Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

Many were left disappointed when the original Epic Mickey strayed from its original concepts to deliver a more accessible, Disney-approved product. Still, I felt that the game was quite fun and well worth iterating upon. This is what happened in 2012, when Epic Mickey 2 was released for various consoles and PC. A Wii-exclusive no more.

Yet, while Epic Mickey may have abandoned some of its vision, I am not even sure if its sequel had a vision behind it at all.

Following up from the last game, Epic Mickey 2 starts off with an earthquake that breaks apart the world of Wasteland. Sensing trouble, Oswald and Gus call out to Mickey for help. When The Mouse arrives, he learns that The Mad Doctor has seemingly turned over a new leaf. He claims that a calamity will soon befall Wasteland—something even worse than these quakes—and that he has a plan to prevent it. But isn’t it a little too convenient that such a change of heart comes right after such inexplicable natural disasters.

Like its predecessor, Epic Mickey 2 is a 3D action platformer game centered around a brush mechanic where you can spray either paint or thinner. Paint can restore broken objects to their former state, while thinner erases all that it touches. However, rather than an iteration on the last game, Epic Mickey 2 feels like a scrapped beta of the original.

In terms of controls, everything is a little more stilted. Aiming where to spray with your brush is less accurate, for example, and platforming feels less reliable also. There were more instances where Mickey didn’t grab ledges, slid off platforms, or double jumps didn’t trigger as intended. Some of the new moves like a helicopter hover usually don’t even work at all. You lose so much height trying to initiate this move that you end up making about as much (or less) distance than you would have with a regular double-jump.

Further adding to the alpha version feel of the game are the worlds themselves. A lot of the places you visit are recycled from the last game. Mean Street, Bog Easy, Ventureland, the lab, all of them revisits. However, these areas have now been shrunk down significantly. Mean Street used to be a single, sizable area with shops, the portals, train station, everything in one zone. Now it’s cut up into 2 tiny zones with a fraction of the content each. Everything feels so cramped and you have to endure long loading screens anywhere you try to go. How did the loading screen get worse in spite of the game running on newer hardware?

This is not just an issue of scope. The design is likewise simplified to an absurd level. It used to be that these places were full of secrets and side-quests. It made you want to paint or thin out everything to find hidden goodies or alternate routes. Entire areas could just give you a bunch of exploration-based objectives and it’d keep you busy for over an hour. No such luck here.

Why have us revisit these places and then remove the parts that players would most want to see again.

Almost every level is a linear trek through simplistic environments now, where the objectives are usually obvious and brief. When you arrive in Ostown there is a cutscene that shows 3 generators being blown away. When you regain control you drag those 3 generators back to the town square, leave through the opening they create, and that’s it. That’s the extent of your time in Ostown. Even a leisurely pace, you can be done in 2 minutes. That’s what counts as a level now.

In fact, the game is short in general. There are only 3 acts compared to the first game’s 6, all of which are significantly shorter too. This also means that there are only 2 boss fights in the game before you reach the finale. You still get a reward based on how you choose to defeat each boss, but these moral choices feel insignificant when it’s just 2 upgrades for the entire game.

Combat encounters or platforming segments are almost a rarity now. Even when you do find them, they are usually quite easy or can be effortlessly circumvented. And why wouldn’t you? The combat and platforming kinda suck.

Not even the central mechanic of painting or thinning out stuff holds up. Only a tiny fraction of each world can be affected by this mechanic now and most of it is utterly pointless. You can erase random bits of pavement or make a house look nicer. Sometimes there’s a tiny secret somewhere. Compare that to the first game where you could erase or paint large chunks of almost every place you visited, with a lot of it being meaningful content. There were more secrets or alternate routes to uncover, or you could paint/erase objects to aid you in platforming. It felt involved. Like you were actually being rewarded for paying attention and clever problem-solving.

Epic Mickey 2 does shine in some segments where clearly a lot of effort was put into making mechanics come together. Where you got platforming and enemies to deal with, and using your brush has an actual impact on that. These are nice and briefly bring to mind the high points of the last game. They are also few and far between.

Adding to the frustration are the game’s many technical issues. Besides the aforementioned jank, Epic Mickey 2 also suffers from dubious physics. Many objectives and puzzles involve moving objects around, but these bounce and fall and interact with other stuff in baffling ways. Objects clips into each other and get irreparably stuck, or can’t be moved unto places and platforms where they obviously belong.

Even when the puzzle pieces themselves behave, Mickey struggles to actually use them properly. Anytime you try to grab hold of something Mickey has to dance around it for a bit to get into position, often causing him to push the object around and mess it all up. He keeps letting go off things for no reason and there is no easy way to rotate what you’re holding. It feels like an unfinished mechanic, which sounds ludicrous considering said mechanic is just pushing and pulling items around.

After having to nope out of several optional challenges due to physics mishaps, I completed the rest of the game without wanting to interact with a single side-quest ever again. I also started to make decisions based on which options were the least bothersome to pull off, instead of the moral considerations that the game wanted me to weigh.

Before we close out, I would be remiss not to mention the multiplayer component. Mickey is on an adventure with Oswald this time around, meaning a second player can take control of the lucky rabbit. While I didn’t get to try this myself, Oswald will still follow you around and try to help out automatically. This sucks.

Oswald’s AI is skilled at two things: getting in the way and committing suicide. I lost count of how frequently Oswald would move in front of me as I was spraying paint or thinner, leading to annoyed dialogue lines. Or the many times where he wouldn’t help out in combat because he was repeatedly walking into thinner. If you run out of health, then Oswald could theoretically resurrect you. Instead he’ll usually be busy zapping inconsequential enemies or zoning out somewhere.

At other times, Oswald just won’t show up at all. There are many parts where you need both characters to progress a puzzle or do a platforming challenge. It’s almost suspicious how prone Oswald was to disappearing whenever one of those appeared. You have a button to call him towards you, but this arbitrarily doesn’t work sometimes. What fun!

Having a second player alleviates some of these frustrations, but also means spreading your resources thin. You need to buy health upgrades for both characters separately and only Mickey gets a reward for beating the bosses. Mickey is also the only one who can make a lot of the decisions and inflict the final hit on most enemies. So yea, if you do play this game with someone else, make sure that they don’t mind being a blatant tag-along.

I know that I lean towards being critical in my reviews, but Epic Mickey 2 really was a flop. It under-performed tremendously in sales and this directly led to Junction Point being dissolved by Disney. It’s a baffling game. It takes so many steps back compared to the original, with controls, graphics, and level-design all feeling significantly toned down. It’s also buggy and suffers from long loading times. Attempts to compensate for this with gimmicky challenges and multiplayer only led to even more bugs and instabilities.

If anything, it’s a game that invokes pity. I appreciate that they tried to achieve something with it, but the end result is so mangled that any intent behind it is lost on me.

One thought on “Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

  1. Back when it came out, I was hoping this one would improve on the original, but instead it was actually much worse. It’s a shame the Epic Mickey series never lived up to its porential.

    Liked by 1 person

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