Warren Spector made classic games such as Thief, Deus Ex and System Shock. Walt Disney himself created Mickey Mouse, the most well-known cartoon character in the world. When Epic Mickey was announced the world cheered. It just couldn’t go wrong. Yet somehow it did. The game was released exclusively on the Nintendo Wii and delivered passable entertainment but nothing more according to the critics and the fans alike. So when a sequel was announced lovers of the animated mouse the world over cheered as they thought that this would be what they’d waited for since the journey through a castle of illusion all those years ago. It just couldn’t go wrong again, could it? Surely the folks working on this will have listened and learned from the first attempt? Unfortunately our PlayStation 3 review suggests that yes, yes it could. Now seven months on from the original release we have been able to try Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two again, but this time with added controls and features given it’s now on Sony’s portable behemoth, the PlayStation Vita. These changes, we have learnt, have not done a single thing to help the game and frankly detract in most cases.
The game is set in The Wasteland and on starting it up we see a number of aged looking cartoon characters and then into town rides the Mad Doctor, singing a song about how he’s now a good person and wants to help save this Wasteland which seems to be suffering from earthquakes. Concurrently in the ‘real’ world we see Mickey Mouse awoken to some Sorcerer's Apprentice-type action and called towards the television by one of the ‘toons. He joins his old friends in The Wasteland and so begins the treacherous journey of two - Mickey Mouse, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an original Walt Disney (and partner - Ub Iwerks) creation who proved to be anything but lucky given he was lost in Universal’s vaults when Walt Disney started up his own company, created Mickey and...well, the rest is history.
The basic premise of the game and mechanics are all covered in detail in our original review, but this being a port of the home console version onto Sony’s special hands-on console there are certain things introduced to make best use of the Vita’s feature set. Well, that’s the intention anyway. It turns out that what’s been added in many ways detracts from the already barren and depressing experience and if anything makes things worse, although you do at least have the option not to utilise these value-added extras.
The main tools you get with this handheld version of Mickey’s second epic cartoon-based adventure is touch capability and gyroscopic fun. The latter can be likened to early-generation Sixaxis implementation. It does the job and you can control the vehicles and so on by twisting and turning the sleek gadget in your hands but frankly it’s so much better to use the analogue sticks, you know, the old-fashioned way. The option to control Mickey’s painting and paint-thinning mechanics via touchscreen is hideously executed. Normally you would use the left and right shoulders buttons to activate whichever you choose, and use the left nub to point and direct where you want paint to go (or where you want the world to be cleaned up if that’s what you choose). Instead of this you can press anywhere on screen and theoretically the action will happen there. In practice it feels like we’ve gone back to the bad old days of resistive touchscreens and when it accepts your input it doesn’t seem to do so very accurately meaning you waste half your paint before you get anything done.
You can also direct your artificially intelligent co-op buddy to go where you need him to go to solve a puzzle and stop the cast of characters repeating the same thing over and over again - just by touching the screen, and moving your hands away from the main controls which you’ll need again pretty soon. Here, too, he doesn’t tend to go where you want him to and it becomes infuriating very, very quickly. If you have a friend with a PS Vita then you can play cooperatively with them via ad hoc connectivity. Whilst we were unable to do so it’s likely this would improve the experience as at least you’ll have someone to work through a puzzle with and when you try and get your partner to do something they’ll likely actually do it. The AI won’t. It would have been nice to have had some online multiplayer cooperation but alas, this has been deemed unnecessary here.
The game looks nice enough on the Vita’s glorious OLED screen as you would expect for something scaled down from its big brother but because the setting is in an older cartoon world rather than the bright primary coloured worlds of recent times it doesn’t pop as you might hope and as a result is dismissed as merely passable. Although this was a design choice and the ethic is upheld throughout it is a disappointment. Sound is decent but the voices will get on your nerves pretty quickly if you get stuck on a puzzle - which you will given they’re wild and imbalanced from one to the next.
Unfortunately Mickey’s reputation as a gaming character takes a battering from this version of an already poor game, one which does nothing different and better than what already existed. Indeed the developers should probably have not bothered. If you’ve already had the misfortune to experience this tale on home console there is no way you would want to come back and no reason to do so. If you haven’t, it’s still not going to bring you any joy. We did have high hopes for Mickey’s gaming career but that hope does not survive even five minutes into this title.