When the first Epic Mickey released, it took a fresh look at the world of Mickey Mouse and Disney as a whole. The happiness of Disney was traded for a dark look at the abandoned cartoons of the company’s past. Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two returns to this cartoon wasteland – appropriately called The Wasteland – for another dive into forgotten animation. Does the second time around have as much magic, or should Epic Mickey 2 meet the cutting room floor?
Right out of the gate, you will have a tough time following the plot of Epic Mickey 2 if you skipped the first game. The Mad Doctor from the first game is back, and this time he wants to “repair” Wasteland after an earthquake rips through the hub of Mean Street. As you make your way through the game, you’ll find that his plan isn’t quite what he claims it is. Of course, he is called the “Mad” Doctor, so you’re not going to trust him anyway. Mickey returns to Wasteland and teams up with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and the two embark to find out what went wrong on Mean Street and just what the Mad Doctor is up to.
Epic Mickey 2 gives unique tools to both Mickey and Oswald. Mickey has his magic brush from the first game, capable of painting in or thinning out objects to make new platforms or reveal hidden passages. Painting enemies can make them friendly, and using thinner will erase them from the world. Oswald’s remote can power up objects with certain pads or reprogram enemies into a friendly state. Oswald can also glide using his ears as propellers, allowing access to hard-to-reach areas. All that stuff Oswald can do sounds cool right? Too bad he can only be used in co-op. Yep, the biggest selling point in Epic Mickey 2 is having two playable heroes, and one is completely inaccessible when playing online. With some buttons used only for camera control, mapping one to character-switching would have been simple, but Junction Point instead made the terrible decision to make Oswald exclusive to co-op, effectively cutting single players out of half of the game’s puzzles.
As terrible as this decision was, co-op is the focus of Epic Mickey 2. With two players, Mickey and Oswald can experience some great platforming, literally taking each other to new heights. Plenty of puzzles involve one hero setting a piece in motion for the other, so working together is just as important as it is fun. Great co-op doesn’t excuse lacking single player, though.
Epic Mickey 2 also gives both Mickey and Oswald the power to use sketches or snap pictures with the camera. Sketches can be used to smash objects, float objects, or even slow time. Though most are not required to complete the game, they offer more options for traversing the game’s environments. The camera is relegated to side quests, but you can snap pictures of anything that interests you and check them out in the game’s album. You’ll also come across invisible and indelible ink, which make you invisible and invincible, respectively. Both come in handy during certain moments in the game, and they match the game’s artsy style.
Speaking of style, Epic Mickey 2 has a lot of it. Important cut scenes are done in an almost South Park-style animation, and they look gorgeous. Entering projectors will send you to 2D platforming levels that link the game’s areas, and these are all done with a classic cartoon look which is just beautiful. This art translates to the levels as well. As you make your way across stages like Disney Gulch, Blot Alley, and Ventureland, you’ll witness stunning chasms and skylines, all of which totally submerge you in the game’s cartoon world. Spotting nods to the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Snow White are a further joy for Disney buffs. Unfortunately, all this art completely ruins traversal and puzzle-solving: important switches and platforms just fade into the background. You’ll be spending way too much time for too little actual puzzle-solving.
Beyond frustrating mechanics, the environments of Epic Mickey 2 have plenty of side quests for you to embark on. Most involve finding well-hidden objects in the game’s environments, which makes you realize just how expansive this game is. There are also plenty of unlockables hidden away, such as collectible pins and concept art. While pins are usually awarded for quest completion, you can get certain ones based on the decisions you make while playing Epic Mickey 2. It’s actually a decent way of enticing you to do a second playthrough.
Side quests and a second hero a nice addition to Epic Mickey 2, and the environments are some of the best-looking of the year. Unfortunately, most of the game’s playability was sacrificed for this art direction, and the game suffers for it. To top (bottom?) it off, cutting off single players from using Oswald is simply atrocious. Visuals and additional content just aren’t enough to make Epic Mickey 2 anything special.