I was not expecting to finish this game so fast, but yesterday I decided to take a break from my nearly constant studying to focus on it, and this morning, when I went back to it, I ended up beating the whole thing, and - later - writing a review for it when I took a break from more studying. As probably the last Wii game I will play, it was a really strong disappointment; and as a follow-up to a good platformer, it was sad to see all of its potential wasted. I will probably be getting Paper Mario: Sticker Star sometime during this coming week, and, despite the reviews, I am very excited about playing yet another Paper Mario game. Anyway, enjoy this review, and recommend it if you like it.
Warning! Big review approaching!
Its good heart, concept and ambition are precariously held together by uninspired gameplay
Sequels always carry some degree of intrigue. If they are the continuation of a memorable title, they present a remarkable challenging of not only achieving, but trying to find a way to surpass the game that preceded it. However, if they come on the heels of a underwhelming, or even bad, gaming experience, they provide an unusual positive situation. After all, with the reading of the many reviews across the press, and the listening to fans' complaints and suggestions, the developers are faced with a clear drawn path right in front of their eyes, and, if they follow the suggested recipe, the outcome will most likely be a clear improvement over what came before. The original Epic Mickey had to live up to high hopes, and rightfully so, since it was the work of the devotion of one of the greatest game designers of our time, and featured Mickey Mouse and other Disney icons trying to reclaim the high level of praise directed towards Disney platformers of the 90s. The game, however, ended up suffering from a few punctual mistakes that stopped all of its pieces from coming together nicely.
Epic Mickey 2, then, sets out to fix those issues and finally deliver the game we all have been waiting for, and, initially, it starts off quite nicely. If Mickey and Oswald were, during the biggest part of the last game, clear antagonists, this time around the mouse and the rabbit join forces to find out the truth about mysterious earthquakes that have been plaguing and destroying the recently recovered wasteland. Watching Mickey and Oswald interact with each other, and with other famous Disney figures, on the game's very well-done stylish cutscenes is quite a sight, and the fact that Junction Point decided to turn the game into an occasional musical fits right in with the overall goofy humor the game successfully conveys. Even if the game's plot is less inspired and more predictable than the great tale told in the original, it is still a very good story considering the average standard of the platforming genre.
The fact that Oswald and Mickey are now working as a team obviously expands the gameplay possibilities, as the two of them need to frequently combine their powers in order to surpass the many platforming and combat obstacles. While Mickey uses his paint and thinner to either restore or destroy the world around him, Oswald carries a remote controller with which he can unleash electrical attacks or hack devices. The stages are packed with opportunities for both of them to work together, whether it is by using Oswald as a tool to powering Mickey's jump or activating switches simultaneously. In fact, cooperation is so vital that even the sidescrolling stages that are based on Mickey's old cartoons and that server as a link between major locations have been designed to give both players the opportunity to simultaneously traverse the same stage following different routes, something that often produces some quite amusing results.
However, the whole concept of a team is sadly undermined by both bad AI and questionable design choices when it comes to combat. Oswald is not as smart as a partner should be, and while he does not get stuck on any objects, Mickey will frequently have to wait for him to arrive at his current location if the two of them are to activate an object at the same time to follow. Some players might even fail to notice that shortcoming, but if there is one thing that cannot, by any chance, be missed, is how ridiculously annoying combat is. Most of the enemies in the game are big armored beasts, meaning that Mickey and his brush is not able to beat them by himself. Therefore, when adventuring alone, players must wait for Oswald to attack the bad guys before Mickey can go in and do the real damage. Unfortunately, Oswald occasionally misses his chances to attack, which turns simple battles against regular minions into something that extends for a little bit too long.
While the last game suffered from poor camera implementation, Epic Mickey 2 is clearly free from that issue, which means that full-blown glorious platforming can be enjoyed without any technical issues. The problem is that Epic Mickey 2 never quite succeeds in producing great stages or environments, and its level design is clearly worse than that of its predecessor, failing to produce any truly engaging moments, with a few clear exceptions. It is hard to point out what exactly it is that stops Epic Mickey 2 from featuring locations as good as those on the original, but a good guess would be the game's setting. On Epic Mickey players had to explore a dark sinister place that had been torn apart by some bizarre corruption of ink, but on Epic Mickey 2 a huge part of the gloom and mystery is gone, replacing artistic darkness that put a great twist on familiar Disney-happy environments with places that have been devastated by earthquakes. If Epic Mickey looked like a steampunk Disney painting, The Power of Two features levels that almost invariably look like a cluttered mess of Disney references and memorabilia, being closer to an unorganized dirty bedroom than something that is tarnished, but, at the same time, intriguing to look at.
Sad to say, aside from story, overall good use of Disney licenses, fun little sidescrolling levels and solid controls, the only things left to admire on The Power of Two are concept and ambition. Once again, but this time around in a much more pronounced way, Mickey stars in a game that does not live up to everything that it could be. When looking at the great number of sidequests, something that is very unusual for a platformer, it is plain to see that Junction Point was determined to build something big and significant. The goals of those sidequests range from taking pictures of locations and hidden Mickeys - regular objects in the scenario that are arranged to form the silhouette of Mickey's head to collecting treasures in certain locations, and most of them hold good value, whether it is by providing players with significant rewards either in the form of a nice reference that will make Disney fans very excited, or a valuable a collectible; or by pushing gamers to find some of the secrets hidden in the game's environments.
Even if the game's artistic direction pales in comparison to what appeared on the last game, The Power of Two is a game with nice visuals, especially when it comes to character models and animations. And its visuals even come to the aid of gameplay every once in a while, because - much like in the original title - using the paint to slowly reconstruct the pieces of the scenario that have been damaged by the earthquakes brings some degree of reward. In addition, and rightfully living up to the very high standards established by Disney's cartoons in the musical department, it showcases a few great tunes that are either newly composed or reinterpretations of classic Disney songs that are imprinted on the minds of anyone who has watched one of the company's animations.
When it is all said and done, The Power of Two does what not a whole lot of people expected it to do: it fails to surpass the original and, in a bad turn of events, it winds up being considerably worse. Gone is the darkness that made Epic Mickey so remarkable, and in come messy environments whose elements are not cleverly used to produce noteworthy levels. Disney fans might get some moments of rush either by seeing their favorite characters interacting with each other in the development of a nice story, or by sinking their teeth into the Disney collectibles available that include old Silly Symphonies or Mickey Mouse cartoons that become available to be watched. However, those who have a lesser degree of admiration for the company will find a game that is uninspired and that feels rushed due to the fact that it falls so far away from its predecessor. The eight hours of adventure are, sadly, neither intense nor unforgettable. They are, though, an awfully sad sight, because as far as being a gamer goes, there is nothing sadder than watching a game with good heart, intentions and ambitions fall flat on its face.
I got it for the Wii U, I played it for about an hour, and I'm not that thrilled with it. Also, the Wii U version is plagued with a bad frame rate.
@Foolz3h It certainly is. I still hope it will sell well so that Disney continues taking Mickey down this artistic and more interesting path instead of slapping him in silly little games that only appeal to kids. The greatest thing to come out of the Epic Mickey series so far is how Disney seems to want him to go back to his platforming glory of the early days.
You know, this is a real shame. After Epic Mickey ended up disappointing just about everyone, Warren Specter and co. had the chance to rectify its mistakes with the sequel, but from everything I've heard it's even worse than the first. It's like they just rushed it and didn't even care.
@SloganYams I feel like it was indeed rushed, because I find it hard to believe they could make so many awful mistakes in the production of this game.
I thought the first was pretty average, and I hear this is worse so that's disappointing. It does indeed have good intentions, and it has a lot more potential than it knows.