I get the impression that this game was preceded by some pretty high expectations from certain people, most notably the devout followers of games with in-depth stories or characters, like Mass Effect, Zelda, Ratchet & Clank and Fable.
And why wouldn’t they be interested? Assuming that you can stomach Mickey Mouse and a whole entourage of forgotten Disney characters, the game sounds great on paper – but does it measure up to the claims of the developers? Well… I’d like to say yes, but the game falls short for a number of reasons.
Maybe it’s just me, but the premise is unclear at the start. It begins with Mickey sneaking into a wizard’s art studio and trying to add his own touches to a painting the wizard was working on. Why, exactly? Anyway, he accidentally pours a bottle of thinner on the painting and destroys some of it. Soon afterwards he finds himself pulled into the painting, which turns out to be a magical haven for forgotten cartoon characters. Armed with a magic paintbrush that lets him spray things with either paint or thinners to fix them or destroy them respectively, he sets out into the partially destroyed fantasy world to find out what’s going on.
After going through one of the most intrusive tutorial sections in recent gaming, Mickey will finally be free to pursue his goal… sort of. Initially, it seems to be a pretty straightforward case of reaching the exit to each themed area. There are some distractions along the way, like fighting enemies, looking for hidden items and possibly rescuing Gremlins who’ll make things easier (but aren’t essential). Eventually, Mickey will reach a hub-like stage where you’ll encounter most of Disney’s classic characters, all of whom have a quest or two they’ll need accomplished.
Unfortunately, this is where things start to go a little pear-shaped. The quests for most of the characters are seldom anything more than brainless fetch quests, or go here-paint-this, go-there-thin-that quests. Some of the puzzles that require Mickey to use paint and thinner intelligently are quite fun, but the majority of them are pretty easy to figure out just by looking at them. Also, the game’s “moral” system is a bit of a joke. No matter how evil I tried to be, all I managed to do was mildly annoy the other characters. It does influence the route through the game to some extent and the overall ending, but it really doesn’t feel like you’re making all that much difference.
On the plus side, the game is immaculately presented with excellent graphics, music and animation, and the controls are pretty responsive, apart from an outdated and ill-behaved camera system. There are some cool collectibles, including classic Mickey video clips and concept art, and the game is long enough – doubly so if you plan to do both a “good” and “evil” play-through. If you’re looking for an action adventure game for the Wii, Epic Mickey might fit the bill, as long as you don’t expect anything life-changing.