vibes of Walt Disney animation, but also giving some of the worlds and a few of the characters a slight offbeat vibe to them.  The first game didn't feature any voice acting, instead characters spoke in grunts and mumbles, much like the acting in LEGO games before Lego Batman 2 came out.  In the sequel, characters are now fully voiced and the actors do a good job, though Frank Welker, who voices Oswald, makes him sound a lot like Fred from Scooby-Doo.  Previews for this game said that there would be full-on musical numbers in certain cutscenes, yet in the final product, the only character that actually sings is the Mad Doctor, none of the other characters break out into song during the cutscenes.
It really disappoints me that I haven't played the first game yet, considering the sequel is a lackluster follow-up.  The game has some good ideas and visually the game nails the Disney vibe, but a lazy story, a frustrating AI partner, and a lazy quest structure bog it all down.  If you are interested in playing this game, make sure that you've played the first one before this game.

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