Epic Mickey Hands-On Impressions

We fire up our paintbrushes and experience the epicness of Mickey's latest video game adventure.

There's nothing immediately striking about Mickey Mouse as a video game character. While plenty of games have featured the Disney mascot in a starring role, he doesn't exactly spring to mind when one is asked to think of memorable moments in video game history. This could be because Mickey is already an iconic character in his own domain, whose happy-go-lucky image has not changed a whole lot since his creation in 1928.

Trying to reimagine Mickey as a darker, troubled character in Disney Interactive's upcoming Wii game Epic Mickey was the first mistake that legendary game designer Warren Spector made when he took over the project. Luckily, it was also his last. Spector took the advice of those who play-tested the title during its early stages of development and returned the mouse to his optimistic self, undoubtedly not without feeling some disappointment that the world wasn't yet ready for a new Mickey. But things seemed to have turned out well regardless of the new direction, as we discovered when we played the game for the first time on the E3 2010 show floor.

Our hands-on demo took us through three of the game's rebooted Disney locales: Venture Land, Skull Island, and Steamboat Willie (a nod to the first Mickey Mouse cartoon with sound). Mickey’s objectives throughout the game will involve a combination of platforming, puzzle-solving, and role-playing and will also include a lot of exploration and side quests. Our demo began in Venture Land, which serves as a sort of questing zone for the game (think role-playing game).

The majority of the gameplay will involve Mickey performing one of two actions: painting or thinning. The aim will be to traverse the world and overcome obstacles and enemies by either painting them until they bend to your will and become an ally, or thinning them out of existence. Each action will affect how Mickey progresses through the game, with characters and situations changing depending on which substance Mickey uses most. Initially, these two actions represented good and evil, turning Mickey into a hero or villain depending on how each player wanted things to pan out, but the concept has since been tweaked as part of the game's new direction. Now, an emphasis on painting will earn Mickey more friends and open up new quests and areas of the game; an emphasis on thinning will make Mickey more feared and stronger in combat.

We started off with an introductory side quest in order to get acquainted with the game’s controls: helping Damian the pirate find the perfect birthday gift for Henrietta the cow. That may sound like a rudimentary mission, but it helped us navigate through some of the tougher platforming puzzles that Mickey will encounter. After making our way up a pile of rocks and into a tree (using the A button on the Wii Remote to perform jumps and double jumps), we came to a series of higher platforms that we had to reach. At this stage we noticed a translucent outline separating Mickey from the next platform, indicating that this area can be splashed with either paint or thinner. We decided on paint (B button), which produced a bridge, allowing us to move on. We then changed our mind and used thinner (Z button on the Nunchuk) just to see what would happen--the bridge disappeared into a big, black void.

The best thing about all of this was that we could use as much paint or thinner as we liked, because Mickey will never run out. While there are two colored meters on the right and left sides of the screen indicating how well stocked Mickey is in either substance (blue for paint, green for thinner), the meters automatically fill up to about 1/6 whenever you run low. After eventually working out that Henrietta would like some flowers for her birthday, we jumped ahead to the next world.

Steamboat Willie is one of the game’s 2D platforming levels, which has been put in to break up the main gameplay and give players a chance to collect tickets, the in-game currency, which can be used to buy items and upgrades. It’s also where Epic Mickey’s distinctive art style really comes into its own--the entire level is animated exactly like the original Disney cartoon of the same name, meaning that you’ll play in black and white and encounter a series of long-forgotten Disney friends.

The last level of the demo, Skull Island, gave us a chance to try out some of Mickey’s combat moves. We began on a beach and made our way toward a semi-sunken ship, where we encountered a group of seemingly drunk baddies. Pointing the Wii Remote at the screen produced a targeting reticule that helped us aim and fire a series of quick paint splashes, which turned the baddies into friendlies. We were also able to spin Mickey by shaking the Wii Remote, which allowed him to push the new group of enemies away (this move can also be used to break barrels to obtain health upgrades and get through other obstacles throughout the game). We finished the rest of the baddies off with a pickup called a "sketch," which allows Mickey to drop a television set in front of his enemies and render them temporarily distracted by old-school Mickey cartoons, leaving you free to paint them or thin them as you see fit.

Despite its shift in concept, Epic Mickey looks on track to deliver a satisfying and immersive gameplay experience, and we look forward to seeing more of the title in the weeks to come.

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40 comments
ChaoticTrunks
ChaoticTrunks

might finally have a good reason to own a wii soon...

Swank_Nightmare
Swank_Nightmare

Why in the first preview did GS say Spector's darker Mickey looks promising, then insult him here by saying, "re-imagining Mickey was his first mistake, and luckily his last." Must be easy to play Monday morning quarterback

manunas96
manunas96

I think that if mickey is on Kingdom Heatrs it cant be SOOO bad

zaxafreon
zaxafreon

i think what most of these guys below are forgetting just because mickey isnt gonna be as dark. it doesnt mean the story wont be which to me will be the most important

mutley89
mutley89

I find it amusing that something has to be 'dark and depressing' to be considered an adult game, I personally am an optimistic happy adult and look forward to the intelligent gameplay and beautiful graphics. Mickey is a great character and anything that makes him more popular I support.

YodaOfTheEmpire
YodaOfTheEmpire

Seems like a great plot and concept, although I think a lot will depend on how "epic" the game turns out to be, as in how long it will take the average player to finish it. Won't be too epic if it's over in 8 hours, but 30 hours+... damn, games like these make me wonder if I shouldn't have gone with the Wii

duel3000
duel3000

I like to think they're saving Mickey's "darker, troubled" side for a sequel, as traversing a land like this might wear on his Optimistic persona. Add the unfortunate death of the misunderstood Ozwald at the epic climax of the game, who was about to see the light as Mickey tries to save him but is erased by the true Big Bad of the game, and you set yourself up for a more dark and depressing future addition to a possible franchise of adult Disney titles. Or it could just be a happily ever after end. Either way, I'll probably purchase this game.

wario96
wario96

an interesting game that might make me play my wii agian

justincoool
justincoool

I'm probably picking this up, looks cool. :)

Theamazing55
Theamazing55

They are getting better but Spiderman Web of Shadows isn't the best example

guyguyguy1234
guyguyguy1234

Mickey should have stayed dark. But then too many people would be upset and complain about how Mickey is a 'good' mouse. But still, I think this looks like a fantastic game. Licence based games (such as Batman Arkham Asylum, Star Wars The Force Unleased, and Spiderman Web Of Shadows) are getting better and better!

Morokoo
Morokoo

Looks cool, sounds cool, we'll see if it is cool I guess.

TINMAN180
TINMAN180

The older concept was cooler. I bet you Disney stepped in and made them change it to preserve the beloved character's reputation. What most people don't know is that in 1933 Mickey and his Disney buddies were drawn in "Mickey's Mellerdrammer" which was a minstrel version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. So who's to say Mickey doesn't have a dark side.

sweetpotatofry
sweetpotatofry

I've been saving up for a Wii so I can play Mario Galaxy, but I might be even more excited for Epic Mickey. Looks great!

Raykuza
Raykuza

They backed out because a "darker troubled Mickey" doesn't make any sense. Mickey doesn't have anything to be troubled about. I can't believe this many people wanted to see Mickey go emo for no good reason. "Boo hoo, I'm the most widely known and loved cartoon character of all time. I'm going to murder Goofy and then go cut myself." This game actually looks really good as it is, and I'm quite excited to see how the choice element plays out.

Mercenary848
Mercenary848

Wow this really got me more excited, i like the good and evil element.

derby70
derby70

New mickey game looks solid

theoasis77
theoasis77

I remember the dark and weird art, now I see this ans it's just mickey mouse and cartoony? wtf?

weedman1985
weedman1985

It's nice to see people labeling creativity as a mistake. What's next? preferring gorgeous graphics over decent game play? oh wait.

weedman1985
weedman1985

Once upon a time the name Warren Spector was a synonym to openness and ingenuity. Now it's just a name with no real meaning.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

Wtf this was my most hyped single player game when I heard Warren Spector (created thief and deus ex) was making a dark mickey game. That is just a recipe for unrivaled creativity but nooooo, that has the potential to not sell outrageous amounts. Why does everyone have to chicken out nowadays, can no one just make what they want to make? Fk what the mainstream wants, make the game you want to make with no bs involved.

lex_in_the_moon
lex_in_the_moon

I was more excited when I heard Mickey was going to be darker, I'm kind of disappointed but I still have my eye on this game.

Maxor127
Maxor127

So my interest was piqued by darker, troubled Mickey and now I read the game chickened out on doing that? Lame.

SecularSage
SecularSage

I think this game looks incredible. I'm a fan of the old Sega Genesis Mickey Mouse games, and Warren Spector's one of the best game developers in the industry. This could be one of the first platform games NOT made by Miyamoto for the Wii that's a must-have.

taxonomic
taxonomic

From Deus Ex to a half-hearted Mickey Mouse game. Really, Warren? And here I thought Tim Cain had it rough.

madsnakehhh
madsnakehhh

Man, is such a letdown they didn't continue with that dark element, oh well, still looks like a fine game, and i hope they keep the old enemies like Oswald, while this game has gotten lower from my "Must have list" (behind DKR, Other M and Kirby) i can't wait for it.

S2333
S2333

I would have preferred a dark Mickey but I would still like to see how this turns out in the final product.

psychobrew
psychobrew

Spector's only mistake was listening to the play testers. A dark Mickey would have been epic. The game still looks great even if it was made a little more family friendly.

TokyoRed
TokyoRed

This is yet another "Must Buy" title. I look forward to this one and I'm hope that it is only the beginning for Disney/ Nintendo. What I'm saying is that I hope that there will be more Epic Mickey entries on both the Wii and Nintendo 3DS.

ScionofEntropy
ScionofEntropy

Still looking good. It looks as though the game has seen a visual revision and upgrade since we last saw it, or maybe this is just an area completely removed from what we've seen so far. Either way, it's looking a little rough around the edges, but I'm sure the coming months will smooth out the few blemishes it seems to have.

calicoolguy
calicoolguy

The original concept seemed so much better. The darker aspect was a unique spin. The story to this seems like will be ok but the game itself seems very water color. First mistake this game made was being a wii exclusive.

Raykuza
Raykuza

I'm glad they got rid of the "darker, troubled Mickey." What the hell does Mickey have to be troubled about? It didn't make any sense. No one wants an emo Mickey.

maxx1458
maxx1458

This looks like it will still be a good game but I agree its a disappointment that they moved away from the original concept.

RabidBurp
RabidBurp

Dammit. I liked the darker story-driven concept a lot better. Suddenly Epic Mickey doesn't sound so 'epic' anymore.

point_zero_xbl
point_zero_xbl

Sounds like everything good about this game has been gutted. The disappointment; it's exhausting.