Gamescom 2012: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Hands-On Preview – It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right
Written Sunday, September 02, 2012 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Epic Mickey, for those of you that don’t already know, was a Wii-only title focusing on the paintbrush wielding antics of the Disney family's main man (or mouse, rather). It certainly had its fair share of criticism too with many feeling that it came oh so close to hitting the heights of greatness only to miss out. What better way to remedy such a near miss than to broaden the scope of the sequel, not only in terms of available platforms (sorry Wii lovers) but also in terms of co-op, gameplay and some good old fashioned Disney magic.
Sitting down to play through a level or so of the new game, with our very own Rich Walker by my side (which would have variable results on how the game panned out), it is clear that this is animated magic from top to toe. Presentation is never something that Disney has scrimped on and that seems to be the case here. All of the cutscenes are all fully voiced, and all the characters use the official Disney voice actors even down to when it's localised for different territories. The change to voicework is a shift from the mute original and that’s not all, as the game will incorporate a variety of musical numbers just as you would expect to see in a Disney film. In fact the formally Mad Doctor, who is now a dubious ally, can only speak in song with each cryptic clue rhyming with the last. It’s a neat twist and certainly one that will draw in the Disney fans as everything feels authentic down to the last detail.
As the level begins, I’m at the helm of Mickey with his magical paintbrush and equally magical (but less impressive sounding) paint thinner. Rich is controlling Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who has graduated to a full fledged co-op partner in the sequel. Each character also plays a little differently too, with unique skills that are designed to work in tandem with one another. So if Oswald (or Rich, in this case) stuns an enemy with his remote control, Mickey can bombard it with paint in order to turn a former enemy into a potent ally. Oswald can also hover by spinning his ears, making platforming a lot more manageable. Whereas Mickey can paint in new areas of the scenery in order to solve puzzles or reveal new pathways. Even in single player you can expect to have a constant AI companion with you at all times, ready to help you out of a jam at a moments notice.
An interesting feature of the game is the fact that a lot of objectives and choices are entirely optional. The first level saw us needing to power up a train in order to move on, however, we can choose to just use one power cell or go for all three – with the incentive that the next level might be made slightly easier by powering it up fully. Of course in order to get said power cells we may have to resort to damaging the local environment, which could have severe repercussions with some of the locals later in the game. Painting in the blanks leads to generally positive results while using thinner can destroy buildings, which is naughty but can lead to additional swag. So the game is also balanced on a series of moral choices that may seem trivial at the time but can add up over extended play. Quite how much the game will branch and be impacted by said decisions remains to be seen, but hopefully it will lead to a diverse set of outcomes and choices.
Along the way you can also find chests with new outfits and items, that you can use to tool up your characters. Plus, the ability to turn enemies into allies is a fun mechanic to mess with and can make frustrating sections a touch easier with practice. The sense of frustration is kept to a minimum too as if you die, not that we did of course, then you can respawn almost immediately with little in the way of penalty. With each level feeling very compact, but also brimming with a number of ideas, puzzles and objectives, there are a number of ways to tackle them and, inevitably, you can trek back to find secrets that you may have missed.
With all of the power cells successfully collected we jump on board the train to the next area, which is a network of shifting platforms leading to our goal. Due to us powering up the train fully there are a lot more platforms for us to hop between, and they move a little slower than they otherwise would have, which is a good example of how the game can alter depending on your actions. Oswald has a much easier time of if, as he can hover between platforms with ease, so it is not long before he bounds up to the top of the precarious set of platforms. For Mickey though things are a touch trickier and the timing needed for some of the jumps seems unduly harsh. Of course, the fact Oswald then started zapping us with lightning may not have helped (sorry, Lee! - Rich). Luckily Mickey can take a shortcut with the help of his brush – painting in a new platform that he can leap onto and avoid most of the tougher areas.
After negotiating the cliffs, we drop into a classic bit of 2D action to progress to the next area. Mickey and Oswald bounce along the side-scrolling section with ease, and it’s a welcome change of pace to the 3D action. There are collectibles to find and a number of different routes to take in order to make it to the top. Hopefully the game can use various changes in game style to good effect, as the progression from beautiful cutscenes to puzzles to 2D platforming feels entirely natural.
Of course no demo would be complete without a sizable boss battle and Rich and I took on a vicious looking mechanical Pete’s Dragon. Again you are presented with a choice, whether to colour in the dragon and return it to goodness or erase it entirely with thinner which would lead to an easier battle. Rich pleaded with me not to destroy such a thing of beauty (maybe) so we started colouring it in, with Oswald able to stun the creature and Mickey able to zap the exposed weak points and apply a nice layer of paint. Mickey can also use his watch to slow down time if things get a little too much for both players, and the team work required to take him down was evident from the get go. Hopefully your AI compadre will be up to the task should you decide to tackle the game solo, as otherwise it could quickly become rather frustrating.
Epic Mickey 2 is certainly panning out to be something a bit special, especially when two of you team up to tackle the myriad of challenges awaiting you. The atmosphere is spot on and conjures up all the finest Disney traditions and clichés, and even manages to have a bit of fun with them at the same time. Plus, there is still a strong sense of right and wrong, not to mention a whole host of grey areas that should make the game compelling enough for those that would dismiss this as just another kids' title. At times the platforming did seem a little hit and miss, but the overall article seems very much like a labour of love so hopefully Epic Mickey 2's gameplay can keep up with the attention to detail and iconic imagery.
Expect Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two to be stripping wallpaper and mixing paint ready for a bout of extreme decorating when it lands on your console on November 18th, 2012.