Disney Epic Mickey Updated Hands-On

We visit the pirate haven of Tortooga and battle an animatronic version of Captain Hook.

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The world's most famous mouse has had a squeaky clean image for decades, and even though you have the option to play as a good mouse in Junction Point's upcoming Disney Epic Mickey, there's a mischievous side to the iconic mouse that you can explore as well. Designed by Deus Ex creator Warren Spector, Disney Epic Mickey is a platforming/role-playing adventure hybrid that lets you decide which path the little mouse will take. Phil Hong, a producer for the game, came by our office to guide us through the pirate world of Tortooga as well as show us what the sinister Captain Hook was up to.

We were taken midway through the game to where Mickey is trying to complete quests to get himself out of the wasteland. He has learned that there are rocket parts scattered throughout the different areas that will help get him home, and in order to get to them, he must venture through the unique areas and complete the quests within. Our first stop was Tortooga, where Beluga Billy sends us on a quest to find his bag of loot. Of course, the loot has already been taken, so we're now asked to find the pirate (who's currently in jail) and track down the goods. Each of these areas has a handful of quests to help you progress the main storyline, but there are plenty of optional side quests to complete as well. These will yield collectible items, like pins, which you can view from your menu. For the collector, there are more than 100 cool pins to collect. Another thing to look for is gremlins, which are hidden in each area and can be found if you listen closely. A faint knocking is a clue as to where they are, and if you free them, they'll give you a hand. What they do is different depending on the area you're in, but they are very helpful if you can find them.

Mickey wields a magical paintbrush and can throw paint on enemies to befriend them or thinner to erase them. The B button is for paint, and the Z button is for thinner, and by holding the buttons down, you can spray a stream of paint instead of tossing a big blot. Swinging the remote will let Mickey do a spin attack. The world is also yours to paint over or erase with thinner. A sketched outline will appear in places where you can apply paint, and if you come across areas with jagged lines, it's likely that you can fill those in as well. Objects in the world will be highlighted in such a way that it should be fairly clear where you can use the thinner or paint. We were told that there is plenty of paint and thinner to pick up, even though your meter charges automatically. The goal is to have you use your paintbrush liberally, so you never have to feel like you need to conserve anything. Depending on what kind of painter you are, guardians will gather around you, and you can send them after your foes by shaking the nunchuk. If you've been primarily using paint, you can throw tints to befriend otherwise vicious creatures. Turps are the thinner guardians, and they'll wipe out whatever you throw them at. While the paintbrush may be your primary tool, one item we saw that will benefit you in battle is the watch sketch, which you can use to slow down time (and your enemies), but you'll be moving at a normal pace.

The next area we explored was Jungle Rhythm, a lush zone filled with your usual swashbuckling pirates and the converted robotic pirates as well as an enemy type called a spladoosh. These large purple bulbous creatures sleep most of the time but will wake up and explode if you get too close. We won't spoil too much of the story by telling you why there are robot pirates, but let's just say that Hook is involved and that these pirates aren't easily defeated with just paint or thinner.

In between zones, Mickey actually jumps into a projector that will take him through a classic black-and-white Mickey cartoon that is also a 2D platformer. We've seen the Steamboat Willie level from the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but there are plenty of other black-and-white classics that most people have forgotten--like Mickey and the Beanstalk. It's not only fun to change up the gameplay a bit in these transition levels, but it's interesting to see it played out on a film reel.

An homage to classic 2D platforming and old Mickey cartoons.
An homage to classic 2D platforming and old Mickey cartoons.

The final part of our demo was the Battle of the Jolly Roger, where we faced the nefarious Captain Hook. He's an animatronic version of the Hook we're used to, and he moves along the ship on rails. There are two ways to defeat him, and the path you choose will determine the course of the story. You can find a way to get Hook to walk the plank by fighting him head-on, or you can platform and paint your way to the top of the ship and release the sprite (this world's version of Tinkerbell), who will then call Pete Pan (not Peter, but Pete, Mickey's nemesis) to save the day. If you're a fan of Disney, everything will look familiar but will have its own unique twist, so it's quite fun to see certain characters appear dressed as something else entirely.

Disney Epic Mickey is a colorful adventure that seems packed with hidden Disney secrets and long-lost treasures. Animated cutscenes and even tutorial sketches are fun to watch, because they're done in such a charming way. There's so much personality in the characters that we met, so we're looking forward to being able to explore the rest of the wasteland. Look for the game when it ships on November 30.

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