Disney’s sequel to 2010’s Epic Mickey is a kids game that pays a great deal of homage to history.
Not only does Walt Disney’s first successful toon character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, become a playable character for the first time, but the game is stuffed with references to classic Disney movies and characters.
At times, the references can be positively cloying, especially when it comes to the Spirit of Walt, treated with an awe bordering on hagiography. This cult of personality is a long-standing issue for the Disney Corp, and the fact that it taints this game is no surprise.
But Disney’s founder-worship is an issue which will fly over the heads of the game’s target market, and the game itself is quite a bit of fun.
The Mad Doctor of the first Epic Mickey game has returned, this time claiming to have learnt his lesson and become a good guy. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen.
But earthquakes have wracked and torn the Wasteland, and Mickey must find his magic brush to restore colour to the land, or thin it away into nothingness.
His partner in the quest is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who has a remote control which can shoot or manipulate electricity. If you play solo, Oswald will still be present as an AI ally, but the game really opens out in the two-player co-op mode, in which case one player takes Mickey and the other Oswald. The partnership is core to the game. Some puzzles are aimed at Mickey, others at Oswald, and most can only be resolved by using both characters’ powers.
Combat, while relatively rare, can be resolved non-confrontationally. Oswald can stun (but not kill) with his electricity; Mickey can choose between thinning opponents away, or painting them in bright colours and making them friendly. Some creatures require Oswald and Mickey to work in concert to overcome them.
This whole theme of partnership is great in a kids’ game. Friends can play together or, even more fun, you can play alongside your child.
There are loads of collectibles in the game: money, special pins, photographs, power-ups and ammo (cans of paint and thinner), and a good number of sites to explore. Dozens of minor characters from Disney movies are the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse make an appearance, many of them offering side quests for Mickey and Oswald.
Graphics are decent, and the controls are pretty intuitive (right trigger to paint, left trigger to thin).
But the interface itself can get pretty finicky, which isn’t great in a kids game. Some tasks require a great deal of precision in jumping, which leads to a lot of frustrating repeat attempts, and there’s a move in which Mickey throws Oswald into the air, then jumps up to grab his feet while Oswald uses his ears as helicopter rotor blades which is rather buggy – Mickey often throws Oswald too high to reach him.
If it wasn’t for this flaw, I’d rate the game a 4/5, but the bugs happen frequently enough that they reduce the fun factor significantly, so I’ll dock it half a star.