Mickey Mouse has been in some fantastic games, the most recent of which I’ve loved being the Kingdom Hearts series. While not the sword-wielding RPG that Hearts is, Epic Mickey is just as stylistic, just as unique, and just as much fun.. if not more.
When Warren Spector proudly walked on to the Nintendo stage to showcase Epic Mickey for the first time, the hairs on my arms stood on end. I was about to see the holy grail of gaming, so to speak. As the demo rolled on, the moody style of the concept art came alive, showing Mickey in a world that did not want him there, yet needs him to lead the residents to salvation. Add in exploding colors, foreboding situations, and a dark storyline of redemption and rebuilding, this serious Mickey truly seems “epic.”
Within the Disney booth, the demo stations for Mickey were plentiful, encircling a stage with a live Impressionistic artist creating paintings on the fly. On the floor was projected the droopy ears logo of the game, allowing people to kick the virtual “paint” in any direction they please. What better way to engage the gamers in an “art game” than to put us in a living art gallery.
Epic Mickey takes place among several worlds with a central hub (Ventureland) linking them all. Like Kingdom Hearts, each world has a different theme, but the mood is dreary in each. Not quite as pretty as either of the Mario Galaxy games, but among the best visuals When traveling between worlds, oftentimes Mickey will engage in side-scrolling stages that mimic great Disney films. In the stage that was playable, Mickey traversed across Steamboat Willy’s infamous black & white world, bouncing off of cows and crates across boats. Did we mention that 2-D platformers are back? Because that seemed like the gameplay mechanic du jour at E3 this year.
But the main draw for Mickey isn’t the highly stylized setting that the games takes place in. Built around a painting mechanic that features guns of paint and paint thinner, Mickey can dynamically affect the world around him. The guns are simple to use: I was able to point the reticule at the location I wanted to shoot the thinner on, which disintegrated the rocks and left a ghostly outline of their former selves. It felt very natural, much like aiming a firehose: move with the analog stick, fire and aim with the WiiMote.
I found myself tearing down the rocky cliffs on top of a dormant volcano, replacing the craggy rock with fertile, lush shrubbery and trees. In Ventureland I would delete buildings, sometimes rebuilding them and sometimes leaving them blank as reminders of where I’d already visited. Therein lies the deep, almost moral issue that Spector designed into the game. Do I leave the characters alone, content in their moody universe misery? Or do I “delete” them and “repaint” them in a better light, perhaps with a happier tune to whistle? It was hard to say either way with the demo being as short as it was (two stages).
Hopefully when it releases this Fall, Epic Mickey will reveal further of its mysteries and its focus on moral reconciliation. “Serious” Mickey is the one that we’ve been missing, and the one that we’re awaiting with open arms.