Yooo TAY, just wanna talk briefly about this oddity of a game I had the chance to play recently. My boyfriend and I recently moved in together, which means his games basically also became my games (I have a PS4 now! woohoo!) and my games basically also became his games (he was so excited about my N64 collection). It so happens he owns way more Wii games than I do, and Epic Mickey is one of them.
This game is so weird. I hesitate to say that it’s bad, because it really isn’t terrible. But the whole thing leaves me scratching my head.
Just thinking about the concept alone, who was this game for? Who was its target audience? The cartoony, cutesy cutscenes say that it was for little kids, but do little kids care about Mickey Mouse himself, especially “classic” Mickey plucked from his early 1920’s shorts? Nowadays, Mickey Mouse is pretty much just a corporate logo. I’m not sure older kids or adults would be terribly interested in Epic Mickey either. I’m not familiar with classic Disney characters in the same way I am, say, Hanna Barbera or Looney Tunes characters.
And there’s the dark’n’edgy aesthetic. Epic Mickey takes place in a world of forgotten cartoons. It’s like a big retirement home for obscure Disney characters. Everything looks rusty and is falling apart. Hallways are so dark you have to squint to try to see where the walls are and what direction you’re going in. Many levels involve pits filled with dangerous green “paint thinner,” which, when combined with blue-tinted stone and the low lighting, make the game resemble the ugliest areas of Undercity from World of Warcraft than a fun Disney game starring The Mouse.
Putting these two elements together - Mickey Mouse and ruin porn - is just too bizarre for my tastes. I really don’t care for edgyness for the sake of edgyness, and whatever joy there could have been in a game based on classic Disney shorts gets sucked out or left behind as a result - to make way for broken Alice in Wonderland dolls and platforms made out of moldy-looking old Disney comics. Because it’s COOOOOL when everything looks decrepit and shitty, no matter what the context is, right youngins?!
As for the game itself, like I said, it’s alright. Pretty standard 3D platformer. Mickey can use paint and paint thinner to make objects appear or disappear from the cartoon world around him. This is used pretty creatively a few times in the game, allowing you to solve a problem by either using paint or thinner. Sometimes you can choose to be an asshole and erase a character to get some treasure. You can handle enemies by either making them friendly with paint, or erasing them with thinner. But ultimately, the outcome of each of these decisions is the same, which ultimately makes such a system pointless. You might be given a few alternate routes to take to the next checkpoint, but you’ve still gotta go to that checkpoint.
The game is also filled with a few RPG-type areas where you’re talking to NPCs, doing little menial tasks for them, or progressing the story. These sequences are pretty boring and basically just amount to fetch quests. The in-game map isn’t useful because there’s no marker on it telling you your current position or which direction you’re facing, so most of my time in the RPG areas was spent trying to figure out which building I needed to go in to acquire Item #4.
This game probably would have worked better as an open-world collect-a-thon platformer, a la Super Mario 64 or Jak & Daxter. If the big draw is the spooky game world, why not put more focus on exploration and freedom? I guess they thought little kids would need more clear direction, and “get from point A to point B” is easier to understand, but I don’t think kids had any issue playing SM64. Plus, again, how many little kids are gonna be interested in an edgy game about a 1920’s cartoon character. (Maybe a lot, who knows, I could be completely off base with that.)
My favorite part of the whole game are the 2D platforming sections in between levels. Each one is based off a different early Disney short, and has Mickey collecting items, avoiding obstacles and making tricky jumps. Easy, simple. And colorful! Not just black and dark blue and lime green! These sections were more reminiscent of Klonoa and it made me wish the entire game was like that. Magical Quest, anyone?
But really, there’s one thing and one thing only that keeps Epic Mickey from being good, even if you put aside my personal preferences about the visuals and gameplay: the camera. The camera in this game is bad. I was constantly fighting it, constantly missing jumps. Your only solace is a single button that repositions the camera behind Mickey... but guys, come on. That barely sufficed in 1998 when Ocarina of Time came out. For a detailed 3D platformer like this one - that often wasn’t well-lit enough for me to see what was going around me without camera problems amplifying it - it just doesn’t work. What this game needed was a second analog stick, but this is the Wii. The nunchuk is for moving Mickey and the remote pointer is for firing paint. There’s no third option for camera control.
Overall, Epic Mickey isn’t completely terrible, and I’m sure its concept and visuals will be appealing to some people. But at the end of the day, it’s rendered mediocre by its bad camera. I wish I’d spent my time playing Super Mario Galaxy 2. Maybe that’ll be next!