Epic Mickey 2 Review
Disney games are generally – like Star Wars games, Marvel games, and any number of other ‘officially licensed products’ – an underwhelming mix of shoddy gameplay and broken promises; their commercial success often reliant on brand nostalgia rather than actual quality. Too often they’re a missed opportunity to entertainment and build trust with the consumers already smitten with the IP.
The original Epic Mickey was a perfect example of this phenomenon; too much time spent shoe-horning Disney characters and ideals into the narrative, not enough time spent fixing the numerous and irritating faults that resulted in sub-par gameplay. Second time around, with the home console editions of Epic Mickey 2, things didn’t change. Gameplay still a problem, Disney iconography still the main attraction.
Third Time Lucky?
Epic Mickey 2 on Vita, then, is somewhat of a third attempt to get things right and give us the Mickey Mouse game that does justice to the character’s success as a pop culture icon. A failing console and a failing franchise coming together to give each other the boost they so sorely need… a Disney-esque fairy tale in the making.
Like all fairy tales, however, the real-life edition of the yarn is streaked with disappointment and broken dreams. Far from the fairy tale pairing, Epic Mickey 2 on Vita shares all the same problems that plagued the home console editions and does nothing to convince us that fixes were even on the agenda. The same frustrations remain, meaning if you weren’t a fan of this game before then you’re not going to be a fan of it now.
The rottenest of the disappointments is the embarrassingly bad friendly AI. Mickey is joined by an AI controlled Oswald, the idea being that you travel Wasteland together trying to fix what ails it using each character’s unique abilities. Paint and thinner are Mickey’s tools – the former used to restore buildings and items, the latter to erase them from the world. Oswald’s primary skill is his ability to blast mechanical objects with bolts of electricity, thus fixing them and helping you on your way. In addition, he can also hover to transport himself (and an affixed Mickey) across long gaps and jumping on his head gives other characters a height boost.
Artificially Crippled Intelligence
Poor AI crippled the console edition, and it’s even more of an issue here. Most people play their PS Vita while out and about, often alone, meaning that the opportunities to team up in co-op (thus eliminating the bad AI issue) are fewer and further between. Even if you do go down the co-op route, though, (not completely unrealistic given the budget pricing) there’s still not enough incentive to justify playing through to the end.
There’s just not enough of a sense of life to the experience as a whole; a serious failure given the lively, colourful and hideously famous universe that Epic Mickey 2 uses as setting and inspiration. Visually it’s drab and unappealing, even using your paint to coat everything in a saccharine glow is not enough to remove the feeling of visual melancholy. Equally off-putting are the characters’ movements, with jumping, running and fighting all made more tedious and difficult than they should be, due to implementation rather than a designed challenge.
Vita-specific controls such as touch screen support for firing paint/thinner and gyroscopic motion for the in-game camera are nice additions but come nowhere near to overriding annoyances elsewhere.
It’s a backhanded compliment to say that the cut-scenes (beautifully drawn and voiced animations, featuring fun musical numbers) are far and away the best designed, best executed and most enjoyable portion of the game. Any game in which you’re having most fun when you’re not actually playing is not a game likely to make many people’s ‘best game’ lists.
The price may draw you in, but the gameplay will soon push you back out. Tick this one off as another officially licensed Disney videogame failure.
Version Tested: PS Vita