Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two

Following the success of Epic Mickey, a sequel was developed for release in 2012 called Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, allowing for a second player to join in and control Oswald while the other controls Mickey. The game was released alongside a 3DS companion game titled Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, with a gameplay style closer to the Castle of Illusion series of games. After getting to play Epic Mickey 2 for myself, I found it overall enjoyable, though not without flaws.

Sometime following the events of Epic Mickey, everything is going well in Wasteland until a series of earthquakes cause considerable damage. The Mad Doctor, who claims to have been reformed, uses a horde of Beetleworx to help clean up the mess, which convinces Oswald that he may have actually changed. Distrusting the Mad Doctor, Oswald’s wife Ortensia requires the assistance of Gremlin Gus to contact Mickey for help on sorting things out.

The story, penned by comics legend Marv Wolfman, is pretty straight-forward and can keep you invested. The main driving force of the story, finding out and stopping the cause of the earthquakes, is a bit downplayed compared to the original, however this isn’t inherently bad. Regardless, I did find the big twist on who the villain is to be a tad predictable.

Gameplay is similar to that of the original game, though with some differences. Oswald joins the party with the ability to use electricity via a remote he carries with him. The remote is able to interact with certain objects to accomplish tasks Mickey could not, such as activating or shorting out mechanisms and even stunning the Blotworx enemies throughout each level. This, combined with fewer enemies being present at a time, can make levels significantly easier to get through, especially since Oswald can also revive Mickey with the remote if he’s about to die. Oswald is controlled by the AI if a second player is not in control, meaning he will perform certain actions automatically, though certain things (ex. secret actions, going through projectors) are better off performed in 2-player.

There are also fountains that can momentarily make you either invisible or
immune to thinner depending on whether you've painted or thinned nearby objects.

Sketches make a return, including a new Fairy Sketch that can allow the player to levitate an object temporarily while pushing it with paint and thinner. They also come with an improvement in how they operate, in that unlocking a Sketch once allows for infinite uses, albeit with a cooldown once it wears off before you can use it again. However, the Sketches are almost never required outside of the first time they are introduced, although the Fairy Sketch can really come in handy sometimes.

Another improvement is the major graphical upgrade. The visuals overall look more polished than they did in the previous game, making them much more presentable and better capturing the “toon” aspect of the series.

Unlike the previous game, this one features full-on voice acting, which I found to be a welcome change to allow for increased character interaction and not forcing the player to rely on quick subtitles. It is here that we also finally get to hear what many characters sound like, including Oswald, Ortensia and the Mad Doctor among others, such as the Gremlins. The Mad Doctor, voiced here by Jim Meskimen, primarily speaks in song, something pulled off well by Meskimen’s singing talent. Oswald however, voiced again by Frank Welker, for whatever reason sounds a bit like Fred Jones from Scooby-Doo! (a character Welker has voiced from the get-go); and Gremlin Gus, despite being voiced by Cary Elwes, can get annoying after a while since he will not shut up.

What Oswald the Lucky Rabbit sounds like.

Much like in the first Epic Mickey, there’s two different endings that can be achieved, the exact combination of which depends on certain actions you take during the game (because of the way I was playing, I missed some sidequests). Either way, the game teases a third at the end that will sadly never come to pass, following the closure of developer Junction Point (not to mention the unrelated shutdown of Disney Interactive) after Epic Mickey 2 underperformed.

Despite this unresolved tease and other issues, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is an overall enjoyable game. While not having the same sort of stakes as the first, the story is pretty engaging with its world-building and the gameplay is something of an improvement over the original concept. Though you cannot play as Oswald unless you are player 2, it’s interesting that he’s even playable at all. I would recommend this game to fans of the original Epic Mickey, at least to give it a shot, especially given the short-lived nature of the franchise.

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