|Dev: Junction Point|
|Pub: Disney Interactive Studios|
|Release: November 30, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Cartoon violence|
by J. Matthew Zoss
November 23, 2009 - Warren Spector, the renowned video game creator best known for games like Deus Ex and Thief, may initially seem like a strange choice to spearhead a massive new Mickey Mouse game. But once you hear a little bit about his plans for the game and his feelings about the character, it all makes perfect sense. A life-long Disney fan who did his Master's thesis on the evolution of classic cartoon characters, Spector is a huge collector of Disney memorabilia.
As a fan, it's not surprising that Spector has strong feelings about the current state of Mickey Mouse; namely that he's become irrelevant in today's world in which Pixar has supplanted its parent company Disney as the dominant name in animation. Warren Spector aims to change that, and the first step in his plan is to bring Mickey Mouse back to his roots in Disney Epic Mickey, the Wii-exclusive action game from Spector's Junction Point.
Back in the early days of animation, Mickey Mouse wasn't the dull straight man that he's become. He was feisty. He was mischievous. He was a trouble-maker. He also wasn't Walt Disney's first star creation. Although he's unknown to most Disney fans today, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit actually preceded Mickey, starring in several short cartoons until Disney's financier threatened to take the rights to the character away if the animator couldn't reduce his budgets. Disney walked, and the financier retained the rights to Oswald. Disney went on to create the world-famous Mickey Mouse, and Oswald was all but forgotten.
After Spector told Disney Interactive that he wanted Oswald in his new game, the company reacquired the rights to the character - by trading sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC Universal. Now that he's back in the family fold, the relationship between Oswald and Mickey takes center stage in Disney Epic Mickey. In short, the two characters are competing for the love of Walt Disney. In the fiction of the game, the wizard Yensid (Disney backwards) created a world for Oswald and his other forgotten creations. Mickey, who has returned to his more troublesome roots, visits the world through a magic mirror and accidentally spills paint and thinner over the world. Mickey attempts to clean up and leaves, but the spill he created ultimately grows into The Phantom Blot (another old Disney creation). The Blot twists Oswald's world into a skewed version of Disneyland - expect to see strange new versions of familiar character and locations. Years later it returns to drag Mickey back to his domain. Trapped in a warped version of Walt Disney's dream, Mickey must win the trust of Oswald and the other lost Disney creations to battle the menace of The Phantom Blot.
Mickey will have a pair of powerful tools at his disposal as he ventures through this strange world: paint and thinner. Mickey's paintbrush allows him to create new objects in the world, while the thinner allows him to erase them. You will also discover "sketches" that will allow you to summon objects that have specific effects on the world, such as clocks that slow time around you. Of course, based on the early descriptions we've heard, you'll only be able to affect certain areas with the paint and thinner. Even so, the mechanic will allow for plenty of ways to interact with the world, as you'll be able to create platforms and items from thin air or obliterate obstacles that stand in your way. However, if you destroy too much or fail to help others, you'll take Mickey down the "scrapper" path, the more feisty, troublemaking side of Mickey. Alternately, if you help those in need and avoid needless chaos, you'll keep Mickey on the "Hero" path, the good-natured version of the character that most gamers are familiar with. Straddle the two playstyles and you'll set out on the "wastelander" path, a more neutral play style. Each path will have its own unique set of rewards and change the way the characters in the game react to you.
Epic Mickey is still a long way off, scheduled sometime in Fall 2010. More details will certainly emerge over the next few months about the gameplay mechanics, but already Epic Mickey is looking like that rarest type of game: a third-party Wii exclusive with blockbuster potential. What else would you expect when one of the biggest names in game design teams up with one of the biggest icons in the world?
J. Matthew Zoss
CCC Freelance Writer