One of my favourite video games for the Wii is Epic Mickey, which is a fantastic revival of forgotten Disney characters mingled with brilliant story telling and hours of interactive fun. So when I got Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for Christmas, I was really looking forward to picking up where I left off. Like most video game sequels, Epic Mickey 2 comes with several new features, the most significant being co-op mode for two-player gaming. As well as the Wii, Epic Mickey 2 is also available on the Wii U, Xbox, and Playstation 3. So how does it live up to its predecessor?
In the first instalment, the story starts off with Mickey accidentally creating a monstrous Shadow Blot that destroys Wasteland, the home of forgotten Disney characters. The Mad Doctor teams up with the Shadow Blot to steal Mickey's heart so that he can escape Wasteland.
Mickey comes to fix the mess he has made, but Oswald, Wasteland's hero, is resentful. Eventually they make up, become friends and save the day.
Now, in the sequel, Wasteland is in trouble again. The Mad Doctor has seemingly turned over a new leaf, but earthquakes are destroying Wasteland. It is up to Mickey and Oswald to work together and yet again set thing right.
The amount of gameplay in Epic Mickey 2 is astounding. Just like the previous game, there is not only the main storyline, but lots of side quests to keep you busy. These side quests are handed out to you by NPCs (non-playable characters), and range from fixing clock towers to collecting spirits & costumes (these give you extra abilities), and going on a scavenger hunt and taking pictures of hidden Mickeys and Oswalds.
These side quests are not essential for finishing the game, but you are rewarded accolades such as pins or badges for completing them. My only gripe about the side quests is that it is impossible to achieve 100% and get all the pins. The reason for this is that Mickey often has a choice. It is a bit like Dungeons & Dragons or a 'make your own story' in that there is not just one path to take in order to achieve goals.
For the most part, this is brilliant because it adds so much more depth to the game; it also makes the re-playability value much higher as you can try doing things differently each time, and see the out come. On the downside, it means hardcore gamers, who are obsessed with getting all the collectibles, will always end up short of the mark. For example, with the challenge 'Wasteland Limited', there are four clock towers/train stations to fix. Now, you could fix them, and get your four pins, but that means that you won't get one of the other rewards at the end of the game. It is an either or scenario.
The graphics are beautiful and extremely detailed. Just take the time to look at the background scenery, and you will see the level of thought that went into making the world feel so real. There are detailed portraits on the castle walls, marks on the pavement, and other things that do not affect gameplay, but enrich the experience so much.
The graphics are a combination of 3D and 2D. Most of the time you will be in a stunning 3D environment with immense depth, but when you travel through the projector screens between levels, things go old school as you return to the days of 2D side scrolling. Also, during the cut scenes, you will get the privilege of seeing animated concept art sketches.
Here is the game's downfall. I don't know what the controls are like on other consoles, but for the Wii, they are a pain. To aim paint or thinner at an item, you point the wii remote at the screen and shoot, but there have been a number of times when Mickey or Oswald shoot in completely the wrong direction. Part of this is to do with the camera, which is extremely irritating. It will often point in awkward angles so you can't see where you are going, or suddenly do a close-up under Mickey's nose if you turn around to retrace your steps. You can direct the camera with the control pad, but this can be rather confusing when at the same time, you are point your remote at the television to point at a target. I think it is a case of more is less. As games become more sophisticated, and you are able to do a multiple range of things, it also makes the controls more complicated.
The first time I played Epic Mickey 2 was in co-op mode with my dad. The first mission starts off in one-player mode, with you as Mickey, but then when he and Oswald meet, player two can enter co-op mode by pressing '1' on the remote. Apart from this first section both Mickey and Oswald are equally as important in the roles that they play, which means player two does not have to worry about being side-lined as the 'assistance' character who only has something to do on the odd occasion. Both characters are integral to completing tasks.
Co-op mode, however, is not all it is cracked up to be. The vertical split screen is very distracting, and with only half a screen to see what you are doing, completing tasks is a pain. It's like trying to watch a TV programme on an old box set, when the show is filmed in widescreen. Half the picture is cut off so you can't see what's going on.
One player mode is much more satisfying, but by no means perfect. I thought that I would be able to switch between Mickey and Oswald, but you can't. If you are in one-player mode, Oswald is played by the computer, which means half the tasks you need to do are not actually performed by you, but done automatically. Most the time. You might find that Oswald has a stubborn streak and does not always do what you want him to do. In other words 'the computer says "no"'.
Another thing I feel I should mention is that when I first played the game, I got stuck at one particular point. At first I just thought I was not doing something that needed to be done, but after checking a walkthrough to see what I was doing wrong, I discovered that it was a bug in the game. A platform was mean to come down, but it did not. I had to start the game again from the beginning (fortunately I had not got very far). This seemed to solve the problem, because when I got to that stage again, the platform came down. I don't know what went wrong, but there was obviously some kind of hiccough.
In conclusion, despite my nitpicks, I do think Epic Mickey 2 is a wonderful game, and I thoroughly enjoy playing it. However, it is not as good as the original and I think the co-op mode is a step backwards rather than an improvement.