Published Dec 07, 2010"Epic" and "Mickey" aren't two words often seen together. Maybe Donald's DuckTales nephews had some wild adventures, but Disney's mouse mascot has been pretty blah since basically Fantasia, which is why that 1940 film inspired Warren Spector's unlikely revival, as another Mickey mishap in the home of the sorcerer he once apprenticed for creates terrible consequences.
The presence of Spector, the game designer behind such cyberpunk classics as System Shock and Deus Ex, immediately separates this from past Disney games. Epic Mickey isn't as dark as his past work, but it's far deeper than one might expect from Mickey or a non-Nintendo Wii game, for that matter. It's a nostalgia-soaked love letter to Disney's storied past that aims to give the Mouse House back some cred in an animation era dominated critically by Pixar and Studio Ghibli.
The plot involves a mischievous Mickey accidentally laying waste to the Wasteland, an animated world populated by Disney's detritus, where Oswald the Lucky Rabbit ― a mascot whom Walt lost in a contract dispute a year before creating his replacement (Mickey) ― leads a host of obscure, scrapped Disney characters. Needless to say, they're pretty pissed.
Using a morality-style control scheme based upon paint and paint thinner that can create and destroy parts of the environments, Mickey must navigate Disney Land-inspired levels ― Main Street becomes Mean Street and Matterhorn becomes Mickey Junk Mountain, amusingly built from tossed away Disney merchandise. These levels are separated by 2D side-scrolling interstitials based on classic cartoons like Steamboat Willie, while the entire game is filled with in-jokes, Easter eggs and animated allusions.
It's a bold choice to take the world's most famous cartoon character, fill his game with forgotten Disney lore and make him essentially, if unintentionally, the villain. Spector's ambition is laudable, even if he occasionally overreaches. The Wii graphics can't produce the crisp look of a cartoon, no matter how fully realized the game design is, and the camera is inexcusably poor for a Mario-style platformer.
But even though the game could have used a couple more coats of paint, it's still thought provoking, risk taking and a gift for retro-animation fans the small world over. (Disney/Junction Point Studios)