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First Impressions: Disney Epic Mickey

Posted by James Newton

How's the rodent romp shaping up?

Disney Epic Mickey was a big hit at E3 2010, atoning for its earlier disappointing screenshots with a more refined graphical style and a gameplay system described as "playstyle matters" by Warren Spector. We got the chance to give the rodent a run-out at a recent event, and came away with admittedly mixed feelings.

Taking on one of the 3D action-adventure stages called Skull Island, Mickey uses his paintbrush and the power of paint and thinner to achieve several goals. The primary objective is to float the pirate ships by locating their anchors and using thinner to make them disappear, but there are other secondary objectives that let you choose how you tackle the level. For example, the pirates themselves can be killed with thinner or recruited with paint: once on your team, they attack other enemies, hopefully recruiting them to your side too.

It's not all direct confrontation, however: pressing – drops a TV set playing a cartoon that distracts your opponents, allowing you to sneak by. The robots on Skull Island hate television, however, so will slice open the set with their saws, short-circuiting themselves in the process and inadvertently giving you the upper hand. Sometimes it's fun to recruit an enemy, set down a sketch and see how the action plays out, rather than throwing yourself into the mix.

If you're still bloodthirsty and want to take down all the enemies at once, there are several machines within the level that can be filled with paint or thinner to either restore or destroy the pirates accordingly; you must choose to fill all the machines with the same liquid or nothing happens, and this feeds into the "playstyle matters" system. As you use paint or thinner consistently, a bar fills up below your health; at each of three levels it grants you a guardian that automatically attacks enemies to either recruit or destroy them, depending on which liquid you use more often. Exercising the opposite option will slowly deplete the bar, so playing consistently is important.

Although the entire landscape isn't affected by paint and thinner, there were a dozen or more points that could be changed, from machines to walls and bridges as well as enemies. Generally the items that stand out are the ones that can be changed: imagine in the cartoons where animated elements look slightly different than the backgrounds and you'll get the idea.

The Steamboat Willie level was also playable though very short, clocking in at only a minute or two of gameplay. Graphically it looks very close to the original cartoon and makes good use of some smaller details, but we certainly hope these levels are made longer and more challenging in the final game.

In terms of handling, Disney Epic Mickey feels smooth and responsive, with a Remote swing to attack and other actions mapped to buttons, and the camera was rarely an issue, if at all. On the whole the game was graphically impressive, with good liquid effects and the sight of huge rocks disappearing and reappearing when painted or thinned was a sight to behold.

It's difficult to gauge the long-term appeal of Disney Epic Mickey from such a short hands-on session, however. On the surface it's a pretty straightforward 3D adventure, so we'll have to wait to see how much the "playstyle matters" approach impacts gameplay down the road. The game's success depends on this ambitious system: without it, this could have been a rather bland outing for Mickey. The platforming elements we played were hardly Mario-calibre, and some of the lengthy dialogue sections didn't come across well in the environment set up for us to play, where there's always something else to play and long cutscenes can kill some of your enthusiasm for a game.

Although not overwhelmingly stunned by the game, we certainly came away wanting to spend more time with it to find out how deep the gameplay really is, and whether the platforming challenge is going to be adequate for the more experienced gamers who will no doubt want to pick this one up when it's released later on this year.

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User Comments (34)



bro2dragons said:

i've got similarly mixed feelings... when it was first announced and everybody was hyping it... i had less than zero interest. but the longer it hangs around in the back of my mind, the more i can entertain the idea of this being a solid game. guess i'll just have to wait and see a few months longer.



FonistofCruxis said:

I hope this turns out too be a good game, my interest in it keeps going up and down at the moment.



Corbs said:

I too didn't find it as "epic" as the name would suggest. But given the small amount of time on the game, I'll hold final judgement until I've had a chance to sit down with it and explore the gameplay mechanics a bit more.



James said:

It could be a real slow-burner: it wasn't well-suited to this kind of environment at all, because you really want to get a chance to sit down and see how your actions change the game in subtle ways. I still hold out hope for it though but that's because I'm an eternal optimist (see: Sonic series.)



bro2dragons said:

does the title bother anyone else? idk... epic has become a sort of all-purpose catch-word over the past couple years, and it's grown to irk me. i'm pumped for Kirby's Epic Yarn (it looks absolutely brilliant)... but that title annoys me, too. hopefully it stops at those two titles before it becomes a trend.



Corbs said:

I'm not a big fan of the word "epic" but my thought is, if you're going to carry the name, you'd better be able to back it up.



childofacid said:

I think its you game fanatics who are making too much of the tittle. Did you forget what the word "epic" by definition means? Google it.



Corbs said:

ep·ic   [ep-ik]
–adjective Also, ep·i·cal.
1. noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style: Homer's Iliad is an epic poem.
2. resembling or suggesting such poetry: an epic novel on the founding of the country.
3. heroic; majestic; impressively great: the epic events of the war.
4. of unusually great size or extent: a crime wave of epic proportions.

Yep, it means just what I thought it did. I was afraid they'd gone and changed the definition on me.



Radixxs said:

I'm not impressed. This game will have to get pretty great reviews for me to consider buying it. To me, it looks like a mediocre 3D platformer from the PSone era with a little paint gimmick and a star mascot to boost sales.



odd69 said:

I have a feeling this is will flop, besides, Ive got my eye on many other games. If it gets a strong enough recommendation i might give it a go.



madgear said:

I don't know why the graphics in the game arn't done in the same style as the cutscenes (first two screenshots). That style suits it so much better and the whole game should have that look - the 3D sections just look too dated to me, a bit like something from the PS2.



SuperMarioFan96 said:

I really don't know what to think of this game. It doesn't look like anything special (it looks good, at the very least, but nothing fantastic), and yet it seems like every gaming site out there (except NL, lol) have hyped this up immensely and talked about how awesome it will be. So I guess we'll just wait and see.



JamieO said:

I'm really optimistic about this one too. Mickey has such a solid history in gaming with the Mega Drive's superb Castle of Illusion and the Steamboat Willie level also featuring in SNES Mickey Mania that there is a gaming heritage for Mr Spector to uphold, which extends beyond an iconic cartoon character.



Dazza said:

Now I really wasn't so sure about this one. It certainly didn't have any of the creative charm of the Tim Burton style concept art we saw all that time ago. The graphics were impressive, but felt too dark too me... kinda like Mushroom Men but not in a good way.

The Steamboat Willie level was beautiful to look at, but lacked the pixel perfect platform jumps which you might have expected. There was no sense of challenge at all really other than to collect the items. The level was all over in almost a minute. I must admit I expected more from this.

I do agree with James, it's impossible to tell what the long term appeal would be after only having a 30 min session. I think it could go either way honestly. If it does turn out to be genius, then it will be a slow burner. You'd have to be the biggest Disney fan to be overwhelmed by this from the get-go in my opinion.



Corbs said:

Now I'd love to see Tim Burton do an original 3D platformer from scratch. I'd pay money for that one!



childofacid said:

Ok now that Corbie has posted the definition of "Epic" now go to Urban Dictionary and look it up.



JebbyDeringer said:

It will flop whether it's a good game or not. I mean how many people would think a Mickey Game would be awesome? Word of mouth won't sell the game alone. I'm starting to lose interest but have some hope.



Sylverstone said:

I'm really on the fence with this. It could be a resounding success or a very big flop.

Spector's rolling the dice on this.



TheBaconator said:

It is very hard for me to enjoy any sort of 3D platformers now without critizing them or saying "Why can't this game do that, Super Mario Galaxy 2 did it," so I am a little worried about my experience with this game.



WaveGhoul said:

Honestly, if anything I'm loving the Painting/ect mechanics, Art direction and stuff like the retro Disney Steamboat Willie stage. But that said, platforming wise everything looks incredibly generic....3D gameplay-wise it looks to have nothing on Super Mario Galaxy 2, and 2D-wise based on that Steamboat Willy stage it looks like it plays alittle sloppy, bare bones, too easy, and ohhh sooo generic. The platforming and creativity overall looks to have nothing on what Nintendo is capable of.

Hopefully this turns out great, because I'd love to get that Epic Mickey Brush Nunchuck and that awesome Mickey Mouse charging station



Moco_Loco said:

I think a lot of the game critics are into this both because of Spector and because of the idea of a game that can change according to the decisions you make. That's the direction many core games on the PC and PS360 have been going in.

Nintendo fans, however, are looking for actual gameplay for their entertainment. Nintendo delivers more immediately fun gaming experiences rather than trying to imitate real-life morality in videogame form.



BulbasaurusRex said:

I won't be getting this, because I hate the style of Spector's games. I think they give the players too much freedom. I'm fine with branching paths, but, with the exception of some simulator games, I feel that there needs to be a limit on it. I don't like nearly infinite branches, nor too many branches or a branch set-up that's hard to keep track of how to experience every part of the game. "Shadow the Hedgehog" is about the maximum with which I'm willing to put up. I especially hate morality systems, as I don't want to have to think too much on how I play in order to "balance" myself or for characters to treat me differently.



Fuzzy said:

It looks like it'll be a cool game to play through for a bit when it gets cheaper.



Tate24 said:

I quite like idea of erasing things or bringing them back to life with thinner. Am sure it will be good game. But apart from cool painting thing cant really see anything that hasnt been done before?




I've seen the gameplay trailer(s) and it looks like a " good" wii crash bandicoot type game with a special mechanic (the erase and paint thingy) - with particularly good visuals.The Crash B games on the Wii have been very generic but a fairly decent 3D platform play so that's not a bad thing I s'pose. May wait for the review but it isn't top of my list really as there are many e3 2009/2010 games ahead of this one. Its on my list of considerations mind.



lilboyblue said:

WE need some color. WE all know this wont be better than SMG2 but It be good. I think the game need lots of work in the game play department because its atmosphere seem to be all it has. If you to add paint elements as the game play look to Okami for inspiration. the games is coming out September the need to delay the game lest the slaughtered.



Punny said:

At least it isn't Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I hope this game is polished enough to get me to purchase it...

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