Warren Spector championed the phrase “play style matters” with Epic Mickey. Sadly, the title didn’t quite live up to that premise, specifically regarding game world persistence. That’s going to change with Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, according to Spector, who is founder and creative vice president of Junction Point Studios.
“When you make a choice in this game, it’s really going to matter,” Spector said Tuesday at a preview event in Disneyland.
This is welcome news. While many critics complained about the camera in the first game — which Spector says the team has addressed thoroughly — the biggest flaws for me were persistence and a lack of variety. After the first five hours or so, Epic Mickey became rather repetitive and the world felt somewhat sparse.
That won’t be the case this time, Spector said, thanks to a stronger and shorter narrative, more mission variety, and new abilities and costumes, which were revealed at the event. Mickey now can stealthily sneak by obstacles and blotlings with Invisible Ink, for example. And the cartoon icon can also sport some sweet new duds, such as a fireman’s outfit, that affect his and Oswald’s abilities. These additional elements will hopefully spice up the game and keep gameplay fresh.
The hands-on demo focused on two new areas: Rainbow Caverns and Rainbow Falls. The locales look spectacular, as the incredible art direction from the first game appears to fully carry over to the sequel. The dark caverns light up with gems, crystals and vivid colors of paint spilling over a “Snow White” dwarves monument, showcasing a small glimpse of the Disney minutiae found throughout the game. Spector even challenged players to find every single reference contained within the game world, hinting at the depth of material littering Wasteland.
The event also showcased the Wii U version for the first time, which closely resembled the Xbox 360 and PS3 builds but with a few hiccups. The Wii U version stuttered a bit and lacked some of the color depth and detail as its home console brethren, but a game producer assured me these issues have already been addressed. He also said there will be console parity with the final retail product; that’s great, if true, because the HD visuals help the surreal visuals of Wasteland pop.
The Wii U GamePad works as a minimap and hotkey device. While that may sound dull, the map promises to be a welcome necessity. Touching rectangular icons on the left of the GamePad’s screen let me easily highlight main quests and side quests. This will hopefully streamline multitasking in the game and make navigating the world easier. Sadly, the GamePad will not allow for Off-TV Play, which seems like an oversight considering the game doesn’t need the additional screen. Also, the lack of Off-TV Play means local co-op must utilize a split-screen setup instead of a seemingly better alternative (like Black Ops 2 offers).
Overall, I find myself more upbeat on Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two after seeing the game in action and playing with the Wii U GamePad. The first game was atmospheric and fun at first but failed to build enough off the paint-thinner mechanics. The sequel appears to retain the wonderful and surreal visual style and complement it with more variety — costumes, new abilities, etc. — and a better narrative focus. Add in a fully voice-acted cast and numerous musical numbers, and Mickey and Oswald’s second journey is shaping up to deliver on many of the first game’s failed promises and then some.