Friday 11 January 2013

Game REVIEW: Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (3DS)

While video gaming reviews aren't a regular feature on this blog, every so often there comes a game which I feel I should make an exception for. The original Epic Mickey game for the Nintendo Wii came out of nowhere and quickly became one of my favourite Wii games, so you can imagine my excitement when not one, but two sequels were announced. While the first was a straight console sequel entitled The Power of Two (which I'm currently playing through and will be reviewing in the near future), the second was a lot more interesting. Not only was it a 2D side-scrolling handheld title for the 3DS, but a spiritual sequel to the excellent Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion game for the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis if you'd prefer). With the weight of two great games behind it, is Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion a game worthy of both legacies?

Apparently set after the events of The Power of Two (although outside the game manual there's no indication of this), the game sees Mickey returning to Wasteland to once again battle the evil witch Mizrabel (the villain from Castle of Illusion) after she and her castle are sent there. Not liking that she's been sent somewhere where forgotten toons go, Mizrabel plots her return by kidnapping Minnie Mouse and a variety of various characters from across Disney-dom - planning to steal their heart power. With Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket acting as his guide, Mickey ventures through the Castle of Illusion once again!

If you're familiar with the original Castle of Illusion game, immediately you'll be treated by a number of nostalgic sights and sounds. From Mickey's jumping noise to the mushroom enemies that appear in every level, developers Dreamrift have a great deal to tie things in to the previous game. However whether they've gone as far as they could have gone is debatable, as a few opportunities are missed along the way. While in the original game Mizrabel took her design cues from Snow White's wicked Queen, this time around she's supporting Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent's skin...literally. Her first appearance see her morphing into a variety of Disney villains, but this original form is sadly never seen.

Mickey's throwing ability is obviously gone, replaced with projectile attacks via the paintbrush (be it paint or thinner). The morality element of the console Epic Mickey games is gone, with which element of the brush you use making no difference on enemies themselves. These tools really come into play with the interactive items you'll come across in the levels, which can be drawn or rubbed out as you desire. These items range from platforms and magic carpets to firing cannons and octopuses. Drawing these in requires tracing an outline on the 3DS touchscreen, and just how closely you follow the outline will determine how useful they are to you. It's an interesting approach, but so incredibly easy to do that even a child could breeze through the game without learning the effects of poorly drawing something.

As far as levels are concerning, the offering is incredibly meagre. There are a total of three worlds in the game, each split into four levels and one (super easy) boss. The first world is based on Neverland with Captain Hook as the boss, the second Agrahbah and Jafar and the third world Atlantis - only Ursala isn't the boss here, instead they just go straight to the final Mizrabel boss and Ursala is reduced to being an interactive character (more on that in a moment). It feels like they just give up on things at the last minute. The levels aren't really all that challenging until you reach the last few Atlantis ones (which are more frustrating rather than hard). All the levels require visiting more than once, but while repeated trips make the game last longer, they don't make up for the abysmal length of the game. Even a casual gamer could probably finish it in one sitting.

Where the game really shines is its extended cast of characters. The Epic Mickey side of things might as well just be forgotten, because there aren't any "forgotten" characters and Oswald is barely in it. Instead on your travels you come across a HUGE variety of characters from various Disney movies including Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, The Lion King, The Princess and the Frog, Snow White and more. As you rescue these characters, they take haven in their  own little rooms in the castle's "fortress", making them up to look like home.Talking to the characters then opens a variety of side quests, which include finding extra characters for their rooms (e.g. finding Timon and Pumbaa for Simba), items (a frying pan for Rapunzel) or simply just drawing things for bonus items. Successfully completing a mission results in the rooms improving bit by bit. Room improvement can also be done via upgrade stars, which are awarded for completing levels and later buyable from the peddlar from Aladdin. Best of all, Power of Illusion is one of the few places you'll see these characters interact with each other too.

But this is the problem. The game feels less like a side-scrolling adventure, and more a game of "dress up your Disney characters room". The quests are mundane and repetitive, lacking variety as its just the same thing over and over with interchangeable characters and items. The cast is huge, but when its clear that the majority of effort when into the SIDE quests the overall game really suffers. While the mainline Epic Mickey games over decent replay value in terms of alternate paths and collectible items, there is nothing here that would make you want to pick the game up twice.

I had huge hopes for Power of Illusion, so much that I was looking forward to it more than The Power of Two. But unfortunately this game is barely worthy of either the Epic Mickey or Illusion titles. The 3D is pointless, the game painfully short and the bosses unimaginative. Its great to see so many mainstream Disney characters under one roof, but their inclusion also feels like it goes against the whole point of Epic Mickey. Power of Illusion is a great game for kids, but a massive disappointment compared to the titles it succeeds.

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