I wanted so much to enjoy Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. I wanted to become re-immersed in a fantastical, alternative vision of the Disney universe. I wanted to spend tons of time with Mickey Mouse and his merry band of toons searching for ways to save to save the world and maybe sing a song or two.
What I got was loads of unhappiness, anger, and frustration. And that’s not very “Disney,” now is it?
Before getting into the meat of this post, I should point out that I’m writing this from the single-player viewpoint only. Epic Mickey 2 is structured and marketed as a drop in/drop out co-op game with the footnote that it can be played alone. I knew this going into the game, and I also knew that I had no intention of trying to get someone to play it with me. (We’ve talked about me and multiplayer before.) So without mincing words, as a single-player game, Epic Mickey 2 stinks.
Game and story
The Epic Mickey games involve a few simple premises. You play as Mickey Mouse in a land called Wasteland, the home of forgotten Disney characters. Wasteland contains good Disney folks who are there to help you and sometime offer up side quests, bad Disney folks who want to stop you, and a group of prevalent enemies called “blots” that work for or are under the control of those bad Disney folks. Mickey’s weapons are blue paint and green thinner. You can paint the world to make it prettier and reveal secrets; and you can paint enemies to turn them into friends. You can thin the world to make it drab and reveal secrets; and you can thin enemies to wipe them out. The choice to paint or thin is up to you – both will defeat enemies – and how much you do of either affects the outcome of the game.
The plot of Epic Mickey 2 revolves around Mickey and his friend Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and their quest to save Wasteland from the clutches of The Mad Doctor – tis a fitting name because he is rather mad, both in mind and body. Mickey returns with paint and thinner in hand. Meanwhile, Oswald possesses a few special abilities that Mickey does not have, as well as a remote control that he can use to trigger various events and open doors. So Mickey needs Oswald’s help to complete various levels throughout the game.
Video from YouTube user disneyepicmickey.
Why it’s bad
So before addressing the elephant, or should I say lucky rabbit in the room, there are a few disappointing particulars to get out of the way. First, aside from new levels, there isn’t much design progression between Epic Mickey 1 and 2. The basic gameplay and painting and thinning mechanics are pretty much the same in both games. There are plenty of obstacles to conquer and secrets to find. It’s not that Epic Mickey 2 is boring, it’s just more of the same. Second, some of the levels are ridiculously hard to navigate. You don’t get a lot of direction in the game, and figuring out a level and its necessary tasks can be a confusing chore. New additions to the second game include couple new inks that are supposed to aid in your adventure — jump in a specific inkwell to become either invincible or invisible. It sounds nice in theory, but it was terrible in practice. The inks are only temporary and the length at which they stay on Mickey is determined by his speed. The slower you go, the longer the ink stays on. Good luck if you have to run and be invisible at the same time.
The game’s bad level designs are magnified by the third problem: the camera. A perennial problem in so many games since the introduction of 3D design, the camera in Epic Mickey 2 is awful, especially in those awful levels. Perspective problems make it difficult to reach ledges. Forget it if camera gets stuck at a wonky angle while you’re trying to defeat an enemy, causing your paint or thinner to go everywhere except where its needed. The camera is also headache-inducing because sometimes it pulls so far back that Mickey appears as a speck among giant scenery. Other times the camera angle is so tight it’s hard to fight against enemies or figure out where to go.
But none of those problems compared to the biggest annoyance…Oswald’s AI. If you’re not playing Epic Mickey 2 with someone the computer takes over Oswald and turns him into a moronic pile of pixels. I loved Oswald at the end of Epic Mickey – he was the best! A couple hours into Epic Mickey 2 and I wanted to throw him off a cliff! He’s just a clunky, stupid, poorly coded mess. During the game, there are points where you absolutely need Oswald to trigger something with his remote or help you get over a gap/up to a ledge/over an obstacle. Usually, this worked by standing near the thing, say an electric box, that needed to be triggered. Usually. But most of the time, Oswald just stood off in the distance not paying any attention to the action. Hey! HEY! I need you to open this door Oswald! Hey!! C’MON! ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING??!! He wasn’t. I run to him, and then I run back to the electric box. Then I run back to him and hit him, and he gets all indignant with a snappy remark, and I run back to the box, and Oswald STILL JUST STANDS THERE WHISTLING A HAPPY TUNE. AAARRRGGGHH!! And before I know it, I throw my controller at the wall in frustration because a task that should take seconds takes way too long. Or worse, doesn’t happen at all. And then I start sobbing because my controller is embedded in the drywall and I realize that a probably need therapy, all because of an AI that just doesn’t understand that I NEEDED to open a door to get to the next part of the level. [sob sob sniff]. Yeah, thanks Oswald. The Trix rabbit would have been more useful.
As a single-player game, Epic Mickey 2 is dreadful and the experience really feels like an afterthought. It’s as if the game had been made as a two-player game only to have someone quip during the 11th hour, “Hey, what about single player? You think that should be a thing here?” I’m guessing that the Oswald situation gets much better when he’s controlled by an actual person; but that person can’t fix the games’ many other flaws. I’ll shout the praises of Epic Mickey from the rooftops all day long — play that game if you need a fun Disney fix. But stay away from Epic Mickey 2 unless you like to yell at things and enjoy headaches.