Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two should, on paper, be an excellent game. The original Wii-exclusive title showed a great deal of promise but flawed execution, so optimistic logic suggested that the sequel would resolve those issues and build on the strengths found in that début, making some Disney fans very happy. Not only does Epic Mickey 2 fail to build on its predecessor, but it takes the series backward, while this Wii U port is the epitome of sloppy and rushed work.
We've already played through this title on Wii, so our Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Wii review will also have a lot of relevant detail as, ultimately, these are both the same game. This new entry aims to introduce mandatory co-op into the mix while bringing musical moments to the storytelling. While the plot may be simple and predictable — this is a game suitable for children, let's not forget — the way it's told is often exceptional. A mixture of CGI, game-engine and gorgeously animated cutscenes are fully voice-acted and positively dripping with charm, with these moments providing the primary motivation to continue. Throw in excellent music and, at times, this title is an audio-visual treat.
That brings us to one clear advantage that Wii U has over its smaller predecessor, with its HD output giving us crisper, more defined colours and images that make a notable difference to gameplay. At times the muddy visuals on Wii — though they are rather decent in their own context — made some particularly poorly designed areas hard to figure out, and we even stumbled onto some optional objectives while playing on the new system that we'd missed on Wii, such as a blurry floor area that actually turned out to be a lift. With that said, the resolution is the only improvement here; while that may sound like a strange and obvious thing to say, it's clear that aside from upscaling assets little else has been done to reflect the greater available resources. At times there's a tiny bit of added visual flair, but much of the time the engine looks overly primitive and occasionally ugly under the harsh glare of high-definition visuals.
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the evidence that suggests this is little more than a half-baked, rushed port. The most egregious issue is the framerate, which defies the simplistic graphical approach to deliver a particularly choppy performance. It's woefully inconsistent, with some areas pleasingly going along at an acceptable — though not exceptional — rate, only for it to dive to frustrating levels with little obvious cause. There's a fair bit of poor level and boss design in this title, so when the framerate decides it's joining in with its own sub-par performance it's enough to put the safety of your GamePad at risk.
In terms of the GamePad, it's been utilised in the minimal possible sense. On the positive side the touchscreen permanently displays a map with useful hotkeys; you simply tap a key or on the map to zoom the view or see the locations of objectives, exits and side missions, as well as quick access to some abilities. It's a little chunky and laggy, in truth, but it's functional and the map element is actually useful. That's it on the GamePad positives, and it's the missing features that expose the lack of care and effort in this title.
For starters, aiming your crosshairs to fire paint as Mickey uses the right analogue stick along with ZL or ZR, which makes sense. The problem occurs with the aforementioned framerate problems, which causes your aim to move as smoothly as treacle, while the juddery camera movement exacerbates the issue. This isn't a problem in every area, but there are bottlenecks where the issues combine to irritate gamers of any level of ability; it can be a mess. We did discover a new tactic for fighting enemies because the paintbrush aiming is so wonky, but that involved kamikaze charges at enemies to execute a spin attack, whereas we preferred a tactical, shooting approach beforehand; that flies against the idea of choice that's supposed to be core to the series.
It's also a staggering oversight that player one is forced to use the GamePad, when it's not even doing anything that special, as we know full well that the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination can do the job, arguably better; only player two can use the Wii control scheme. Off-TV play is also posted missing, meaning that local co-op still uses a split-screen despite that handy screen on the GamePad. It's frustrating, it must be noted, as it seems to strive to maintain graphical fidelity on both halves at the cost of dropping more frames — in our experience — whereas the Wii version seemed to have the common sense to drop detail in order to maintain a playable framerate.
In these respects, the Wii U version surprisingly fails to offer the optimal version of the experience. Like the Wii title this game is at times a pleasure, with areas that feel well constructed and gameplay that feels natural — the short 2D levels are obvious stand-outs. The same problems exist, however, with open arena-style areas that suggest a lack of understanding of what should make a 3D platformer tick, with enough frustrating jumps and confusing puzzles to send many to the nearest walkthrough, and others looking for the power button. As for Oswald, our AI co-op buddy, he can be occasionally helpful, often useless and on a few occasions an actual nuisance; the co-op concept feels like a mis-step, overall.
Ultimately, this Wii U version of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two fails to utilise the potential of the system or its controller. There's a small mercy in the form of a useful map and hotkeys on the GamePad screen, yet other elements of the controls feel worse than on Wii due to performance issues. The slight advantage of having a HD resolution is lost once the engine decides it can't handle the action, and it says much that we yearned for the relative stability of the Wii version. This isn't how a game port to a more powerful system should be, and if you absolutely have to sample Mickey's latest adventure we suggest looking to your old system or the Wii Menu.