Thursday, October 18, 2012

3RM @ NYCC 2012: Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion


Disney Epic Mickey is Disney’s recent attempt to reintroduce Mickey back into the video game industry. While Disney Epic Mickey and its sequel, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, are console games focusing more on 3D platforming and the moral choices between being good or bad, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS focuses more on returning Mickey back to his 2D platforming days on the 16-bits consoles. At New York Comic Con 2012, I was able to try out the title for myself and it definitely fits the roll well.

As I just mentioned, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion plays like Mickey’s older excursions back on the 16-bit days. Unlike the console titles, the game is broken up into small levels which can be reselected via the level selection screen. Once in a level, Mickey must work his way through the stage to the exit. I managed to play the second stage and a little bit of the fourth stage in my playtime. Like in the old days, the paths to the exits were filled with spiked ceilings, moving platforms, and high ledges for Mickey to overcome. Reaching for the exit, I also encountered a number of enemies which could be taken out the same way they were defeated back in the day: by being stomped on. In some cases, Mickey had to jump off monsters in order to reach higher places. If I couldn’t jump because of a low or spiked ceiling, I could also use a spin attack to defeat the monsters nearby.

However, what is really important is the addition of paint and thinner. Taken from Epic Mickey, Mickey can use a magic paintbrush to shoot out paint and thinner at his opponents, although he has a limited supply of both. During my playtime, I had to use my paintbrush in order to defeat out-of-reach enemies behind some roots. Once they were dealt with, the roots disappeared and Mickey could continue. From what I gathered, the difference between using paint and thinner was what the monster dropped. Using paint, the monsters left behind hearts which healed Mickey, and using thinner, monsters left behind tickets, which I did not find a use for during my short hands-on.

Paint and Thinner also has a major importance in regards to the game’s platforming. While everything appears normal on the top screen, the touch screen reveals interactive objects which may or may not be there. In one case, I touched a stomping Pete obstacle via the touch screen. I then used thinner to wash out the block’s silhouette, trying to stay in the lines in order to get a better score. If I happened to use thinner outside the lines too much, I would have to start over again. Once the silhouette was gone, so was the obstacle on the top screen, making it easier to navigate through the room. In another case, Mickey could not reach a high platform, and I noticed a silhouette of another platform on the bottom screen. After selecting it, I had to paint along an outline in order to fill in the object. Again, like thinner, the game rates your tracing skill and will kick you out if you fail too much. Interestingly, the outlines being traced in didn’t have to be the object in question. One platform was a set of letter blocks so I had to trace a letter rather than the blocks. This kept things more interesting than if I had to paint in squares over and over again. Besides blocks, I also painted in Tinkerbell who said she would happily assist Mickey once Peter Pan was rescued. She also revealed to me the location of a bunch of tickets. During Mickey’s quest, I assume that he will be saving a multitude of Disney characters that in return will assist Mickey on his journey. 

There was one more unique thing I learned about using paint. After creating an object with paint, a meter fills up some. When the meter maxes out, Mickey become energized, allowing him to plow through enemies and run faster, which brings up the one thing that bothered me. Mickey’s normal walking speed was terribly slow, like he was moving through molasses. More than once, I tried to find a run button to make him go faster. While I might get used to it after playing the game longer, moving so slowly in a platforming game feels off. Otherwise, it is a spot-on 16-bit platformer.

Despite playing like an older game, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion takes advantage of the 3DS hardware to make the game look and feel more modern. Following the idea of illusions, each stage environment blends between various Disney worlds and the mysterious castle. The sprited backgrounds are colorful and surreal much like the Disney worlds they represent. While they are sprited, with the use of layers, parallax, and the 3DS’s 3D visuals, the backgrounds felt deep and expansive. One part I really found impressive was how the illusion backdrop appeared far way while the castle backdrop rested closer to me. As for the monsters and Mickey himself, their animations were fluid, much like the animation of a cartoon. The music of the game was also enjoyable and fit the mysterious castle theme and colorful locales. One little throwback I noticed was that the sound effects used for Mickey jumping on an enemy and grabbing an item were the same sounds used in the old Castle of Illusion games. There is no doubt that the developers of this game were big fans of the originals.

Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion felt like a solid platformer from the old days of 2D platforming. With new ideas like the Paint and Thinner mechanic along with the blending worlds and characters, the game is definitely taking steps in the right direction.


Before Epic Mickey released on the Wii last year, the happy-go-lucky Disney mascot had graced several consoles with adventures, and perhaps the most memorable of those adventures were in the Castle of Illusion series, released on the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System back in the early 1990's.  Now twenty years later, Dreamrift (Monster Tale) and Junction Point (Disney Epic Mickey) have come together to produce a brand new game, both reminiscent of the old Illusion series while also bringing new Epic Mickey flairs into the mix.  The game was playable at Nintendo's New York Comic Con booth this year, and after playing the game a short while, I can see the love put into it with a dash of concerns here and there.

In Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, the world of the Castle of Illusion series has become the latest world to become part of the Wasteland, a land created by the great wizard Yen Sid to house lands and beings forgotten by the world.  However, the Castle's ruler, evil witch Mizrabel, does not wish to remain in the Wasteland and begins capturing still-famous toons in order to break free from the Wasteland for her own evil aims.  Thankfully, Oswald tells Mickey of the captured toons, including Minnie, and our rodent protagonist is off to defeat Mizrabel once more.

At first glance, Power of Illusion resembles the older Illusion games, with every character and item drawn in sprites rather than represented as 3D objects.  The background initially resembles those games, too, but the 3D display reveals a more deep, detailed design that the older consoles would most likely ignite trying to copy.  Animations have been made even smoother, too, modernizing the style to fit the current era.  If the sprited graphics were not enough to evoke nostalgia, the sound effects certainly will.  A number of the sound effects sound like they belonged on the older generations of systems, but here they play loud and clear on the Nintendo 3DS.  These older sounds are enhanced with a full soundtrack and occasional voice work which evoke the style of Epic Mickey onto the handheld space.

The first thing one might notice is that this game is not designed to be extremely fast-paced in the traditional sense.  In fact, Mickey moves a bit slower than you might expect, but considering the fact that the levels are a bit more claustrophobic than others, it might fit better as the game progresses.  Mickey has the ability to stomp on enemies as well as hit them with either Thinner or Paint, both of which have their own limited uses.  Defeating a monster with a particular method rewards you differently, either with health or with tickets to use elsewhere in the game.  Mickey can also use a spin attack when he is low on ammo and cannot get a jump on the enemy.  Besides his own arsenal of attacks, Mickey can make use of doodles that he gathers in his adventures.  At any point in time, players can touch the bottom screen to either erase or draw onjects in and out of existence.  I did find that the transition between completing a drawing or erasure took a bit longer than I expected, but there was enough variety in the drawings themselves to keep the experience fresh during my time on the demo.  I hope the game finds unique ways of using this doodle ability so that it does not degrade on the experience as it progresses.

Barring my concerns expressed above, the game looked and played great on the 3DSXL.  If the game can maintain the style I saw on the demo and without getting too repetitive with the doodles, I suspect this game will fit quite well with both the Epic Mickey and the Castle of Illusion series.

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