Giant Bomb Review

108 Comments

Disney Epic Mickey Review

2
  • Wii

Epic Mickey's brief moments of cleverness and knowing affection for obscure Disneyana are mired by clunky, perfunctory platforming and a general lack of followthrough.

 Smee is one of the more recognizable faces in Epic Mickey.
 Smee is one of the more recognizable faces in Epic Mickey.
Right off the bat, the name Disney Epic Mickey sets some high expectations for this new Mickey Mouse adventure from famed designer Warren Spector. While there has been no shortage of Disney-branded shovelware over the years, there's a history of well-remembered Mickey Mouse games stretching back to the 8-bit days. While Spector's name hasn't been attached to a game in nigh on a decade, he's a designer known for his vision, and Epic Mickey promised a dark, sophisticated Mickey Mouse story aimed at the adult players who grew up with the likes of Castle of Illusion. Nevermind these heightened expectations, though: even on its own merits, Epic Mickey is a platformer that feels about a generation behind, though one with just enough flashes of inspiration to keep you constantly aware of its wasted potential. 

As someone with an honest appreciation for the design aesthetics, cultural significance, and nostalgic payload of all things Disneyana, I was personally delighted at the premise of Epic Mickey. While there's a whole world of familiar Disney characters to populate a Mickey Mouse adventure with, Epic Mickey, after a somewhat senselessly convoluted start, traps The Mouse in a painted Wasteland filled with generations of forgotten Disney stars and little-known extras. In a way, the metagame of name-that-obscure-reference is the most fun thing to do in Epic Mickey. Sometimes the game just lays it on real thick, such as with an encounter with a Tron version of Bad Pete perched atop Space Mountain, which I'll admit I'm not immune to the pandering charms of. It also shows a certain capacity of self-awareness, most notably with the location of Mickeyjunk Mountain, a world comprised entirely of discarded Mickey Mouse merchandise. The delicious irony here, of course, is that Epic Mickey will itself one day become consumer detritus, though the game refrains from going that deep down the rabbit hole.  

    Mickey's Morality is the name of my new post-twee-pop acoustic hardcore band.
    Mickey's Morality is the name of my new post-twee-pop acoustic hardcore band.
This Wasteland is a shadow version of the bright and familiar Magic Kingdom, even mirroring the basic layout and themed worlds of Disneyland, though its approach to this idea often feels rote in its own way, owing significant inspiration to the muddled palletes and general disdain for 90-degree angles fostered by practitioners of dark whimsy like Tim Burton and American McGee. In another interesting kink, Mickey's position as favored son is held by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in this shadow realm, which is overrun by horrible inky monsters due specifically to Mickey's own characteristic capriciousness. Mickey is, essentially, the villain at the start of the game, and it's up to the player to redeem Mickey's name.  

Interesting ideas abound in Epic Mickey, but they're all sadly in service of gameplay that just doesn't deserve them. While it has some half-baked open-world and role-playing elements, this is a platform-jumping game first and foremost. Specifically, it feels like the kind of mascot-driven platformer that was legion in the N64/PlayStation era, before dual analog sticks were standardized and when most third-person polygonal games struggled valiantly with camera controls. Epic Mickey's unruly camera isn't insurmountable, but having to replay sections due to blind jumps and constant fussing gives you plenty of time to consider just how boilerplate most of the platforming feels, and just how dull vast stretches of this game are. Mickey doesn't just hop--keeping with the game's painterly theme, puzzles and treasure hunts are presented on the regular that require you to employ a magical paintbrush that can shoot either paint or paint thinner. Shoot paint at specific, silhouetted parts of the environment, and they'll fill in and come to life; shoot thinner at the brightly colored spots, and they'll melt away, revealing hidden paths and such. There are a few specific puzzles where you're tasked with starting and stopping mechanized systems with your paintbrush that struck me as kind of clever, but it's mostly too obvious--once you've seen it, you've solved it.  

 Steamboat Willie is cool the first time around...
 Steamboat Willie is cool the first time around...
Combat also revolves around the paintbrush, and you can choose to either thin enemies out of existence or paint them until they turn against their brethren. This ties into the thin notion of Mickey's morality and its impact on the world, but like a lot of the support elements in Epic Mickey, it doesn't seem fully formed. There are other mechanics tossed around as well, such as TVs that can be deployed to distract enemies and timepieces that can slow things down, but it all feels bolted-on rather than integrated. At a point, it feels like Epic Mickey is deliberately squandering its gifts. Among the most novel bits in Epic Mickey are the 2D sidescrolling sections that are nicely modeled after classic Mickey Mouse theatrical shorts like Steamboat Willie, The Band Concert, and most apropros, Thru the Mirror. Like the rest of the jumping and double-jumping in Epic Mickey, it's not the most sophisticated stuff, but it's got charm. Problem is, these sequences serve as the portals between various worlds, and Epic Mickey is just rife with fetch quests that have you frequently going back and forth between worlds, forcing you to play through these sequences every time--that means coming and going--and it's a choice that strips away the charm like paint thinner.

The real tragedy with Epic Mickey is that every last part of it could, and arguably, should, have been totally amazing, but it so consistently falls short of that potential. The Disney enthusiast in me got a certain charge out of the experience, at least for a while, but as a game, it's pretty far from a masterpiece.    
108 CommentsRefresh
Avatar image for shoddyrobot
Posted By shoddyrobot

sorry mickey :(

Avatar image for zinc
Posted By Zinc

Ouch.

Avatar image for freakache
Posted By FreakAche

Whoops, there goes my "I'm Calling It" bet.

Avatar image for arbitrarywater
Posted By ArbitraryWater

Wow. That was even lower than what I expected after hearing the Bombcast.

Avatar image for zombie2011
Posted By zombie2011

holy balls thats low.

Avatar image for milkman
Posted By Milkman

That's a damn shame.

Avatar image for akeldama
Posted By Akeldama

So Tron gets a 3/5 and Epic Mickey gets a 2/5?  
 
There goes christmas at the Vignocchi house,

Avatar image for august
Posted By august

Damn, son.

Avatar image for christiancastillo
Posted By ChristianCastillo

I completely agree with this review. This game kind of sucks accept for the cutscenes.

Avatar image for tonic7
Posted By Tonic7

I'm going to try my best at predictions here... 
 
"That score is too low!" 
"Nice Review, Ryan. Spot on."
"It's his OPINION MAN JESUS H." 
 
Not necessarily in that order, of course. But let's see how I do.

Avatar image for shadowdogg
Posted By ShadowDoGG

2.5 I call it tbh

Avatar image for scrumdidlyumptious
Posted By Scrumdidlyumptious

I called it

Avatar image for a_cute_squirtle
Posted By A_Cute_Squirtle

"  and it's a choice that strips away the charm like paint thinner" does not feel like a winning line Ryan Davis.  
 
This review is good and probably accurate however. It's a shame; it's the first disney and Wii related thing that peaked my interest in a while. 

Avatar image for winsord
Posted By Winsord

It seemed like a lot of people had high hopes for this game. I never got my hopes up for it, and now I'm glad considering that this really doesn't sound like that good of a game. Good review though.

Online
Avatar image for kamikazecaterpillar
Posted By KamikazeCaterpillar

Damnit I was just about to go put a bet on this game for this exact score.

Avatar image for dalai
Posted By Dalai

Oh dear that's low. Epic Mickey is still kinda on my wishlist, but I've decided a while ago to pick it up at a bargain.

Avatar image for bhhawks78
Posted By bhhawks78

First review of this I've seen that wasn't making excuses for such a messsy overhyped pile.

Avatar image for flappyhands
Posted By FlappyHands

M...more like... Disney Epic Fail! HAHA! amirite!?
Okay. I'll leave now.

Avatar image for m2cks
Posted By m2cks

Thank God I'm not playing "I'm Calling It", or I would've went up to my Vegas hotel room to put a bullet in my brain.

Avatar image for tyxja
Posted By tyxja

Wow.

Avatar image for stealthraptor
Posted By StealthRaptor

Man, you probably can't even turn into a firefighter.

Avatar image for winternet
Posted By Winternet

Wow, really? Damn. This is kind of shocking. I'ma gonna read the review.

Avatar image for tourgen
Posted By tourgen

well written review, thanks

Avatar image for jeffmoocow
Posted By Jeffmoocow

Really surprised by this.

Avatar image for nurve
Posted By Nurve

Completely reasonable score from what I gathered from the quick look

Avatar image for kaosangel-DELETED
Posted By KaosAngel

...so is this good or bad?

Avatar image for mistermouse
Posted By MisterMouse

that is kind of bummer, was hoping for this to be a good game. I remember when the first teases of this game came out and it was pretty exciting.

Avatar image for sil3n7
Posted By Sil3n7

Warren Spector wishes he was working on Deus Ex 3 somewhere...

Avatar image for winternet
Posted By Winternet

A lot of 4star reviews out there. Humm.

Avatar image for gla55jaw
Posted By gla55jAw

Not so epic there eh Mickey?

Avatar image for mooseymcman
Posted By MooseyMcMan

Not surprised. I've long thought this game would be bad. Whilst everyone else was fooled by grand promises of Mickey being Epic, I saw straight through the nonsense to the poor gameplay and camera and whatnot. 

Avatar image for spankingaddict
Posted By spankingaddict

Damn, a bit harsh, yes?
 
I'm somewhat enjoying it so far, though it does feel like a 10 year old game.

Avatar image for nekusakuraba
Posted By NekuSakuraba

Awww, only a 2/5. :(

Avatar image for claude
Posted By Claude

I started feeling the bones creak about a month or so ago. And I said no. I will never play this game. Does this make me sad? Of course not, there's better games out there I haven't played yet.

Avatar image for mikeeegeee
Posted By mikeeegeee

Nice review. I never had much intention of playing it, but at least it produced this kickass concept art: 
 

Avatar image for krystians
Posted By krystians

Wow, I was expecting something better. I guess that is why I am not the reviewer here. 

Avatar image for kajaah117
Edited By Kajaah117

I'm going to have to side with Adam Sessler on this one. This is one of the best games to come out on the Wii this generation. I have no idea what Ryan played, but it's not just the concepts and story stuff that makes the game great, the gameplay holds its own as well(aside from some pretty bad camera issues). It's not Super Mario Galaxy or anything, but the core gameplay is solid enough to not get in the way of the real star of the show, Warren Spector. If you liked Deus Ex, you'll find a lot of subtle similarities in Epic Mickey.

This game is great. Rent it before you let Ryan's review turn you away from one of the Wii's best games. Besides, I'm sure most of us are always looking for reasons to turn the damn thing on.

Avatar image for spiritof
Posted By Spiritof
@m2cks said:
" Thank God I'm not playing "I'm Calling It", or I would've went up to my Vegas hotel room to put a bullet in my brain. "
It's what I'm contemplating doing at this very moment.
Avatar image for jayross
Posted By Jayross

Warren Specter lol.

Avatar image for mrhammeh
Posted By MrHammeh

Reviews are peoples opinions, so glad there are a few out there for this one.  Thanks for your review Ryan.

Avatar image for crusader8463
Edited By crusader8463

Thank you Ryan Davis. I think you are the only reviewer who managed to not use the Epic Micky is an Epic Fail line, or some form of epic as a negative.

Avatar image for levio
Posted By Levio

Well at least we have Kingdom Hearts.  Wonder when the 3rd is coming out...

Avatar image for wrighteous86
Posted By Wrighteous86

I'm a bit disappointed by this review, since I, like Ryan, am a big Disney fan.  I was aware of Oswald and the gremlins and ghosts and other "forgotten" characters long ago, and was psyched to see them and DisneyLand in a video game referencing Disney history... (I was a big fan of Steamboat Willy in Kingdom Hearts 2).
 
I do like platformers though, and miss the days of Mario, Banjo, and Jak, so I'll give it a shot anyway and see what it has to offer me.

Avatar image for haroldonvu
Posted By HaroldoNVU
[Reporter]: "... and once again Mickey is pissed off and throwing a fit!" 
[Mickey]: "Vengeance is mine! You are all ants and I am your destroyer! ha ha! 
[Reporter]: " The Disney Epic Mickey venture will now most likely prove a marketing bust, as Mickey returns to Valhalla to slumber and feed."  
 
Shut up, I just couldn't resist.
Avatar image for CastroCasper
Posted By CastroCasper

Ya, when I first saw this I had a feeling that it just might not be as awesome as it could be.

Avatar image for president_barackbar
Posted By President_Barackbar

Seems like most people who like this game are pretty hard apologists. Way to give it to us straight Mr. Davis.

Avatar image for robothamster
Posted By RobotHamster

Damn, wasn't expecting a 2, sorry Warren at least Deus Ex is coming out.

Avatar image for lordxavierbritish
Posted By LordXavierBritish

I'm really glad I listened to the Bombcast so I could pull my bet down before this. 
 
Crisis averted.

Avatar image for tobygw
Posted By tobygw

And the 25000 bet moneys come rollin in to me

Avatar image for endaround
Posted By endaround

I can't believe they didn't give this game voice acting.  I'd love to see how they ties things together (like the opening taking from Mickey Mouse through the Looking Glass was inspired and surprising) but even if I had a Wii this just seems like its was more concept and less game.