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 narc
Posted By narc

that's like demolishingly low. I still laugh that Adam Sessler said this was his most anticipated game of 2010. What a joke

Avatar image for jeedai_infidel
Posted By Jeedai_Infidel

I want to play this game based on my love of all things Disney, as well as the art and story direction that seems to be very uncharacteristic for anything Disney has done. But the review scores have made me very cautious, plus I don't own a Wii and would be basically buying this game for someone else.
Avatar image for pabba
Posted By Pabba

I was so surprised to find Epic Mickey to be so...meh. An un-fun camera and rather generic platforming, accessorized with a good/evil moral system that had us painting or thinning parts of the world. And truly, I'm not a graphics snob...but I thought I had actually time-traveled back a few years. Will probably play it a bit longer, but not much.
Avatar image for zepp
Posted By zepp

I don't know if I agree with this review so much, but can I just say; I love the way Ryan writes. It's just unique and awesome, hands down my favorite reviewer on GB.

Avatar image for howdire
Posted By HowDire

Ouch

Avatar image for sopachuco13
Posted By sopachuco13

Good review. I have listened/read a lot of reivews about this game. They all seem pretty middle of the road, except for the G4 Sessler review which was pretty positive. I think that I am still going to buy this game though. I think that even with the gripes that Ryan had with the game, I can overlook those gripes and have a good time with the game.
Avatar image for kagekage
Posted By kagekage
@Godlyawesomeguy said:
" @Yanngc33 said:
" talk about an epic... fail "
*sigh* "
Hey-O?....
Avatar image for ravenlock
Posted By Ravenlock

So sad to read this review, and pretty much all the others out there. I had really hoped this would be a winner - the idea had so much potential.
 
I'll still be renting it, because I need to know for myself, but I find myself glad I didn't drop Day 1 Purchase money on it, which I certainly thought I would be doing a few months ago.

Avatar image for aran_tebbutt
Posted By Aran_tebbutt

This game was so dissappointing it had such a build and unfortunatly every bit of news that came out just hacked away at the excitment, then the game came out with a archaic camera and easy puzzles. 
got to give it to them for content though great characters
Avatar image for fillmoejoe
Posted By fillmoejoe

Sad panda.

Avatar image for willy105
Posted By Willy105
@void1234 said:
" well, i mean c'mon. It's on the wii guys, 2/5 is the new 5/5 for them.... "  
@void1234 said:
" and to willy 105. Everything is the wii's  fault. Motion control is just not ready yet. "
Are you for real? Because that was ridiculously stupid. The camera doesn't even use motion control.
Avatar image for void1234
Posted By void1234

and to willy 105. Everything is the wii's  fault. Motion control is just not ready yet.

Avatar image for void1234
Posted By void1234

well, i mean c'mon. It's on the wii guys, 2/5 is the new 5/5 for them....

Avatar image for willy105
Posted By Willy105
@Senate4242 said:
" This saddens me. Such wasted potential. When I first saw the cover art on Gameinformer, I was very excited. A dark Disney game! Then I learned it was a Wii only game. Now this. "
To be fair, the problems of this game would have still been there on any other console. None of this is the Wii's fault.
Avatar image for zanelli
Posted By Zanelli

What... no one saw this coming...

Avatar image for timeshero
Posted By TimesHero

I really did not expect that at all. *scratches it off my christmas list*

Avatar image for godlyawesomeguy
Posted By Godlyawesomeguy
@Yanngc33 said:
" talk about an epic... fail "
*sigh*
Avatar image for senate4242
Posted By Senate4242

This saddens me. Such wasted potential. When I first saw the cover art on Gameinformer, I was very excited. A dark Disney game! Then I learned it was a Wii only game. Now this.

Avatar image for brackynews
Edited By Brackynews

Well I haven't played yet but I'm fine with my purchase.  Especially if it helps an inevitably logical port and fixer-upper to PS3/Move.
I definitely feel poorly about how Spector has chosen to address reviewers directly. Nobody wins when that happens; you should know that, Warren.

Avatar image for johnny2900
Posted By Johnny2900

I'm still getting because the Disney fan inside me tells me too.  Also, this the first whole negative review I have seen for this game..
Avatar image for yanngc33
Posted By Yanngc33

talk about an epic... fail
Avatar image for dbz1995
Posted By dbz1995

Oof. That's gotta hurt.

Avatar image for thechaos
Posted By TheChaos
Avatar image for kombat
Posted By Kombat

I honestly have to vehemently disagree, which is probably the first time I've ever done so versus a Giant Bomb review. Epic Mickey is charming as hell.

Avatar image for wanderingpixel
Posted By wanderingpixel

Well, I really like the game. Id probably give it a 4 out of 5, but I'm a huge animation geek, so I might be a bit biased in that respect.

Avatar image for steamboat
Posted By Steamboat

'and to think he started his journey on a steamboat' 
 
this creeped me out

Avatar image for zitosilva
Posted By zitosilva

I absolutely agree with the review, though I do believe I enjoyed the setting more than Ryan did. Wasteland is so depressing, like a limbo. Characters seem to just plod along, with no meaning, objective or hope of change. It's a terrible and yet fascinating place to explore. It's the parts that are game per se that I thought weren't good. Controls, the supposed moral choices, the paint and thinner mechanic etc. I think it's something I would've enjoyed if I just watched someone else play.

Avatar image for baron_calamity
Edited By baron_calamity

Because of my disability (paralyzed on the right side) like most Wii game, I can't play Epic Mickey. However I bought Epic Mickey for my kids and none of them liked it. My two 10 year old boys were only interest in playing it for longer than 20 minutes. My 7 year old daughter who is probably the biggest Disney fan in the house got frustrated after 10 minutes and quit. Not a single feature in this game has the quality that was hyped. You could have told me the game was developed by some fly by night game company in 14 months and I would believed it. Watching my kids play has killed any desire I had to play that game if it came out for a system with a real controller.    
Avatar image for scarlet_rogue
Posted By Scarlet_Rogue
@skinnyman:  aaaah! you beat me to it!
Avatar image for magusmaleficus
Posted By MagusMaleficus

I totally understand every complaint Ryan has with the game. I also disagree--for the most part. But I'm certainly not butt-hurt because of that fact. 

Avatar image for skinnyman
Posted By skinnyman

So Ryan, would you say it was an... Epic Mickey Fail?

Avatar image for ghostiet
Posted By Ghostiet
@Psykhophear said:
" Ouch! 2 Stars? "


Avatar image for gunslingerpanda
Posted By GunslingerPanda

I disagree, but I also understand.
 
But the camera isn't nearly as bad as Ryan says here, just hit the c button, yo.

Avatar image for deactivated-5865c6a5c9438
Posted By deactivated-5865c6a5c9438

Sounds like a bummer. Still think I will try it though.

Avatar image for mrcellophane
Posted By MrCellophane

Wow, this review is really well-written! Some of my respect for Ryan Davis as a reviewer is restored

Avatar image for belmont_shadow
Posted By Belmont_Shadow

This game is fucking terrible.

Avatar image for zerocast
Posted By ZeroCast

  

Avatar image for psykhophear
Posted By psykhophear

Ouch! 2 Stars?

Avatar image for l4wd0g
Posted By l4wd0g

Great review Ryan. What I liked about the game is that  it gives the player options while tackling  numerous directions and goals . Other games like  Super Mario Galaxy 2 you are just moving from point A to point B. But, it  certainly doesn't have the Mario polish.

Avatar image for nictel
Posted By Nictel

This makes me sad. I actually hoped the game would be all right. The QL looked like it was maybe clunky at parts but overall enjoyable.  
 
Also reviews are all over the place. 

Avatar image for terjay
Posted By Terjay

I was absolutely loving the concept art and thought it would be a serious and dark themed game... Well, it's fucking Disney, eh?

Avatar image for darkstar
Posted By Darkstar614

I can't believe they were talking this game up so much at e3 like it was going to be the greatest thing the Wii has seen in some time. Excellent review as usually. Don't buy this game.

Avatar image for issun187
Posted By issun187

It's a bummer that the game is being received so poorly. Fortunately, I have enough Wii titles to play at the moment. Cave Story will be released shortly (here in Europe, that is) and I still need to finish the excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns.
Avatar image for phrosnite
Posted By phrosnite

Ouch... but really... I don't care...

Avatar image for kjellm87
Posted By Kjellm87

Shame, I had high hopes for this game. 
Bad platforming aside, it's a good concept

Avatar image for ch3burashka
Posted By ch3burashka

Holy crap. It's been a bad month for games at the Giant Bomb - a 3 for GT5, a 2(?!) for Epic Mickey. I've been hearing how (drumroll) epic Epic Mickey was supposed to be, that even after hearing the podcast this is coming from out of left field.

Avatar image for mysteriousbob
Posted By MysteriousBob
@bhhawks78 said:
" First review of this I've seen that wasn't making excuses for such a messsy overhyped pile. "
Exactly. 
 
Thanks for a decent review instead of just blindly following all the kids' expectations. This game never looked impressive to me.
Avatar image for angelfan91
Posted By angelfan91

I guess it didn't give Ryan the epic mickey :)
Avatar image for dan_citi
Edited By Dan_CiTi

ONE OF THE WORST GAMES OF ALL TIME. ALL TIME.  
 
 
just kidding, this makes me sad. 

Avatar image for windfall259
Posted By WindFall259

Man, I feel sorry it didn't work out exactly the way Warren wanted it to.