Disney Epic Mickey

Disney Epic Mickey
Disney Epic Mickey Cover
Platforms Wii
Genre Paint-by-numbers 3D platformer
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Keep Playing? Doubtful
Buy from Amazon

Mickey Mouse was never a big part of my early life. I guess that's to be expected: my grandfather remembers seeing Mickey Mouse cartoons when he was young, and a kids' cartoon character can only stay relevant for so long. I've never been into the whole corruption-of-childhood-icons thing, either. It always sort of struck me as puerile and cheap, like finding a genitalia-spacecraft dogfight penciled into the margins of a social studies textbook.

So when I first saw the Game Informer cover art for a dark take on Disney called Epic Mickey, I scoffed. I'd never imagined such a thing would exist, and I couldn't fathom it being worth a damn. I let out an unapproving sigh as I skimmed over the concept art in the magazine, featuring mechanical perversions of classic Disney characters. The designs themselves didn't bother me beyond their tired post-apocalyptic, steampunk styles, but the concept itself seemed like something a goth 7th grader might come up with after being dragged to Disney World by his family.

As it turns out, all of that imagery was just pre-production concept, used in the magazine to create as much hype as the shock value could muster. The final product has a safer appearance, one that most would say is more "tame." I think it's just less gimmicky. Further details would catch my interest as well, including the use of forgotten Disney properties to create an off-kilter gameworld (rather than just a dark one) and the moral freedom system that's supervised by a guy who excels at that sort of thing.

It's been a strange hype cycle, but Epic Mickey has finally arrived. For the first time, I'm actually anticipating a Mickey Mouse property. Is my newfound interest warranted, or should I have left it in the trash with that issue of Game Informer?

Note: The following video is the game's prologue, shown prior to the title screen. The first hour makes more sense if you watch it. It's also sort of neat, so you should watch it anyway.

Minute by Minute

00 - New game. Mickey wakes up, strapped to an experiment table! A mad doctor nearby laughs. A rabbit character, not unlike Mickey, sneaks onto the scene and watches from afar. The mad doctor pulls a switch, and giant Swiss army knife machine descends upon the mouse!

01 - The mad doctor pulls various levers, exposing drills, scissors, chainsaws from the Swiss army robot. Finally, a plunger emerges from the device and attempts to suck out Mickey's insides. The mighty Mouse frees an arm and throws the plunger at the scientist's face, then breaks from his restraints. Confronted by a giant purple blob monster, Mickey grabs a brush and shoos the monster away.

02 - The mad doctor pulls a switch and escapes through a trapdoor. Rabbit and Mouse notice one another, and the rabbit hurriedly follows the mad doctor through the trapdoor, breaking the lever. The Swiss army knife machine turns to Mickey.

03 - "Over here, you bucket of bolts!" Gus, a small green creature floating in the air, dodges several attacks from the useful tool. "Over here, Mickey!" I'm in control now. Quest Added: Escape Dark Beauty Castle

04 - The A button jumps. Mickey can double jump in the air. C centers the camera. I use Mickey's jumps to maneuver through what appears to be a hollowed-out castle, with stained glass art of that rabbit character from earlier. He looks like a king, with treasure strewn about.

Disney Epic Mickey King Oswald

05 - I've made it to the green floaty dude. He says I can spin-attack by shaking the Wii remote. I spin-attack some computer consoles, and the Swiss army machine doesn't seem to like that.

06 - It attempts to stab at me as I hop around the room. I've taken out the second computer console, and the robot is defeated. Gus says that I can explore this area now that it's safe. I think I'll do just that.

07 - The D-pad moves the camera manually...and quite slowly. I can use the spin-attack to break objects, revealing little red...things. Tickets, maybe? Treasure chests and statues of Goofy and Donald knights surrender them when bashed.

08 - Found a treasure chest. Mickey slams it open with the brush, and I got a Bronze Pin. Apparently there are plenty of these around. This one unlocked "The Mad Doctor's Lab 2," whatever that is. There is a pool of thinner nearby. Apparently I shouldn't take a dip in there.

09 - Still going around, breaking barrels and statues to grab these red things. Controls are kind of loose.

10 - I've made it back to Gus. Cutscene: Mickey wants to go home. Gus explains that the evil blob monster form earlier is the Shadow Blot, made of both paint and thinner. Mickey's brush suddenly gushes out some thinner, dissolving a wall nearby. It then sprays paint, re-creating the wall. Ink starts bubbling off Mickey, though Gus is not sure what that means.

11 - B uses paint, Z uses thinner, Wii pointer aims. Gus seems to be the help/tutorial character a la Navi, invisibly following me around and popping out when there's something to say.

12 - Playing around with the paint and thinner now. Certain objects, walls, floors, and such can be made opaque or transparent with the two liquids.

13 - I thin out a door frame, and the door falls over a pool of thinner to make a bridge. Neat! Breaking some objects yields paint and/or thinner. Also, using paint and thinner occasionally yields...paint and thinner. Okay then.

14 - And I'm out of the castle. The rabbit from earlier runs away and a gate closes. A gate with the rabbit's face on it. Apparently the exit is that way. Some blob fiend comes through a gutter on the wall, and Gus explains that these guys are enemies that can be destroyed with thinner or converted into allies with paint.

15 - I can jump on their heads to stun them, too. I do so, then hit it with the thinner. It's gone! I use paint on another one, and it patrols the area for me. I guess I brainwash it into fighting its friends? That's kind of evil.

16 - I use my spin attack on a gear to lower a crane platform. Gus says there's a gremlin trapped in the cage that's been revealed. I've got my first moral dilemma: save the gremlin or grab some extra E-tickets? So those red things are E-tickets...

17 - I decide to free the gremlin, but mostly just because I don't know what these E-tickets do. Apparently the gremlin was put in here by the mad doctor. He fixes the crane and rewards me with a Gold Pin.

18 - There's a door here with part of it missing. I thin it out and find a treasure chest with a Gold Pin in it. It's a "Dark Beauty Castle Pin." Whatever, I'll take it.

19 - I can apparently shoot thinner or paint blasts by tapping the button quickly. It's good for taking out enemies quickly but uses a lot of paint (or thinner).

Disney Epic Mickey Thinner

20 - Little glowing dots nearby...Gus explains they are Guardians, and depending on my actions, I'll either accumulate Turps (thinner dudes) or Tints (paint bros). They help take out enemies.

21 - Painting and thinning more platforms, paths, and walls...I'm out of paint! I don't have a very large reserve of the stuff. Luckily objects are strewn about that refill my stock. I spin-attack to knock a gear loose, and that opens the gate ahead.

22 - A bunch of objects block the path ahead. I thin the ground out from under them to drop them out of the way. Re-painting the land, I head forward uninhibited.

23 - I knock another gear loose, and the exit gate opens. There's a projector screen inside. Gus says it's our way out of the castle. It's showing a title screen for a classic Mickey cartoon: Mickey and the Beanstalk. Apparently portals like this are how people get around. They were made by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Guess he's the guy from earlier.

24 - Mickey and the gremlin jump on in. Quest added: Return Home. It's a 2D platformer! There's a film reel moving along the side. I'm jumping up branches of the beanstalk. There are also beds being raised and lowered from the vines.

25 - Jumped in a chimney in a little house, and continued up the vine. I think I'm at the end, I found a projector.

26 - "Would you like to travel to Slalom?" Sure, why not. I come out the other side and see another gremlin. He's fixing a big door with complicated gears. There are a few gears missing that could be painted in...OR I could just smash the remaining gear to break the door down. I choose the latter.

27 - The door locks at halfway open, and a blob monster on the other side runs away, past a path with steam pipes blowing in everywhere. The door-loving gremlin is cross with me about my tactless entrance.

28 - I paint some covers onto the steam-shooting vents and erase some gratings to grab hidden E-tickets. The floor is missing here, with exposed gears underneath. Paint solves that problem.

29 - Some steam vents blow me around. They don't do any damage, but I almost fell into a nasty-looking pit.

30 - A large wheel ahead with some platforms at its edges rotates above a pit, leading me to the next area. The door closes behind me.

31 - More blob enemies! Apparently these ones are called Splatters. I friend-ify one, and it viciously assaults its former comrade. My brainwashed minion is the victor.

32 - A grate opens up ahead, but it seems I failed a mission to paint over all the steam pipes from earlier. I don't remember getting that mission. Oh well. The rabbit character is ahead and gives us the stink-eye before running away.

33 - I've come to what appears to be a dilapidated amusement part. Elephant rides, circus tent, the tea cup ride...almost like a crummy Disney World.

34 - There's a gremlin ahead, besieged in an information booth by some blob enemies. There are shrubs shaped like Donald Duck and that rabbit character, too. Some blob enemies are running around here, so I use my paint and thinner to win the battle.

35 - The gremlin asks me to take out the rest of the blobs before I free him. I guess I missed some?

Disney Epic Mickey Paint

36 - Looking around for enemies now. I wish Mickey moved a bit faster, or was more fun to maneuver. Found 'em!

37 - The freed gremlin restarts the boat ride on the river of thinner. I can hop on and go to the next area to keep pursuing Oswald whenever I want. Gus says my actions have attracted a Guardian. Apparently Guardians will show me the way ahead. They can also be launched at enemies by shaking the nunchuk. A bar in the top left of the screen shows whether or not I'll attract Tints (paint) or Turps (thinner) for Guardians. Guess that's the morality bar.

38 - The gremlin in the information booth says that the elephant ride is broken and his wrench is missing so he can't fix them. He thinks he left it in the teacup ride somewhere...

39 - I check out the teacup ride and find the wrench by thinning out some of the teacups. The gremlin is thankful that I found it, and immediately fixes up the elephant ride. The elephants move and create a platform path to a higher ground. The gremlin says the spinning cup ride is malfunctioned as well.

40 - Apparently I can reach the maintenance area for the teacup ride by taking the path made by the fixed elephant ride parts. I head in that direction and learn that Mickey will automatically grab onto ledges if he doesn't quite make the jump.

41 - Some gears with platforms ahead. Thinning out the middle of the gear stops the platform, painting it in returns its motion. Neat little platforming puzzle, I guess. Simple, but neat. There are creepy-looking statue children from the It's A Small World After All ride scattered about.

42 - Painting, thinning, jumping, running..."Spatter Springs Up" content unlocked. Boats are heading through a tunnel. I guess that's the way toward Oswald. I didn't find that maintenance area, but oh well. I don't see it around here and don't really feel like looking for it.

43 - I'm on a boat...

44 - There's a trail of boats leading forward. The door ahead must be broken, as there's a whole mess of boats jammed up against it. Hippo statues that raise up are connected to the circuitry, and restoring them to new will apparently fix the door. OR I could thin out the pipes. Neither solution seems especially evil to me, but I'll restore the hippos with some paint.

45 - The ride music here is kinda creepy, like from a carnival nightmare. I restore the hippos and the door opens, with the boats continuing through the ride. There's a whirlpool ahead, and Gus warns me to stay clear of it. No problem.

46 - There's a broom creature ahead. Looks like the brooms from Fantasia, only blobby. It slings thinner around, and Gus says it'll sweep me into the river of thinner if I get too close. The sweeper manages to hit me with a few thinner blobs before I return the favor.

47 - Another caged gremlin asks for help ahead. I have freed you, gremlin. He says there are a few more that can be freed up ahead, and they'll surely return the favor if I help them out.

48 - Painting, thinning, jumping, spinning, activating platforms...trying to reach a treasure chest that's in a very high location, but I don't see any way to get there. Oh well, moving on.

49 - An enemy approaches me on a bridge. Thinning out the bridge drops it into the river, and I repaint the path for myself.

Disney Epic Mickey Barren

50 - Freed another gremlin. He says he'll express his gratitude when an opportunity presents itself. The camera is getting hung up on all the platforms strewn about at various heights. Freed another gremlin. Guess I'll be getting plenty of help later.

51 - Extra content unlocked, "Pirate Gate." Okay...? The camera is really not performing at the moment...I jump to a dandelion platform to see if I can get a better view. Sweeper ahead! Before I can get close enough to thin it, it falls into the river as it tries to pursue me. I guess it's tough to see where you're going when you have no eyes.

52 - An elevator lowers down into the next area...good thing I got off early, it went right into the thinner.

53 - Gus notes that the sweeper enemies ahead are on retractable platforms. The three gremlins I freed earlier show up and hit the switches to drop the enemies to their dooms. Guess that's just one less thing I have to do myself.

54 - Found a chest: it's a Silver Pin. I wonder what the difference between Bronze, Silver, and Gold is. I head into the next area, and the door behind me closes. I guess this game isn't open-ended at all.

55 - Valves leak steam ahead. Gus says the entrance to the Asia Boat Ride is through there, so I guess I have to get through. I step on a switch that stops the steam leaks for a brief time. I smack the valves shut while they're stopped and continue forward.

56 - Someone approaches...it's Small Pete! He hears I'm a goody two-shoes, and asks for my help (or, more accuately, issues me a veiled threat). Apparently his ship crashed into their village, and they blame him for this. His ship log proves it's an accident, but the gremlins won't let him near it. He only knocks the gremlins around "on occasion" so he thinks he is worth my help.

57 - Gus says there's a gremlin ahead that will show us the way Oswald went. I think I might check out Small Pete's boat, though. This place is full of creepy Asian Small World statues. I hit a valve on an asian pagoda and some platforms emerge to allow me to climb.

58 - I free the Gremlin at the top of the building, and it restarts the boat ride leading to Oswald. I guess Small Pete's boat is elsewhere in this area.

59 - I take a look around the area, but I'm not sure what direction I should go in to find Small Pete's vessel. I feel like it should be right here somewhere, but it's not immediately apparent.

60 - There's a whirlpool in the river ahead. The gremlin from earlier offers to stop it, but I'd have to pay 100 E-tickets for this favor. I think I'll save my hard-earned paper and do it myself. But maybe that'll have to wait for the next hour.

Disney Epic Mickey Steamboat
First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action:

What I liked

Moral Mickey:
I don't usually support the good/evil meter, as it tends to either be a pointless gimmick or overly intrusive to core gameplay systems. Epic Mickey's implementation isn't mind-blowing, but it has an isolated, gray-area approach that I approve of. Small Pete is definitely a jerk, but he is clearly innocent at the moment. Do I clear his name in this false accusation, or let him get what's coming to him? The choice isn't as easy, or at least as black and white, as the ones most games present. And even better, I'm pretty sure this moral dilemma won't inexplicably effect my combat abilities, limiting my motivation to ethical pillars rather than the desire to shoot lightning bolts from my fingers.

Mickey and the Beanstalk:
Though brief and very simple, the technicolor, linear 2D jaunt through a classic Mickey cartoon was a nice change of pace from exploring the drab, spacious environments of Oswald's kingdom.


What I didn't like

Controls: Even more than other genres, platformers sink or swim through their controls. If the majority of a playing experience consists of running and jumping, then those two activities better be pure joy in motion. Unfortunately, Mickey's movements feel weightless and void of intertia, almost without character. The pointer-fueled Paint and Thinner controls had potential, but seem to suffer from a delay between activation and action. It's fine that the controls WORK, but they could really stand to feel more like PLAY.

3D platformers have it tough. With such a mobile character and so much multi-layered real estate to display, it's not easy providing a view of everything the player wants and needs to see. The slow manual movement and occasional hangup on geometry ensures that Epic Mickey doesn't set any new benchmarks.

Other thoughts

The game seems fairly forgiving thus far. Mickey's life bar allows the mouse to take four or five whacks before buying the farm, and the game is generous with health and ink/thinner refills.

Intentionally dreary. This warped Magic Kingdom doesn't escape the Wii's polygonal limitations, but it could look a lot worse. Character animations aren't bad, and the cartoon cutscenes have a style that I think perfectly suits the mood so far.

The music is appropriately whimsical and haunting, with some subdued strings, oboe, and xylophone leading the score. Mickey's yelp of effort in every jump is a little much.

I'll admit that I was expecting something less interesting, given the premise. Mickey's not exactly the faultless hero I figured, and I'd like to know what Oswald's deal is. I like that bit players in the Disney world are given some recognition here.

Would I keep playing?
Doubtful. Those with an affinity for classic Disney toons could probably enjoy this vacation in bizarre Disney Land, but it's not the platformer I was hoping for.

Disney Epic Mickey Toon