|System: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii|
|Dev: Junction Point|
|Pub: Disney Interactive Studios|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Engen
There are people on this planet who are frighteningly obsessed with Disney's history. Typically, these people have a house full of memorabilia and awkwardly look forward to funerals because it's a nice chance to show off their latest Mickey Mouse tie. In a lot of ways Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is made specifically for this crowd.
When I arrived at Disney's booth on the E3 show floor, I showed up just in time to watch a Disney rep give a short presentation about the history of Epic Mickey 2. Unless you were standing in the crowd with me, you'll probably never understand how unbelievably obsessive the developers were about infusing 80 years of Disney history into this game. In fact, parts of their booth made the place look more like a museum than a convention hall. Glass cases containing various pieces of Disney memorabilia were scattered throughout the show floor, and each item acted like a breadcrumb for the development process. We got a chance to see original sketches of Mickey and Oswald that hadn't seen the light of day in 50 years, not to mention the stockpile of other characters that had previously been forgotten.
See, part of what made the previous Epic Mickey title so successful was the darker demeanor that Junction Point Studios adopted. One of the ways that they got away with this was by populating the world with characters that had been previously lost to history. Now we're obviously still controlling Mickey Mouse, so there's only so much darkness than can be achieved—the designers weren't trying to compete with Resident Evil or anything—but the Epic Mickey franchise is making an overt attempt to leave one foot in the child-like world that Disney is known for, while reaching the other into a more grow up experience.
Still, for all of its museum-like historical qualities, Epic Mickey 2 wasn't entirely designed for creepy, Disney-obsessed social outcasts. It has a broad based appeal that puts it into a category only Nintendo has been able to master with consistence. I got the chance to sit down with one of the game's concept designers who gave me an incredibly fast tutorial and then dropped me into a boss fight.
The controls in Epic Mickey 2 are primarily geared for use with a motion control system like the Wiimote or the PlayStation Move. One hand controls an aiming device while the other controls character movement. The whole setup has a unique fluidity to it. It's tight, intuitive and you'll like it more than 90% of the motion control titles on the market. However, on a standard PS3 control pad, the aiming system has a tendency to feel pretty wonky. The left analog stick controls movement, while the right takes over the role that the Wiimote used to fill. Instead of pointing your controller at the screen, players are directing a cursor around, which can be cumbersome when you're trying to defeat a fire-breathing dragon. This is compounded slightly by the same frustrating camera work that Epic Mickey fans will undoubtedly remember from the previous title. Either way, Oswald and I managed to defeat him in the end.
Actually, Oswald is probably the most important new addition to Epic Mickey 2. Those of you who had a chance to play the previous title will remember that Oswald served as the story's MacGuffin. Well, this time Oswald has been promoted from MacGuffin to the centerpiece of Epic Mickey 2's unique gameplay. In fact, Disney was handing out customized Oswald ear-hats at E3 this year, and if an ear-hat doesn't prove you're important, I'm not sure anything can.