First Look: Epic Mickey

It’s back and looking prettier than ever.

By Matthew Tidman. Posted 06/16/2010 03:37 Comment on this     ShareThis

Epic Mickey: Steam Boat Willy

When Epic Mickey was revealed a few months ago in the pages of Game Informer, gamers were excited about the possibility of taking the beloved mouse out into a more adult story. No doubt because gaming luminary Warren Spector of Deus Ex and the Thief series was not just involved with the game, he was directing it at the head of his new studio.

Epic Mickey LogoSpector also was being given unprecedented control over how the mouse was portrayed in his latest electronic escapades– an enviable position, for sure. The fact that Spector is a huge fan of Walt Disney’s creations and somewhat of a loremaster when it comes to things Disney gave him a leg up in creating a world that is fresh, and at the same time, able to reference much of the studios’ work– remembered and forgotten.

However, there was one dark cloud to what was otherwise a stellar-looking project. The first screens released for the game– while showing an impressive, dystopian Disney that could have been– were unfortunately lacking polish, making even the most diehard Mickey fans worry that Epic Mickey was doomed to be little more than shovelware. Hopes were still held for the game, however, thanks to the impressive scope that Spector and his team imparted into the game.

Those hopes were well-founded. While only given a short taste of Epic Mickey, I just wanted to go back for more.

Epic Mickey: Steam Boat WillyTo start off matters, the graphics have been given a huge overhaul. I think that, really, the game was just shown too early when it graced the pages of Game Informer. The much more polished visuals on the E3 build highlight the intuitive gameplay and excellent art style. It may not be the prettiest game for Wii showing at E3, but Epic Mickey’s updated graphics definitely make it a highlight of the show and solidify it as one of my most anticipated games.

In my short playtime with the game, I got to experience one of the three types of levels. The game is split between three different areas: adventure, action, and classic, 2D side-scrolling platforming based off of famous Mickey shorts such as “Steamboat Willy.” Adventure areas are where Mickey can get missions and meet with NPCs. The side-scrolling level functions as a transition between the adventure and action areas. The action levels (which I got to spend the most time with) are where quests are completed and where the majority of the combat takes place.

The game takes a novel concept with combat– it is all completely avoidable. Enemies can be changed into friends or destroyed with impunity as players decide. One of the focuses of the development team is on the fact that “playstyle matters.” We’ve seen games that have morality systems that affect the gameplay in subtle ways, but Epic Mickey takes it to a whole new level. The way you choose to play the game drastically alters not just the landscape of the game, but how you play it.

For example, early on in the action stage, I came across a strange device that was connected to the enemies that had been attacking me. I had the choice to either fill the device with paint (heroic choice) or pain thinner (scrappy choice).

Epic Mickey: Skull Island

Filling with thinner would have been an easy way to defeat all the enemies in the area, but choosing aheroic path, I instead filled it with paint. Once I’d made that decision I was locked in; I couldn’t go back and change my mind. Every time I ran into one of the devices, I had to fill it with paint. However, the upside of filling in with paint is that none of the enemies would be killed. Instead, they would become friendly NPCs. It also made me want to not use thinner unless I had to. It changed the way I played the game.

But that’s just one area of the game. I know I’ll be checking out the game some more as E3 continues.

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