The original Epic Mickey really wore its heart on its sleeve. In spite of the game's flaws, you could tell how much love Warren Spector's team at Junction Point felt toward the source material--essentially the entirety of Disney history--and that showed through in a mountain of clever references to the company's past and even in its use of the nearly forgotten Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as a central character in the game's narrative. But take one look at the upcoming sequel, and all of a sudden the original Epic Mickey looks like a piece of fan fiction. Junction Point has seriously ratcheted up the level of, well, Disney in this game, to the point where it feels less like a love letter to Walt Disney's memory and more like a product of Disney itself.
What a difference HD makes
With Epic Mickey 2, this series is no longer a Wii exclusive; it's being developed for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in addition to Nintendo's console. One glance at the 360 or PS3 version, though, and you realize that this is a series that deserved to be in HD all along. The art design stands out so much more, and so do the little details and references to Disney's past that litter the environments--whether it's the brooms marching off in the distance in a Fantasia-themed level, or simply the shimmery, viscous texture of the paint that you use to restore each world you visit. It's sort of like how diehard Pixar fans buy those movies only on Blu-ray: you can still enjoy the animation at a lesser level of visual fidelity, but you lose so much of the subtlety and attention to detail in the art design.
Speak up, Mickey
Another big change comes by way of the game's audio. Junction Point has dipped into Disney's pool of voice acting veterans to lend a voice to each of the game's main characters. Characters like Mickey and Goofy will sound like their usual selves--the themes in the game may be dark, but the voice acting isn't--so don't expect any big surprises there. However, there is one particularly notable voice-acting choice: Frank Welker as Oswald. With Oswald getting his start during the silent animated feature era and subsequently falling into relative obscurity after that, Epic Mickey 2 marks the first time in Disney history that Oswald has been given a voice.
Singing as storytelling
It's a good thing the characters have voices; otherwise, this next one would be kind of weird: Epic Mickey 2 is a musical. Warren Spector has somewhat indulged in his love of Broadway plays and decided to give Epic Mickey 2's story cinematics a classic Disney cartoon flair. In typical musical fashion, characters will randomly break out into song--most of which have been crafted by the team of Jim Dooley (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Mike Himelstein (who is somehow credited with work on both Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and The Sopranos). Junction Point promises that many of the songs you hear in the game will change based on your gameplay choices but that the songs aren't part of the gameplay itself. Warren Spector insists he'd be "run out on a rail" if he incorporated the narrative's song-and-dance leanings into core gameplay mechanics.
Oh, and about that "video game" part…
So those are a few of the ways that Epic Mickey 2: Power of Two feels like much more of a proper Disney endeavor than its predecessor. But if you played the last game, you probably remember that it was never a game lacking for charm--it was in the gameplay itself where the original Epic Mickey suffered most. So be sure to have a look at our video interview with Warren Spector to see what the Junction Point co-founder has to say about fixing the camera, making player choices more persistent, and what they're hoping to bring to the table with drop-in co-op.