Giant Bomb Review

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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 Comments

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shoddyrobot

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Zinc

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Edited By Zinc • 

Ouch.

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FreakAche

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Edited By FreakAche • 

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

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ArbitraryWater

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Edited By ArbitraryWater • 

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

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zombie2011

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Milkman

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Edited By Milkman • 

That's a damn shame.

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Akeldama

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Edited By Akeldama • 

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

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august

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Edited By august • 

Damn, son.

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ChristianCastillo

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Edited By ChristianCastillo • 

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

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Tonic7

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Edited 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.

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ShadowDoGG

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Scrumdidlyumptious

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A_Cute_Squirtle

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Edited 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. 

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winsord

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Edited 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.

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KamikazeCaterpillar

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Edited By KamikazeCaterpillar • 

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

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Dalai

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Edited 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.

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bhhawks78

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Edited By bhhawks78 • 

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

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FlappyHands

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Edited By FlappyHands • 

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

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m2cks

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Edited 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.

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tyxja

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Edited By tyxja • 

Wow.

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StealthRaptor

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Edited By StealthRaptor • 

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

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Winternet

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Edited By Winternet • 

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

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tourgen

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Edited By tourgen • 

well written review, thanks

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Jeffmoocow

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Edited By Jeffmoocow • 

Really surprised by this.

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Nurve

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Edited By Nurve • 

Completely reasonable score from what I gathered from the quick look

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KaosAngel

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Edited By KaosAngel • 

...so is this good or bad?

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MisterMouse

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Edited 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.

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Sil3n7

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Edited By Sil3n7 • 

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

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Winternet

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Edited By Winternet • 

A lot of 4star reviews out there. Humm.

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gla55jAw

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Edited By gla55jAw • 

Not so epic there eh Mickey?

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MooseyMcMan

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Edited 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. 

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spankingaddict

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Edited By spankingaddict • 

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

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NekuSakuraba

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Claude

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Edited 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.

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mikeeegeee

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Edited By mikeeegeee • 

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

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krystians

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Edited By krystians • 

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

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Kajaah117

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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.

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Spiritof

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Edited 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.
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Jayross

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Edited By Jayross • 

Warren Specter lol.

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MrHammeh

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Edited By MrHammeh • 

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

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crusader8463

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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.

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Levio

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Edited By Levio • 

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

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Wrighteous86

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Edited 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.

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HaroldoNVU

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Edited 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.
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CastroCasper

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Edited By CastroCasper • 

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

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President_Barackbar

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Edited By President_Barackbar • 

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

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RobotHamster

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Edited By RobotHamster • 

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

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LordXavierBritish

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Edited By LordXavierBritish • 

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

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tobygw

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Edited By tobygw • 

And the 25000 bet moneys come rollin in to me

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endaround

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Edited 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.