Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Video Game Review: Epic Mickey for Wii

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great use of familiar and obscure Disney makes it fun
Cons: Poor camera adds to some frustration with certain levels
The Bottom Line
Mickey's epic quest
Has some flaws to the magic
But still mostly fun

Mickey Takes an Epic Wii Journey through a Nightmare Wasteland

I’m not much of a gamer, and when I do play a video game, I prefer the simpler games like I grew up playing.  As a result, the quest games that follow a long story through a created world aren’t normally my thing.  But I quickly made an exception when Epic Mickey was released for Wii.  You expected this Disnerd to do any differently?

The game is a dream for those of us who love all things Disney.  Once upon a time, the wizard Yensid (from the movie Fantasia) created a world for all the forgotten Disney characters to retire to.  However, during its construction, Mickey accidentally stumbles into the studio and spills paint and thinner on it.  Now, years later, the place is in disrepair and Mickey is kidnapped and drawn into the world, now known as Wasteland.  In order to get out, he must make his way through a bunch of quests.  He is helped along the way by Gus, a Gremlin who helps guide you through the game.  You also have a paint brush filled with paint and thinner you can use to create or erase things and even enemies in the world.

I’ve got to confess that I have had multiple geek out moments as I’ve played this game.  You spend parts of it chasing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and you meet up with Clarabelle and Horace.  Plus you are playing through levels that resemble various places in Disneyland (some say Disney World, but I think of Disneyland).  While most people will recognize the places, few will probably get the characters.  I’m enough of a Disnerd that I not only get them but I absolutely love seeing them.

The game looks impressive.  As my brother was the first say what I was thinking when we started playing it together, it’s Disney with a Gotham City make over.  You’ll recognize much of what you are playing through, but it looks darker, sadder, and run down.  Okay, so it’s still cartoony rather than realistic looking, but since we are living in a cartoon world, that’s not that surprising.

Likewise, the music is good.  It sounds like the soundtrack from some epic movie.  Yes, at times they mix in classic Disney songs, but at other times it is all completely brand new.

The majority of the game is made up of various quests, and you have to explore your current level to find what you want, then bring it back to your starting point.  It gets repetitive, and it would be nice if they mixed it up a bit more.  I also don’t like the fact that once you move through an area, you can’t get back there easily.  So make sure you have explored everything there is to see before you move on.

Much has been said of the “camera” for the game, and with good reason.  That is the weakest flaw by far.  It can be hard at times to get things to the angle you really need to see.  Yes, you can use some buttons on your controller to tilt the camera and you can hit one button to recenter the camera from Mickey’s viewpoint, both things I do regularly.  But still, it manages to mess me up and kill me more often than I would like.

Then again, that’s also part of my non-gamer nature coming to the forefront.  I get frustrated after two or three tries at an area if I can’t move on, and there are a few points in the game that have really frustrated me.  This game will probably be too complex for those under late elementary school age, and just at the time when Disney will no long be cool.  Then again, with all the obscure Disney history in this game, maybe the real target is adults after all.

The games uses not only the Wiimote but all the Nunchuck as well.  You use the little joystick to move and the buttons to jump and spray the paint and thinner.  You shake the Wiimote to do an attack spin.  I found these controls very easy to grasp, and they were second nature to me almost right away.  I struggled a bit more with aiming the paintbrush when I shoot the paint and thinner.  There is a target on the screen that reads off your Wiimote and where it is currently pointing.  I kept firing and wondering why Mickey was shooting the paint in a different direction until I remembered to watching where I was aiming that thing.

There are lots of times where your actions determine the outcome of the game.  If you aren’t careful, you can make characters mad at you who won’t help you later.  Or, if you free them from a prison, they’ll save you a lot of work later.  That’s definitely an interesting feature.

As you transition from one world to another, you do it through 2D levels based on classic Mickey shorts.  Most everyone will have at least heard of the shorts we play through, things like “Steamboat Willie” or “Mickey and the Beanstalk.”  All of that is very fun as well, although these levels don’t add too much to the overall game.

This is a game I enjoy in spurts.  I’ll pay it several times for a week and get a little frustrated with a level.  Then I’ll walk away for a while and come back and enjoy it again later.  Okay, some of my breaks are also because I don't have the time to play it much.  People who more regularly play these games will probably find it easier than I do, however.  I know my sister-in-law breezed through it.

But I do enjoy Epic Mickey.  It’s not an easy game, made harder by a the poor camera, but it is a blast for Disney fans of all stripes with the almost constant nods to the Disney we already know or might have forgotten.

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