I attended the Australian EB Games Conference recently and got a sneak peek at some of the upcoming titles. As a Disney fan, I was insanely excited when I heard about Epic Mickey last year.
I was even more excited when I heard that we were not only going to see actual game play but Adam Creighton, one of the producers of the game, would be the one playing it.
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Before I begin, let’s meet some of the main characters of Epic Mickey:
Mickey Mouse -- He doesn’t need much introduction but he is the game’s mischievous hero and must make choices that could change outcomes throughout the game.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit -- Oswald was one of Walt Disney’s earliest creations and unfortunately lost the rights to him so he went on to create Mickey Mouse. Oswald resents his younger brother for all the fame that he has and believes it should be him that the world adores.
The Mad Doctor -- A character from an early 30’s cartoon and he is responsible for the gadgets and inventions throughout the game.
The Phantom Blot -- It has been a villain in Disney cartoons since 1939. It seems there is a lot to be learned about the Blot and hopefully we’ll find out a lot more as we play through the game.
The Gremlins -- No these aren’t the kind you shouldn’t feed after midnight, in fact they look nothing like them. The Gremlins were actually created by Walt Disney and Roald Dahl in 1943, and acted as wartime propaganda. However, they have been recreated in Epic Mickey and are used in some of the “choice and consequence” decisions you have to make. Gus, the Gremlin leader, assists you with hints and acts as your guide throughout the game.
In the opening scene we see Mickey tied to a torture table. Meanwhile the Mad Doctor is toying with all of the different ways his torture machine could destroy everyone’s favourite mouse. We also see Oswald peeking through the dungeon doors and the Phantom Blot ominously soaring around above Mickey. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so we’ll just leave it there.
Once the game play begins, we see that it plays like explorative puzzle games like Zelda, but with the reminiscence of Disney history. A lot of the surroundings look strangely familiar, such as the level we were shown had begun inside the castle from Sleeping Beauty and continued on to find a very familiar teacup ride. Warren Spector, the creator of Epic Mickey, is famous for games such as System Shock, Deus Ex and theThief series, and that really carries over into Epic Mickey through the role playing elements you typically find in his games. Other than the free roaming puzzle aspect, you can unlock film reels which open up to a 2D side scrolling level that you are timed to get through. I’m a total sucker for side scrolling games so that just opened the game up to so many different levels of enjoyment.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat to Adam about Epic Mickey, his influences and Disney history. Adam was very happy to have a chat with me, and in fact the words “I love Destructoid!” were uttered. Oh yes, flattery will get you everywhere Mr. Creighton. Unfortunately because it was a spur of the moment interview, that’s the only word-for-word quote I’m going to give you from our chat.
I chose to ask some questions that nagged me as a gamer as opposed to typical industry questions, and it actually ended up with some very interesting info about the game. Apparently the origin of Epic Mickey took place during a pitch meeting between Spector and Disney, where Spector was pitching a different undisclosed idea and Disney pitched the idea of a game with Mickey as the hero. Spector and Disney really wanted to reinvigorate Mickey and bring him to a whole new audience as well as bringing him back to people who grew up with him.
I might be the only one who thought this but the first thing I thought of when I saw the “paint” and “thinner” in the game was Roger Rabbit, so I had to ask whether they had been inspired by it. Adam actually explained that the way came up with the idea of the thinner was by breaking down to the core of Mickey’s existence. Being the cartoon creation that he is, paint and thinner can create and destroy him and his cartoon world. Adam also told me that they avoided games like De Blob and Drawn to Life so as to try to avoid similarities.
Epic Mickey can so easily be misread if people don’t look into the game. So many people thought it might just be a kid’s game but there are some really dark twists in it, so I asked what age group they were particularly aiming for. They really want this game to be for everyone, because there are so many choices in the game it can be quite dark but at the same time it is Mickey Mouse. As the game goes on, unlocking every secret and hidden chest can be quite challenging from the impression that I got. In a way it is really like Mario, it can be loved by everyone from hardcore gamers to young kids.
I also wanted to find out if games Mickey has previously starred in, such as Kingdom Hearts, had affected their character development of him in any way. Adam told me that they didn’t even look into them and that they had very little relevance because the great thing about Mickey is that he has so many different sides to him and this is just another one. Mickey has starred in hundreds of cartoons over the years with so many different characteristics being shown and this is just another side to the mouse we all know.
Warren Spector is immensely famous for his previous games System Shock and Deus Ex, so I asked what games the guys who worked on Epic Mickey love to play. Adam explained that they are huge roleplaying and puzzle fans, and that they love games like Zelda and that they wanted Epic Mickey to not be a particular genre or be easily characterized.
Because there are so many Disney characters that a lot of people may have never heard of, I wanted to know if there would be any more familiar faces along the way. Unfortunately this was the point Adam got all secretive with a mischievous grin on his face, as he hinted that there may be more but I’d have to wait and see. Damn it! After a bit of research though, there have been sightings of Donald Duck and Goofy who have been recreated in animatronics form as friends for Oswald. Other than that I get the feeling there are a lot more to be discovered by Disney fans such as myself!
And finally, I love to know what character inspires people, and I think it says a lot about someone, so I asked who Adam’s favourite Disney character was. Adam instantly said Chip of Chip and Dale and that he loves how creatively mischievous and funny he is. I had to ask if we would see Chip appear in Epic Mickeyand once again, with his cheeky smile, Adam told me I’d have to wait and find out.
After watching the gameplay and my chat with Adam, I am even more excited to get my hands on this game, not only as a Disney fan, but as a hardcore gamer. Watching the gameplay reminded me a lot ofZelda, God of War and even Mario, but it has quite a unique element to it that makes it so intriguing. The one thing I will take away from all this is that there is a lot to be seen from Epic Mickey and I personally am dying for release day so I can actually play it myself. In the end, Adam and I both agreed that the one thing we really want everyone to play it and give it a chance because it’s definitely not just a kid’s game!