Epic Mickey Review: It eventually lives up to its name

Infendo

If you stick with it, Epic Mickey’s flawed-but-amazing journey leads to a spectacular gauntlet of boss battles and platform challenges where all the pieces finally fall together for a satisfying and (big sigh of relief) epic finale.

If you’ve bought the game and find yourself stuck in the fetch-quest quagmire that plagues its midsection, keep going; Epic Mickey gets far better in its second half.

If you’re still on the fence about purchasing this crazy, kaleidoscopic fever dream of mixed-bag gameplay, read on. Because Epic Mickey is…unique.

I’ve never before changed my opinion of a game so often during a play-through. Epic Mickey is a jaw-droppingly beautiful game. It’s also—depending on which section you’re experiencing—fun, tedious, suspenseful, satisfying, aggravating, delightful, frustrating, too easy, too difficult, just right, over-explained, underexplained, ingenious, stupid, surprising, repetitious, puzzling, rewarding and maddening. Thankfully, throughout it all, the game never stops delivering charm, style, top-notch animation and a terrific story.

Most casual purchasers probably won’t notice Epic Mickey’s biggest problem: Its strangely-paced, uneven gameplay. If you’re an Infendo regular, however, the odds are good that you’ve played Super Mario Galaxy 2 and you know what a perfect game feels like. Epic Mickey is not a perfect game. It’s more like an amazing roller coaster—But one where you often have to get out and push the train through a puddle of molasses to reach the next batch of thrills. If you took Mario and his water-spray ability from Super Mario Sunshine, dropped him into Donkey Kong 64, reskinned it with a Disney theme and then Tim Burton-ized the entire project, you’d be pretty close to recreating this title.

Epic Mickey, however, brings its own strengths to the equation. First: It looks flat-out amazing, creating the illusion of a living, breathing painted illustration. Second: It spins a surprisingly witty, touching, well-told tale. Third, the game presents you with choices that effect how the game unfolds, all revolving around whether you prefer to destroy things with thinner or rebuild and redeem with paint. Some choices cause minor effects (increasing the storage of your paint or thinner tanks) while others effect which characters assist you and which battles you have to fight along the way. You’ll face many conflicting goals: Helping one character often angers another. Succeeding at some quests will automatically give you a “Fail” at other quests. And, since the game autosaves with no file copying option, once you’ve made a choice, you’re stuck with it.

More strengths? Epic Mickey delivers superb boss battles, most with two solutions involving completely different play mechanics—Again, the paint and thinner theme at work.

There are outstanding chapters in Epic Mickey: The whole Skull Island/Jolly Roger sequence represents the game at top form. Here, you’re running along beaches, solving paint/thinner puzzles and fighting monsters under a roiling sky of oilpaint stormclouds. The whole area is well-paced and fun, with a sense of urgency and atmosphere that works perfectly. The fact that you can either destroy or redeem the robotic pirates adds an extra level of involvement.

It’s a pity the entire game doesn’t flow quite so well.

Epic Mickey suffers from a lack of momentum. Each great action sequence usually leads to a ho-hum interlude of fetch quests or uninspired puzzle solving. Fixing machinery is—disappointingly—a major theme in the game’s first half. It certainly fits the plot: Mickey screwed up Wasteland and the mechanical-genius Gremlins can’t handle paint or thinner. I get it, but it’s a recurring element that wears out its welcome very quickly.

And that leads us to one final, deciding element that holds this title together: Disney trivia. It’s an important factor to consider, because spotting all the great little details the game designers fit into Wasteland is the element that can keep you interested and entertained—or at least sane—through the game’s frustrating sequences of fetch quests and backtracking.

How big a Disney fan are you? If you already knew who Oswald was…If you know about the upcoming Magic Kingdom movie…If you know which Disneyland ride contains Winky, Satan and Cyril T. Proudbottom…buy this game. You’ll love it enough to forgive the awful camera and the stupid, stupid, stupid flower quest.

If you like Disney classics and theme parks, but aren’t a full-fledged frothing Disney Geek, you might still enjoy Epic Mickey’s sights, humor and atmosphere. Just be aware that you’re in for a somewhat bumpy ride.

If you’re not a fan but enjoy stunning visuals and new gameplay ideas, give it a rent. Watch the final chapters on Youtube.

I enjoyed Epic Mickey…most of the time. I loved all the terrific side-scrolling portal levels (especially the gauntlet of three Oswald Cartoons). Visually, it’s my favorite game of all time. I liked the well-animated goons. I loved the way the black-and-white citizens of Wasteland talk as if their voices are coming off of ancient, scratchy film tracks. And I really, really liked the fact that, when you talk to Madame Leota’s head in the crystal ball, you can faintly hear the movie projector in the background.

I did not, however, enjoy finding out that my stay in Wasteland would involve a lot of pipe repair, gear fixing and errand-running. It’s like going to Disneyland, finding Space Mountain broken and being forced to paint the trash cans.

Though I doubt it’ll happen on Wii, I’ll be first in line for any sequel. If a second game can iron out the rough spots while keeping the eye-popping style and attention to detail…We could get one of the best games of all time. The potential is there. And Oswald deserves his own game.

If you’re playing Epic Mickey or have finished it, please weigh in with your thoughts: I’m sure opinions on this title will cover a very broad spectrum.