Epic Mickey Hands-On Preview

Epic Mickey

I played a lot of great games at E3 2010, as evident from this link to GamerNode’s E3 excellence. There was a lot to see and a lot to do. Only one game, however, can be named my personal Game of the Show from E3 2010. 

That, my friends, is Epic Mickey.

I knew this would be a great adventure game. I knew that it would be ripe with Disney references, from Hidden Mickeys to countless homages to all things House of Mouse. I knew this was one of the games I was most looking forward to seeing. What I did see what far beyond any of my expectations. The combat scheme is marvelous (especially for fans of Super Mario Sunshine). The morality system is superb. The cutscenes are beautiful. Most importantly, though, the attention to Disney detail is ridiculous, and any Disney fans watching others play this will have just as much fun finding all of the hidden references as the person with the controller is having.

Controlling is simple: move with the nunchuk, aim with the Wii Remote, shoot paint (which restores objects) with B, and shoot paint thinner (which takes things away) with Z. Mickey can walk and jump on virtually everything in the world. If there’s a space where a platform should be, use the paint and the platform will reappear. Conversely, if there’s an obstacle blocking your path, there’s a good chance a helping of paint thinner will remove it. These aspects create some mind-bending puzzles for the player to solve, complementing the excellent platforming.

Paint flinging Mickey

The story of Epic Mickey is simple: the wizard Yensid creates a world in a bmodel for all of the forgotten and "rejected" Disney ideas. Mickey finds said model and spills paint and paint thinner in it, creating the Phantom Blot that terrorizes the world. Mickey eventually is forced into the world to try and fix it. Along the way, he meets a guide who acts as his Jiminy Cricket and leads him through the now-perilous world. In the E3 demo, we were taken to Ventureland, a world much like Adventureland in Disney World, inhabitbed by pirates and lined with trees and tiki masks. In this world alone I found some Disney references. The Swiss Family Robinson treehouse and the Tiki Room are two of the locales. Tiki Sam, the shopkeeper in the Tiki Room, is a rejected Goofy drawing. Mr. Smee, who Mickey talks to in one of the brilliantly animated cutscenes, has a different color palette than the Smee we know and love, hence his being in the bottle. This world is filled to the tip with Disney lore, which is something that will make very fan very happy.

The aforementioned Tiki Sam is a perfect example of the game’s excellent morality system. Now, it isn’t morality in a "good vs evil" sense; it’s more of a "nice vs jerk" feeling. Tiki Sam asks you to gather three tiki masks for him, all of which are located outside in Ventureland. Now, you could grab all three and give them to him, which would be the "nice" choice. After giving him one mask, however, you can go to the back of the store, thin the wall away with the paint thinner, sneak in the back, grab the first mask, and give it to Tiki Sam again. Your guide will tell you that you’re being a jerk, but Tiki Sam won’t know the difference. Now, if you try the trick again, Tiki Sam will catch on and get mighty angry, charging you more at his shop for the rest of the game. The same happens if you do the trick, then give him the other two masks, creating a total of four. I was told by the dev that there would be many more choices just like this, and that each one will affect which alliances are made and which side-quests open up later on.

Epic Mickey Cutscene

Gameplay iis a mix of platforming and puzzle-solving, with the morality system adding a RPG edge. The main areas of the Wasteland are large, open worlds, remiscient of Super Mario Galaxy, where Mickey can roam and explore. Skull Island, the other area I saw, was a barren island ripe with enemies and puzzles. I had to disable a machine changing pirates into robots, then raise the pirate ship by freeing the anchors on the island. It was here that I used one of the other items that I could use: a television. If you throw it, any enemies that are near it will immediately watch the cartoon playing on it, allowing you to sneak past. Once I did that, I got to the machine and was given a choice: use paint to reverse the machine and save the pirates, or use thinner to break it and doom the pirates to remain as robots. I chose the thinner approach, then freed the anchors by thinning those out as well.

What made the demo for me, though, was the bridge between Ventureland and Skull Island. The inhabitants of the Wasteland travel from place to place through projectors showing cartoons. Mickey has to do the same, and once he found the projector in Ventureland, he jumped in and found himself…in Steamboat Willie. I was amazed at the attention to the detail from the original Mickey cartoon. Everything was there in full scale, the boat itself, the cow hanging from the crane, Pete manning the vessel, etc. Before I jumped into the Skull Island portal, I saw a movie reel that I could have collected. When I asked the dev was that was for, he gave me the E3 answer: "I can’t discuss that yet." Collectible reels that allow you to watch the actual Disney cartoons, perhaps?!

Steamboat Willie

I did not expect to be saying what I am, but Epic Mickey wowed me more than any other game at the show. Perhaps it was the attention to Disney detail, or the deeper-than-expected morality system, or even the great platforming gameplay. Whatever it actually was, it leaves no doubt in my mind that Epic Mickey was my Game of E3 2010. Will it win the Jason Award for 2010 Game of the Year? We’ll find out this fall.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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