The Epic Mickey games are a bit strange. On one hand, they offer perfectly enjoyable platform adventure games starring the world’s most famous rodent, and are entirely ‘on message’ for family-friendly Disney. On the other, they’re rooted in the kind of arcane cinematic minutiae that only animation historians are likely to latch onto.
Viewed from the latter perspective, there’s a lot to like in this sequel – the return of the obscure Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as Mickey’s partner (an early creation of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks); the Gremlins, denied their own movie in the 1940s, serving as guides; even the hundreds of collectibles to be uncovered relate in some way to the rich and, in some cases, abandoned heritage of Disney’s works. Every few minutes will reveal some welcome new facet or curiosity from the vaults.
Unfortunately, all too often the game’s charms are overshadowed by sheer frustration. Getting Oswald to actually do anything, be it activating switches with his remote control or simply following Mickey around, is a chore. Mickey’s own main ability, using paint or thinner to restore or erase the Wasteland setting, is infuratingly imprecise. Either the Vita’s shoulder buttons or touchscreen can be used to spray your goop of choice around the world, but aiming is tricky at best and actually spotting the translucent objects to re-paint is near-impossible. Although combat is never a major element, any altercation is also bewildering – each enemy type requiring different tactics to defeat which are never clear, meaning much trial and error awaits. Meanwhile, you’re being loaded up with so many sub-quests and objectives from the inhabitants you’ll be chatting to that it’s a challenge just to remember what you’re meant to be doing to progress the (largely forgettable) story along. Other Vita-specific features, such as a photo-mode that takes advantage of motion sensitivity, are few and far between – at best ignorable, at worst an afterthought.
With this port coming months behind its console release and the exasperating controls, this not-so-epic outing is hard to recommend to anyone but committed fans of the Disney empire. A real shame too, as it may prove poor Oswald’s last appearance for quite some time.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen