During the GameCube years, questioning Disney’s relevance in video games for anyone over ten years of age would have been valid. Years removed from its appealing platformers on NES and SNES, Disney was still making plenty of games, but nothing that was garnering massive press or praise. In my fuzzy memory, all I can recall is some second-rate Mickey Mouse games, something about the Haunted Mansion and some movie license titles based on Pixar stuff.
Things have changed. Disney Interactive now houses a stable of talented development studios (of which we’ll take a look at later this week) creating games that aren’t always tied into licensed properties but are targeted to older gamers who have moved on from cartoons. Plus, the licensed properties are more appealing than before– Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron are likely to draw more attention from teens and adults than a new Toy Story game. Throw in Disney’s December 2009 acquisition of Marvel and the likelihood of Disney’s internal studios taking over games development for that franchise once existing contractual agreements with Activision and others expire, and Disney’s likely to be a powerhouse across every demographic.
Not that Disney will ever abandon its roots of entertainment for children and families. We’ll always have licensed titles based on the countless Disney properties, but Junction Point’s Epic Mickey is something special. Never before has a Mickey Mouse-focused video game gotten this much anticipation and press. You could argue Kingdom Hearts carries the same notoriety but given its mashup formula it’s distinctly different. Epic Mickey is purely about Mickey Mouse and scores of other explicitly Disney characters, and it’s not just on children’s wishlists. If I were paid for every time Tidman talked to me about the game, the resulting sum would have covered my E3 trip’s expenses. His enthusiasm is understandable though since the title is being led by one of gaming’s sharpest developers, Warren Spector, and what we saw as the game matured since those initial Game Informer screenshots to the demo at E3 has been encouraging. Epic Mickey represents the opportunity for Disney’s games to no longer be striated between discrete offerings for kids, teens and adults, but move into the realm of Nintendo’s Mario: games that people of all ages want and love to play.
Initial reviews of the game are encouraging. In spite of flaws with the game’s camera, character control and quest design, the sum of the parts are meriting better-than-average marks. We’ll have our own review of the game at a later date, but in the meantime check out our look at Disney games past and future.
Issue 26: Put on Your Ears
Interview: Junction Point Studios Discusses Disney Epic Mickey by Matthew Tidman
Are you ready to hear a little bit more about Disney Epic Mickey? Check out our interview with the lead designer of the game.
Disney’s Epic Quest by Andrew Hsieh
Disney’s Magical Quest remains the epitome of epic that Epic Mickey will have to match.
Nester64x: Heart Attack by Nester64x
When you ignore all of its great qualities, Disney and Square’s super popular crossover is really lacking.
DuckTales Review by Matthew Tidman
This NES platforming classic still holds up.
Growing Pains by Adam Sorice
As Disney grows beyond its innocent roots, the type of games it makes may need to as well.
Flowchart: Which Disney Game Hero are you? by Aaron Roberts & M. Noah Ward
You’re either a duck, or not a duck.
Hot Air: Darkwinged by Aaron Roberts
I am the smoke that smokes your smoked oysters! I am the fingers on the long arm of the law!
Full Focus: Disney Interactive Studios by Abhinay Sawant
A historical and current profile of the developers.
Additional features in this issue…
- Nightly News Roundup by Ben Bertoli
- Nightly News Roundup by Evan Campbell
- Dojo-Show-Go! Episode 119 by M. Noah Ward
- Nightly News Roundup by Andrew Hsieh
- Nightly News Roundup by Francisco Naranjo
- Nightly News Roundup by M. Noah Ward
Coming Up Next Week…
Issue 27: March of the Minions
Those endless grunts we squash without a second thought finally get their due.