Beautiful and stylized cutscenes, lovely art direction, large environments to explore, and it's all in HD
Gameplay objectives are frequently vague, Oswald AI is a hindrance, "musical" elements are effectively nonexistent, some recycled locations, lazy GamePad implementation, and frame rate hiccups
Editor’s Note: The following includes Kevin Knezevic’s review of the Wii version with an additional section (and video) at the end that critiques the Wii U-exclusive features. The game content is the same between both versions.
Say what you will about the original Epic Mickey– it was nothing if not inspired– a bold attempt to not only turn Mickey Mouse into a viable gaming hero, but also a loving homage to Disney’s long, and oft-forgotten, history of animation. While it didn’t quite live up to its lofty ambitions, it was still a solid adventure-platformer in the vein of Banjo-Kazooie or Rayman 2: The Great Escape, which would come as welcome addition to any console’s library, especially one as starved for major third-party releases as the Wii. For the followup Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, developer Junction Point looked to build on the foundation laid down by the first title, expanding the scope of the world and introducing new features to the mix, but once again, the game ultimately stumbles beneath the weight of its own ambitions.
From the outset, it’s clear that Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is serious about its title; this time around, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit joins Mickey as a playable hero, allowing two people to take on the adventure co-operatively. Even if you don’t have a friend to team up with, the rabbit will still be tagging along, Sonic 2-style, following behind Mickey and occasionally lending a helping hand as the AI sees fit.
It’s clear the game was designed to facilitate two players, structuring puzzles so they could only be solved by working in tandem with your partner. While opening up a traditionally solo experience to a second adventurer without limiting their input (as was the case in, say, Super Mario Galaxy) is a good idea in theory, in practice it leaves much to be desired. Oswald behaves generally well enough, following Mickey as he journeys through the Wasteland, but he’ll frequently get stuck behind an object or altogether lost in an area. Worse yet, he’ll often get in your way during combat, eating a punch that was meant for your enemies, or not paralyzing them with his zapper quickly enough to expose their weaknesses. This isn’t entirely unmanageable; pressing the minus button on the Wii remote will cause Oswald to run to your side, so he’ll (theoretically) be around when you really need him, but it’s an annoyance nonetheless, and for the most part is completely unavoidable considering you’ll be putting up with him for the entirety of your quest.
The much touted musical aspect is also pretty lacking, considering the Mad Doctor is the only character who ever really speaks in song throughout the game. It seems the events of the first Epic Mickey have caused him to turn over a new leaf, joining our two heroes in an attempt to save the Wasteland from the mysterious earthquakes that have begun plaguing it. The story doesn’t get much more involved than that, but it’s told well enough, featuring some nice CGI interludes and fully voiced-over dialogue. The animated cutscenes in particular are very gorgeous, punctuating certain points in the story with brief, stylized vignettes. For a game that pays such loving tribute to 2D animation, it’s nice to see it featured so prominently in the narrative.
The rest of the adventure is just what you’d expect if you played the first Epic Mickey. You’ll be traveling through different areas of the Wasteland, many of which have been recycled from the first title (though with some very noticeable changes to keep them feeling fresh), as well as painting and thinning the world around you to solve puzzles and help other characters.
As much as Warren Spector likes to emphasize the importance of choices, I’ve never found it to be one of the game’s strengths. The lack of a serious narrative makes it hard to invest in the consequences of your decisions, and there are times when you’ll accidentally thin out an object you weren’t supposed to because the game wasn’t clear on what the “right” or “wrong” solution was. No, the real appeal of the Epic Mickey titles, I’ve found, was how they channelled the adventure-platformers of yore with their sprawling, imaginative environments and hop-and-bop gameplay. Epic Mickey 2 mostly succeeds in this regard thanks to the scale and art direction of the Wasteland, but like the first game, you’ll often be hindered by some vague objectives. Even when you have non-playable characters barking hints at how to proceed, which can get especially annoying when they repeat the same lines ad nauseum, you’ll still often find yourself at a loss for what to do, making the quest as frustrating as it can be enjoyable. On the plus side, the camera issues of the first game have been largely smoothed over, so you’ll never have to wrestle with the viewpoint, but the frustration you’ve felt when dealing with it still manifests itself in other areas of the design, effectively nullifying this improvement.
It’s a shame that Epic Mickey 2 succumbs to many of the same issues that marred the first title, as it had the potential to be something truly special. As it stands, your enjoyment of the game will depend on what you thought of the original. If you enjoy exploring vibrant, cartoony worlds, and have a friend around to join you on your quest (not to mention have a tolerance for some vague gameplay objectives), then you’ll eke some fun out of Epic Mickey 2’s flawed journey. If you found any of these elements cumbersome or frustrating in the past, then this sequel won’t do anything to persuade you otherwise. Like your play style, the choice entirely depends on you.
Wii U Enhancements?
Epic Mickey stood out to Nintendo fans because developer Junction Point Studios placed so much love and care into the third-party Wii-exclusive title. Not many companies put the extra time and resources into experiences for the motion-controlled home console.
Unfortunately, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two didn’t receive the same treatment for Wii U. Developer Heavy Iron Studios handled this port, which fails to utilize the GamePad in even the easiest ways as well as has some frame rate issues. The GamePad implementation is rudimentary, at best. The screen showcases a map with hot-button keys on the left and right, with the former displaying different objectives and the latter listing sketches for Mickey. That’s it, and it’s not that helpful in this action-platforming title. Still, the controls work well and offer a dual-stick setup. Every prompt felt responsive, but the GamePad should have enhanced the experience.
The biggest omission relates to off-TV play, which seems like easy functionality to add judging from other games that use it (New Super Mario Bros. U, Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and so forth). As insult to injury — and as previously reported on Nintendojo — Wii Remote and Nunchuk support is limited to a second player. This restriction is a bit mind-boggling.
The other big difference for this version as compared to its Wii counterpart is the HD visuals. Mickey and Oswald look better with the visual boost, and this series features some truly fantastic art. The game may not contain first-class graphics, but overall it’s pleasing to the eye. But with the HD visuals for Wii U comes a tradeoff: fairly regular frame rate dips. They’re noticeable and distracting but failed to affect the game experience. Still, the stutters shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Epic Mickey 2 for Wii U should be the definitive experience for Nintendo fans, but it’s not. With the lazy implementation of GamePad functionality and frame rate stutters, the Wii version looks like the better option.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.