Who am I? A lover of the video game industry. I read about video games more than I play them. The various aspects and mechanics of design are what really intrigue me, and it's always fun to have a healthy debate about them.
Before I get started, I want to say that this was my first time playing any of the Epic Mickey games and the first time I played any side-scrolling Mickey Mouse game. I started this demo with a clean slate, so to speak. I didnít have any previous attachment to the series, so I was going to pass up on this one. However, when I heard Nintendo put up a demo on the eShop yesterday, I decided to give it a shot, mostly because it is a platformer, but also because of the positive buzz it has received from various places. So how did it fair? WellÖ
As soon as I start the demo, I am disengaged from the game. It tosses you into an introductory cutscene. Well, no biggie. A lot of games have those, right? The problem is that the cutscene lasts about five minutes. Five minutes. While the art style in the cutscene was lovely, Iím here mostly to test how the game plays. A demo shouldnít need a cutscene you canít skip, it should put you right into the gameÖespecially when that cutscene moves at a snailís pace and doesnít even allow you the option of speeding it up (which wouldnít affect it, seeing as it has no spoken dialogue). To recap, Iím not even playing the game yet, and it has managed to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Oy vey.
The art in the opening scene is the same style used in the first Epic Mickey.
When I finally get out of the cutscene, Iím greeted by my first look at the game in motionÖright? Well, no. Not at all. You see, the game has to have another cutscene, this one taking place on the bottom screen with still images of Mickey and Jiminy Cricket and some dialogue. Oh yeah, and the artwork here is different from the first cutscene, which was disappointing (but thatís mostly nitpicking). When I finally get out of this, I get to move Mickey around some. The first thing I do is to try all of his moves, but I pressed every button and could only manage to get him to jump. Iím obviously annoyed at this point, but I press on, still wanting to give this a fair shot. I see the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and guess what? Yep, another cutscene. Oh my god. Just to be clear, Iím not exaggerating. This is honestly what I felt while playing this. AnywaysÖ
One of the many annoyances encountered in the demo.
So I finally get to the first batch of enemies. Jiminy pops up (again) to give me some simple advice- jump on those guys! Alright, I can handle that. How difficult could jumping on enemies be? I mean, Iíve played Mario before. Except the first couple of times I was the one taking damage, not them. Whatís going on? Turns out, as Mister Cricket neglected to tell me, you have to press the jump button again in order to do damage. Isnít this unintuitive? In most platformers where jumping is your main attack, you just have to land the jump. Thatís it. Ugh. I still moved on, hoping the game would get better.
I believe at this point, I got to the first painting section. This is probably the most intuitive part of the gameÖand also one of the worst. You see, the game is disengaging me again so I can draw on the touchscreen. It pulled me out of the game and didnít really add anything of value to the experience. If, as a game designer, I wanted to make a platformer that incorporated the touchscreen beyond a map, item storage, HUD, or what have you, Iíd probably attempt to incorporate the touchscreen more, rather than having it feel blocked off from the rest of the game. Kirby Canvas Curse and Kirby Mass Attack were built around the touchscreen, and ended up being good. Now Iím getting off topic. Back to Epic Mickey.
An example of using the touchscreen to control the game.
Eventually Jiminy would show his face once more to gleefully tell me I can shoot paint and thinner. He also did the same thing to tell me about my spin attack. Okay, well, thatís great. Now I can use those abilities. I just had to wait until the game decided to tell me I could.
Had I worked to unlock them, such as in Rayman Origins, this wouldnít be much of an issue. However, the game just hands them to me arbitrarily, and has the nerve to take me out of the game again (arenít you tired of me saying that?) to tell me I can use them. Letís compare this to Kirby once more: in Kirbyís Return to Dream Land, right from the first stage of the game, you have access to all of Kirbyís basic moves. The player is free to experiment if he wants. If the player doesnít know how to do something, the game introduces the concept by a sign- for example, when thereís a big block, the game has a sign post there showing that you can shake the Wii Remote while inhaling for a super inhale. It doesnít stop the player to tell them that hey, they can do this.
Signs are an unobtrusive way to explain how to use an attack.
Why did I bring this up? Well, at one point in the game, Epic Mickey actually has a sign like this set up! Thereís one part of the level where you have to drop down some platforms, and on the castle wall is a sign that tells you the button combination needed to drop down. Wonderful. To make this clear, they were perfectly capable of doing it like Kirby, but for some asinine reason, they needed little Jiminy to tell us how.
I could probably go on about how this demo frustrated me, such as a couple of instances of Jiminy popping up to tell me the same thing twice in a row because I had to back track a bit to get an enemy to respawn, or how the game feels sluggish even without cutscenes, but at this point Iíd be beating a dead horse. Even now, this has been more of a rant than a review. I just donít think this will end up being a very good game if the demo is an honest representation of it. Perhaps if you go on beyond this introductory bit, but even then youíll have to deal with talking to the other Disney characters trapped in the castle and needing paint or erase objects in the middle of the stage, both of which slow down the game and donít do a good job at pulling the player in. Iíll have to pass on Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, which is a shame, because I like 2D platformers.