It isn't often that a game based on a children's cartoon grabs much attention. Sure, there are superhero games aplenty, but superheroes and comic books are manly and cool. Children's cartoons and games based on the likes of them are often considered a serious faux-pas in the Super !337 League of Elitist Gamers (tm). Ironically, these gamers are likely foaming at the mouth for a glimpse of the newest game featuring one of the world's oldest and most beloved cartoon characters.
Sing it with me! M-i-c...K-e-y...
He's here and he's reinvented and it's badass to look at. From the mind of the legendary Warren Spector, Disney presents Epic Mickey for Nintendo Wii.
This new game places the well-known rodent in a world called The Wasteland, a place for rejected and cast off Disney characters. In Wasteland, Mickey wields a paintbrush that has the ability to add or remove objects, people and barriers, through the use of paint and paint thinner. This interesting new dynamic means that the player doesn't have to be nice to get what they want. Theoretically, they could just erase the problem and move on. Disney was careful to mention, however, that the intent was not to choose to be good or evil, but instead that the choices made would have a consequence on the rest of the game, no matter what they are. It was a curious step that flows with the natural feel of the title.
If the game sounds dark for a children's cartoon, it's because it certainly carries an edge of noir. This isn't the Mickey you remember from your childhood. There is an abundance of humour there, and it is light-hearted enough for children to play, but it is a much more intense game than previously expected.
In the demo I saw, Mickey had to help Smee (from Peter Pan) find the parts for a ship to save his pirate friends from being turned into robots. To find the parts you had to find another guy who wouldn't help you get the parts until you helped him seduce a cow (Henrietta the cow, no less). Of course, to buy the flowers to romance the cow, you had to trade with Tiki Sam, and Tiki Sam wanted you to find tiki masks hidden all over the world first. Sigh. It's never simple, is it?
This sort of quest is found on one of three types of maps in the game. These quests are completed by roaming the world like in an RPG, talking to various characters and generally exploring the map.
To move between worlds, the player jumps into a movie screen and is suddenly transported back into an original Mickey cartoon turned side-scroller. I saw Steamboat Willie in original black and white glory (alright, it had SOME spot color) and it was perfectly executed, right down to the cows.
The third is similar to the quest world but contains the main missions. There you'll find bad guys and other dudes to talk to.
Going deeper into the use of the paint and thinner, Mickey can also use them in battle. To kill an enemy, the player can simply douse them in thinner. Or, they can use paint to turn them into Mickey's friend and have him help out in destroying the other baddies. "Thinning" can also reveal hidden areas and items, while painting can lead you to other secret places.
The game is very easy on the eyes as well. With intensely dark colors, rich hues and some incredibly well done cutscenes, it's no slouch visually. My only problem is that the characters speak in gibberish with subtitles. Not only is it not very kid friendly, but with a game that has so much going for it, it's a little disappointing to not have some sort of voice acting.
Epic Mickey is due this holiday season on Nintendo Wii.