Two years ago, veteran game developer Warren Spector alongside his team at Junction Point Studios, painted a bold new stroke for Mickey Mouse -- literally -- with a bold effort for the Nintendo Wii titled "Epic Mickey." Taking a more adventurous turn than previously released games featuring the iconic mouse, "Epic Mickey" told the story of the Wasteland, an alternate universe desecrated by the diabolical actions of a mad doctor. Mickey, sucked into this world using a magical mirror, used a combination of paint and thinner to transform it however he chose, recreating walls -- and tearing them down -- to find his way through, leading to a victorious showdown with the doctor.
The game was a smash hit, selling over two million copies, leading Disney Interactive to approach Spector and his team for a sequel. Last month at E3, Disney confirmed "Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two" was in the works, but this time, it makes the jump to multiple platforms. The game is confirmed for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, marking the first time for the franchise on higher-end consoles.
"Epic Mickey 2's" storyline picks up right where the original left off. The mad doctor, having suffered defeat, attempts to make a deal with Oswald the Rabbit, Walt Disney's first creation and a vital character from the original game, to help rebuild Wasteland. Unfortunately, Wasteland suffers even worse than before with more destroyed buildings and chaotic creatures that strike fear in its remaining citizens. With the help of Oswald's friend Gus the Gremlin and his beloved girl, Ortensia, he tries to reach out to Mickey once more to restore his world, while at the same time seeing the doctor's true intentions. Hesitant at first, Mickey eventually agrees, reclaiming his paint and thinner in the process.
Like the original "Epic Mickey," you're able to use these tools to rebuild the Wasteland however you please. Using the paint via an on-screen cursor allows you to build structures, such as walls or bridges, so you can cross into other areas or close off a boundary of a previously visited location. In opposite effect, the thinner erases these structures and is ideal for getting through an area that's initially blocked off. The Wii remote is natural when it comes to on-screen aiming, though it's rumored that the other versions will use motion controls to some extent, like the PlayStation Move and the Kinect. Regular control options are available as well, if you prefer the old-fashioned "direct-and-shoot" method.
Unlike its predecessor, "Epic Mickey 2" allows the ability to team up with a friend. Oswald doesn't just sit on the sidelines and instead works with Mickey in a split-screen set-up, so they can explore the world at their own pace. However, they'll need to work together in order to get through each area, as they have different abilities. Where Mickey is able to use refillable paint and thinner with his magical paintbrush, Oswald will have access to a remote, which enables him to fight enemies and convert others into allies. He can also fly with his ears and occasionally detach his feet, allowing access to new areas.
Spector and his team at Junction Point also push the envelope in terms of presentation. "Epic Mickey 2" will present a much bigger visual world than the first game, with larger parts of Wasteland to explore, more complex enemies to defeat and better use of color, particularly Mickey's selection of paints. Blitz Games, a long-time developer behind other projects, joins Spector and his team to make sure the cross-platform versions run just as well as it does on the Ninendo Wii.
In addition, Spector also confirmed that "Epic Mickey 2" will contain a full set of voicework, so Mickey will be speaking much more than he did in the first game. He's also adding musical numbers over the course of Mickey's adventure, though it's not known if they'll have any sort of effect on gameplay.
While "Epic Mickey 2's" world is vastly different from what players have experienced in previous games featuring the Mouse, the game is still quite accessible to all ages of players. It's not intended for an older audience, though older gamers will certainly appreciate the wider scope of adventure and some of the dark surroundings.
Disney Interactive is focusing heavily on "Epic Mickey 2's" release, but it's not the only one it has in mind for this holiday season. The publisher is also working with the development team at Dreamrift on another game for the Nintendo 3DS, titled "Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion."
This game features a completely different plot, but takes place in the same realm as prior "Epic Mickey" releases. In this game, Mickey finds himself battling an evil witch who has transported right into the center of the Wasteland, enclosed within her castle of illusion. Minnie Mouse has somehow ended up inside this castle, forcing Mickey to act and stop the witch before it's too late.
Along with Minnie, the castle is also filled with various characters from the Disney universe, including the Beast from the film "Beauty and the Beast", as well as Jafar from "Aladdin" and Captain Hook from "Peter Pan." Mickey runs into them over the course of the game and in some cases battle them and bring them back to their senses in order to proceed.
Unlike the other "Epic Mickey" games, "Power of Illusion" is a 2D side-scroller. It's very much inspired by classic 16-bit Mickey Mouse games, including Sega's "Castle of Illusion" and Sony Imagesoft's "Mickey Mania." The art style is very similar to these games, with a hand-drawn quality in both the animation and background. However, since the game is on the 3DS platform, it will take full advantage of the format, providing an illusion of a living, breathing world that jumps right out.
Although the animation style is closer to classic 16-bit games, gameplay is quite similar to the "Epic Mickey" universe. You can defeat enemies by jumping on them, though some tougher ones require a bit more strategy to defeat. Mickey also uses his magic paintbrush via the 3DS' touch-screen to get through areas by drawing bridges and more.
They may be completely different projects, but "Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two" and "Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion" both look to be strong continuations of the series with gameplay for all ages.
"Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two" (Nintendo Wii, XBox 360, PlayStation 3) and "Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion" (Nintendo 3DS) release November 18.