Yo, I’m dropping by to post my unprofessional opinion on Disney’s Epic Mickey, released in 2010 for the Nintendo Wii. We received this particular game barely a few months ago for Christmas, and I finished my first playthrough of it barely a week ago.
So, how is it? Is it a good family game? A fair tribute to classic Disney? Or an epic fail?
Okay, here’s how I’m going to handle this.
First off: NO ENNEAGRAM. I will not be picking through the numbers of the story for this particular review, and not because video games have no Enneagram to their plots. There are plenty of games with stories comparable to a tightly-Enneagrammed motion picture. I’m simply avoiding the Enneagram this time around because the most important aspect of a game is the game play, not the plot.
With that said, how is the story of Epic Mickey?
The game begins several decades ago, before Mickey became the cartoon star he is now, and tells of how he accidentally brought chaos upon a pocket dimension known as the Wasteland when he created an inky monster called the Blot, who is the main baddie of the game.
Years later, Mickey gets dragged into the Wasteland and must redeem himself by defeating the Blot and saving the Wasteland.
The story is quite simplistic, but the only part that really matters is the nostalgia factor: the Wasteland is a hive of old/abandoned ideas from the Disney company’s past. This is a very good idea, and for the most part, it helps the game. There are a slew of characters from old cartoons, and all of them have something to say.
Well, all of them have something to say in text bubbles, anyway.
What butchers the story is the way it’s expressed: there’s no actual voiced dialogue, except for a bit of narration during the game’s prologue and epilogue. Every character just talks in fast-paced text bubbles and makes squeaking noises, much like in the Banjo-Kazooie series, only difficult to read.
Wasn’t this game meant for children to play? What 9-year-old will be able to keep up with all this text? And there’s so much of it!
While on the subject of children playing this game, I must turn from the plot and focus on the game play: in terms of difficulty, this one is terribly paced. For the majority of the first half of the game, things are pretty easy. The game gives you several tutorials (some of them blindingly obvious) and the only true difficulty is the in-game camera, which is extremely buggy.
So, I’m halfway through the story, starting to get bored of the laid back game play, when things suddenly get hardcore: I reached a stage, expected to pass through with minimal effort, and died at least five times before I gave up. I resorted to checking a walk-through online just to figure out how to beat the stage, and after I did, the game only got meaner.
The game basically holds your hand for the first half, and then abruptly knocks you down and starts to pummel you in balls.
A few games do this, but the best ones build up to said ball-pummelling, or at least warn you before attacking, giving you a moment to adapt. This is meant for kids? I’m an experienced 19-year-old gamer, and I was thrown off guard so fast I got the wind knocked out of me.
Enough of the bad stuff, though.
The game has an excellent soundtrack: most of the music is original material, but some of it holds melodies of old Disney cartoons and films, particularly at the end of the game, when “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Once Upon a Dream (from Sleeping Beauty)” kick into high-gear. The score is truly tremendous.
Another standout aspect of the game are the Film Reels: as Mickey explores the Wasteland, he needs to enter magic projector screens that place him in the middle of classic cartoon shorts.
These shorts, and the clever ways Mickey moves through them, are easily the best moments of the game, and fortunately, they’re frequent. It helps that each short comes with a catchy theme song adapted directly from the old cartoon it’s inspired by.
So, really, Epic Mickey is in two halves:
The central adventure, with its slim story, buggy camera, and text-based dialogue, and
The cartoon shorts, with their memorable and clever designs, catchy songs, and simple (but engaging) game play.
Besides the story and fun-factor, a large component of Epic Mickey is the morality system: you can play Mickey as an altruistic angel or a selfish rat.
The problem is, no matter how you play him, it doesn’t really affect the plot: Mickey’s ultimate goal is to act selflessly and save the Wasteland. This sends a good message, true, but it does not really make an engaging video game.
The only “moral dilemmas” you’re given are quite petty (splash someone with paint, or splash them with thinner). There’s never any true temptation to take the “easy/nasty” road, which renders the morality system pointless.
Anyway, rent it, and if you do, and you’re just getting it for your kids, be prepared to play it with them, ’cause there’s no way they’ll be able to keep up with the whole thing.