When DreamRift revealed it was behind the upcoming Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, my ears perked up like Mickey Mouse’s. The developer, which previously created the delightful Monster Tale, knows how to cleverly utilize both screens on Nintendo’s handhelds and make a killer hook. And after playing for a short time at a preview event in Disneyland on Tuesday, my initial assumptions appear well founded.
For starters, Power of Illusion sports silky smooth animation and top-notch 2D art. Mickey runs, jumps, spin attacks and swings off chains in pixel perfect form and controls wonderfully. The Disney character portraits, such as Jiminy Cricket and the Beast, that appear on the bottom screen for dialogue also sport impressive visuals. And even better, the stereoscopic 3D adds depth and complements the action well. Needless to say, DreamRift appears to nail the presentation side of the title.
But more impressive to me were Mickey’s abilities as he traverses the various locales of Wasteland, such as Agrabah and Prince Eric’s Castle from “The Little Mermaid” (which was just revealed at the event). Mickey can use paint and thinner, spin attack, utilize different sketch abilities — including the amazing Scrooge McDuck pogo-jumping attack — and bounce off enemies’ heads. This full arsenal creates a lot of player options for tackling stages, and it looks like DreamRift puts these skills through their paces.
Throughout the demo, I found smart enemy placement and hidden pathways, which required thought and platforming precision to reach. For example, a baddie shot arrows at me from afar, and after looking around the environment, I noticed the projectiles also could work as floating trampolines to reach a new area. I also defeated Agrabah castle guards without hesitation, which I regretted immediately after realizing their specific position was deliberate. Their placement offered a chance at a jump boost to reach secret parts of the level. These small but thought-out touches point toward a game with lots of exploration and experimentation, which is fantastic if true.
The other mechanic that captured my attention was the drawing aspect on the bottom screen, which also revolves around paint and thinner. As Mickey navigates the world, players can create or erase objects via the stylus and touch screen. I was a bit perplexed — and concerned — by this idea on paper, especially since I’m not the best artist. But in practice, the mechanic works easily enough and hints at complexity down the road through time and paint resource management. To create a helpful item, you trace the outline of the object; to erase an item, you merely rub out the object. And obviously, more difficult images will litter the lands as players proceed throughout the adventure.
Overall, I quickly found myself engrossed with Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion. The title builds off many of the positives of Monster Tale and even adds some more challenge, judging by the demo. With even more depth in the final product promised, such as the Fortress Mode that encompasses light RPG elements, this DreamRift-developed title looks rather magical.