2010’s Disney Epic Mickey put players behind the magical paintbrush of the titular mouse and let them loose in Wasteland, a misfit Magic Kingdom of sorts where many of Walt’s forgotten creations went to live out their cartoon existence. While Wasteland and its alt-Disney denizens had faithful Mickey fans singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, core gamers were left wishing upon a star…for a more polished experience. Following in the big yellow shoes of its predecessor, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two succeeds and suffers in much the same way as the title that spawned it.
Once again Wasteland serves as the ultimate fan-pleasing paradise. Bursting with cool call-outs to characters, attractions, and memorabilia, this twisted take on a traditional Disney theme park provides reason enough for owners of embroidered Mickey ears to grab a gamepad; from alternative versions of classic Disneyland themed areas—the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train-inspired Rainbow Falls and Rainbow Caverns are eye-popping highlights—to a boss baddie based on the Pete’s Dragon Main Street Electrical Parade float, every crack and crevice of Wasteland is dripping with Disney-loving details. Wasteland also receives a pop-off-the-screen visual makeover thanks to the sequel’s support of HD consoles (the original was a lo-def Wii exclusive.)
Of course, at the core of this passionately crafted production is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt’s first, but forgotten, cartoon success had a major supporting role in the first game, but now serves as a second playable character. Solo Wasteland wanderers still control Mickey, but can recruit a couch co-op partner at anytime to help as the mouse’s floppy-eared friend. Oswald possesses powers all his own, such as the ability to manipulate electricity with a remote control, that nicely complement Mickey’s existing arsenal of paint and thinner mechanics.
While playable Oswald is a welcome addition, he also represents one of the title’s most significant gameplay missteps. He’s a great help when commanded by a human being, but also a headache-inducing hindrance when controlled by the computer; solving puzzles, navigating tricky areas, and battling bad guys becomes more frustrating than fun when the cute little anthropomorph’s off doing his own thing. The ability for a single-player to swap between both characters on-the-fly would have gone a long way to fixing this flaw—whaddya say, Epic Mickey 3?
A similar lack of polish rears its ugly head when the controls and camera don’t quite get a long; the latter’s functionality is much improved over the previous game’s, but there’s something about its marriage to the former—especially when attempting to land the targeting reticule with any degree of precision—that just feels off. Couple Oswald’s restlessness with these control issues and an abundance of boring and/or directionless objectives and Epic Mickey 2’s gameplay feels like it would have benefited from another handful of pixie dust.
From its story and its stars to its presentation and unbridled passion for all things Disney, Mickey’s latest jump to game consoles piles the fan service as high as Cinderella’s castle. Those who make annual treks to the theme parks, line-up for the latest Disney movie release, or have “It’s a small world” as their ring-tone won’t want to miss this return trip to Wasteland. That said, those who wouldn’t know a hidden Mickey if it was tattooed on their forehead may find the experience more mediocre than magical. GRADE: C+ (Reviewed on Xbox 360.)
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