Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Hands-on Preview -- Move Over, Mickey!By Kevin Kelly - Posted Mar 23, 2012
Disney Interactive, along with Warren Spector and his Junction Point development studio recently announced that Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two would be coming out later this year. While that’s referring to the two characters you can play in the game, both Mickey Mouse and now Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, it also underscores the fact that two new consoles (as well as the Wii) will be hosting the game this time around as it appears on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.
This sequel will bring the title full circle in a strange way, as the original game was meant to be only on the Xbox and the PS3, but instead of trying to develop a Wii port, they dropped the other two consoles and focused solely on that console. We also learned that the game exists in the first place because Bob Iger, then-president and COO of Disney, wanted to get Oswald the Rabbit back to the studio because he was Walt’s first successful creation.
The only problem was that Universal, who distributed the original Oswald cartoon shorts, owned the rights. So in a completely bizarre deal, Disney swapped Al Michaels to NBC Universal, securing the rights to Oswald in the process. True story. But studio politics aside, we got our hands on the game recently, and checked out what sort of things you’ll be slinging around the Wasteland in the sequel.
For those of you who haven’t played Disney Epic Mickey, which is pretty much everyone who doesn’t own a Wii, the storyline had Mickey Mouse getting yanked into the Wasteland, a dark and disturbed version of Disneyland that is being taken over by a Shadow Blot which Mickey has accidentally created while trying to paint.
There, Mickey encountered Oswald who had been long jealous of Mickey’s success while he himself had been forgotten. Eventually, you team up with him to defeat the evil in the land while Mickey alternative “paints” or “thins” the world with the magical brush of Yen Sid. The painting and thinning were the core gameplay, and armed with a Wiimote, it was an extremely fun way to drop into the lost and forgotten realms of Disney.
Thankfully, Junction Point hasn’t messed with the core gameplay, but instead has delivered the same ink and thinner experience from the original title. But this time you’ll have Oswald by your side through most of the main storyline, and he can be controlled by AI, or a friend can sit down on the couch (not online, sadly) and co-op with you through drop-in, drop-out gameplay.
Oswald comes with his own set of abilities, including his remote control that can send out electrical jolts, and a “Boom-arm-erang” where he takes his own arm off and tosses it out boomerang-style. Oswald also has the ability to use his ears like helicopter blades and hover. If you partner up with Mickey, Oswald can jump in the air while Mickey reaches up and grabs hold of his legs, allowing you to traverse short distances while airborne.
There’s also a co-op “toss” available, so you can toss Oswald into the air, or he can do the same to you, allowing you to reach areas that might be out of your own jumping range. With multiple ways to solve puzzles throughout the game by using both Mickey’s and Oswald’s abilities, there’s a lot that the two of you can do together. Or if you’re soloing through the game, you’ll get help from Oswald automagically from time to time, and he’s just a delightful chum to have around, complete with his own unique animations. And you can “cross streams” with Oswald, crossing your paint or thinner with his electricity with overpowered results.
One of the biggest changes to the game is that the characters in the game will now speak in their own voices through fully voiced dialogue. Gone is the “bark text” where characters speak in JRPG or LEGO style by emoting without using words. Now everyone speaks, and character actor Frank Welker will be providing Oswald’s voice for the first time in the character's history. There will be more fun casting announcements later, but we do know that Cary Elwes will be providing the voice of Gremlin Gus (the Gremlins have a much larger role in this game). Hopefully they’ll stick Nolan North in there somewhere too.
Where there are voices in a Disney project, music usually follows. So Disney Epic Mickey 2 doesn’t just feature talking characters; it’s also a musical as well. In fact, Spector calls it the “first musical comedy game in the history of video games.” We were treated to an opening musical number that features the Mad Doctor from the first game professing the error of his ways, and taking Oswald with him to try and battle the new, strange, and powerful creatures invading Wasteland.
The most significant problem with the first game was the camera, and while Spector was quick to defend his team, he admitted that the day the original game shipped, the camera team started working on a new camera system for the sequel, and they’ve made over 1,000 changes to it for this title. Their goal was to create a camera that you don’t need to touch if you play through the main story path. That was the case in the demo, but as someone who plays a lot of games, it’s difficult not to move the camera, and we used it often to scan the world and take things in.
Junction Point is also adding persistence to the world, meaning that your choices will be persistent throughout the game. If you thin something out and erase it, when you come back it will still be gone. They found that if your choices didn’t matter, and that things reset once you left the level and came back, then your play style didn’t matter as much as it should. Now, everything is permanent until you undo or redo it.
Our demo with the game begins with Gremlin Gus constructing a machine that allows him to contact Mickey in the “real” world, and Mickey soon finds himself back in Wasteland through Yen Sid’s laboratory. Initially unarmed, he soon finds his magical brush atop a peak in a fantasy realm that features perilous drops off to either side; if you take a wrong step, the ground with rush up to meet you, and you’ll soon be back on your path.
With brush in hand, you’re shown a path that terminates in a half painted chest, which you can thin or paint. Thin it and you’ll get 100 E-Tickets, paint it and you get the collectible Epic Mickey pin. It’s up to you to choose, and you’ll be presented options like this throughout the game. Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll jump into a Doll Engineering Corridor, in a nod to Roald Dahl, the original creator of the Gremlins (and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among many other lovable children’s books). You’ll find multiple paths here, collectibles, and an enormous Rube Goldberg device that you’ll need to power up in order to advance.
From there, you’ll pass through into Ostown and encounter Oswald in person for the first time. There’s a fountain in the center of town spraying thinner everywhere and wreaking havoc, and it’s up to you and your rabbit buddy to fix things. Just keep in mind that there’s more than one way to do that, and that both Oswald and Mickey have unique abilities to work with while facing new enemies, including the mechanical Blotworx.
While our time with the game was short, we were easily able to see how gorgeous the game was, especially with the Wii version playing right behind it. You can’t deny that there is much more visual clarity in the Xbox/PS3 versions. But I found myself preferring the gameplay of the Wii version, which is how I played the first game. There’s just something naturally organic to painting or thinning with the Wiimote. PS3 owners will be in luck, because the game will support Move, but there isn’t a Kinect version for the Xbox.
Another perk with the Wii version: they’ll be including Oswald’s Remote, complete with a glowing red tip, and Mickey’s Brush with a glowing blue tip as nunchuck replacements in the Collector’s Editions of the games. Granted, it’s still a nunchuck, but they both look whimsical and fun, and Disney fans will definitely covet them.
In fact, Disney fans will have a lot to love throughout the game as it revisits new locations in the Wasteland, like their version of Frontierland. According to Spector, that’s the most changed location in the actual Disney parks, and they explore a lot of that history. There’s a lot more in store for the game as well, but we’ll have to wait to find out what that is.
One nifty perk at our preview event was a newly discovered Oswald cartoon, “Hungry Hobos,” which shows Oswald and a buddy terrorizing a chicken in search of a meal while hitching a ride on a train. This short was just discovered in December, and it hasn’t been restored yet. In fact, it hasn’t been seen widely since 1928. We’re hoping they get this thing cleaned up and into the game. It’s got that unmistakably early Disney vibe, and gives Oswald some of the attention he deserves.
While it’s still early, and Junction Point is targeting a fall release for the game, and Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two looks to be painting a masterpiece all over again.