Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion Preview -- The 3DS Game That Almost Never WasBy Kevin Kelly - Posted Oct 03, 2012
Disney Epic Mickey is becoming a franchise this year, with a multi-console sequel to the original Wii game coming in the form of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and also the non-sequel Nintendo 3DS title Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion. Both titles will be out on November 18, but while the sequel was going full-steam ahead after the success of the first game, the 3DS title almost happened by accident.
Warren Spector is a bonafide Disney nerd. We recently spent some time with him at Walt Disney World, where his eyes lit up like a five-year-old’s around every corner. Plus, he wore a Disney shirt to the park, which is the equivalent of wearing a bad t-shirt to their own concert. He’s hardcore. He also loves gadgets, and the first time he laid eyes on Nintendo’s 3DS, he called it “The coolest thing in any category of things that I’d ever seen at E3.”
So he loved the system, and Junction Point had a hit game with Disney Epic Mickey, so they had the fiction, but they didn’t have a pitch for the Nintendo 3DS. That’s where DreamRift comes in. This development studio in Orlando had a pitch, but no fiction to go with it. So like peanut butter and chocolate, these two companies went great together, and created Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion.
DreamRift had been creating the framework of a game that allowed the user to draw shapes on the bottom screen, and have them become a reality on the top screen. When married with the Epic Mickey storyline, this becomes a platformer where you pilot Mickey through different Disney areas, and as needed, you can paint or thin items into the levels in order to clear out enemies, reach hidden areas, or advance to the next stage.
And since Epic Mickey was all about highlighting forgotten Disney characters and creations throughout the Wasteland, Power of Illusion is an epic tribute to a forgotten video game: the 1990 16-bit Sega Genesis classic Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. Like that title, Power of Illusion follows the same plot, with the evil witch Mizrabel kidnapping Minnie and stealing her away from Mickey. The witch can take on different forms, such as the evil witch from Snow White, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, and others.
The game takes place inside one castle, although since it is a castle of illusion, it will take you into many other Disney locales. Director Peter Ong from DreamRift unveiled the newest wing of the castle in the game, which takes you into Agrabah where you meet Aladdin, who helps you out once you sketch him on the bottom screen. Other areas in the game will levels based on Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and plenty of others.
So how does it play? For Disney fans, this is the game you’ve been waiting for. While the other two Epic Mickey titles put you in front of forgotten Disney characters and other creations, Power of Illusion gives you the classic Disney characters. You’ll be platforming as Mickey on the top screen, while you paint and thin on the bottom screen.
Can’t reach a certain floor? Sketch a cannon and launch yourself up there. Find a wall blocking your way? Thin it out and keep moving. Just like the other titles, you’ll collect paint and thinner, along with e-tickets and health power-ups. But here you can also collect sketches that you can carry with you throughout each level and sketch as needed. Want to drop a Twhomp-like block on a villain? Sketch one and watch it appear.
You’ll also encounter Disney characters that you can rescue and send back to your Fortress, and they can give you random quests that allow you to build out their fortress rooms. For instance, Scrooge McDuck’s room starts out fairly bare, but as you perform tasks for him, it will become a full-fledged version of his office, complete with a bank vault on one wall and money strewn across the floor.
This was all much to the delight of Spector, who wanted a fortress-building element in “Every game I’ve designed for the past 15 years!” However, that feature kept getting cut. But Ong, who Spector calls a version of himself from 20 years ago, assured him that it wouldn’t be cut this time, and it represents a fairly sizable, yet completely optional, part of the game.
We spent a lot of time in Agrabah during a brief time with the game, which manages to hit both the nostalgic and cool neurons in your brain at the same time. It’s a fantastic platformer, and surprisingly more difficult than you would think. The painting and thinning works well, although it takes a lot of adjustment to look at both screens nearly simultaneously. You’ll want to save and utilize sketches as you come across them, as you can only carry one with you at the beginning of the game, with more slots unlocking later.
We played with the custom Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion 3DS case and stylus seen above, although these are only prototypes and haven’t been confirmed as final product just yet. Unfortunately, they weren’t showing the game on Nintendo’s new 3DS XL, which is a shame, because it would be perfect for a title like this, especially with the sketching and erasing on the bottom screen.
Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion is shaping up to be a must-have title for the 3DS fans of Disney, platforming, or the era of old-school, 16-bit video games. Although this one, thankfully, has many more bits.