I thought it would be interesting to have a thread to see everyone's sort of specific responses and reviews for Epic Mickey. I apologise if this turns out to be a bad idea or if other threads would do a better job, but I just think now the hype is over and the wait is done, it should start on a new level, if ya get me. Oh, and from here on in...there will be spoilers.
So, my experience with my first playthrough of Epic mickey...I have never played a game that has made me think as much as this one. Not because of the story or characters, that was already turning the wheels in my head the first time I heard of the concept, and it's a fantastic concept at that- but now it's the gameplay. I've seen reviewers say this game borrows from everything and produces nothing original. But I see you that point and raise you the fact that I have never, in my life, played a platformer with this level of depth and intricacy in its system.
So let's talk gameplay first. The choice system is astoundingly well thought out- in fact you do genuinely feel that you might stray from the path a few times. I tried as best I could to play as a good guy, but sometimes situations just called me in to vent out some thinner or save wasteland as best I could. Sometimes I thought helping Pete or the lonesome ghosts would actually be a good thing- until I realised that by helping them I'd actually hurt someone else. When one of the ghosts actually intercepted me to get the item back halfway through foiling their scheme, I felt the game had surprised me a little and it was a really nice touch. The music is really, really great- Jim Dooley does a perfect job of making not only an epic score, but a subtle score. I've always found subtle things and juxtaposition to be more epic anyway, and Oswalds theme, which is the most beautiful thing I've heard, really hits home as the most epic track in his throne room, not to mention the old 20's theme in the credits. Man, do I love the old cartoon themes, particularly the trolley troubles theme. An Amazing job. Those levels themselves are pretty great too, the sidescrolling stuff is solid and really does bring back some nostalgia from the older cartoons I used to have on some shorts. I was hoping there'd be a prince and the pauper themed one but...well, the nineties and all. Not exactly forgotten yet.
However....some missions do feel a little lacking, maybe because they don't actually add much to the characters. It confused me because there was a lot of emphasis on making characters like Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle cow very much in the limelight and...well, Clarabelle barely figured into the story and Horace, who did get a bit more fleshed out, was stuck on the sidelines handing out fetch quests. It didn't seem to amount to much. Now, what if Horace had actually been investigating mysteries throughout the worlds, or had taken on a few different roles like in the old days? Heck, what if Horace had been like a lawyer to Mickey, protecting him from Oswalds scrutiny in Wasteland? I think touches of integrating character with gameplay like that would have helped immensely and I'd love to see that in a sequel.
And this game is veeeeery much open for a sequel. The revelation with the Mad doctor is a stroke of genius...unfortunately it doesn't actually amount to much in the final story but I can let that slide, I'll touch base with it later. In terms of enemies, of course the blot army is a great set of foes and it really added some challenge in terms of both combat and decision making. The beetleworx on the other hand...hmm. I feel like they were sidelined a lot of the time and I only really got to see a few, and when I did...woo boy, those things were hard to beat, and not really 'fun' to fight. They were definitely the only part of the game that acted as a let down for me. Of course, I do consider the clock Tower boss to the be crowning achievement in how far design wise and fight wise they took the beetleworx concept, so it's not all bad there. Oh, and as for boss fights...I loved them, and kinda wish we had more. It was a very interesting combination of choices, especially considering that only the last three were really focusing on characters people had genuinely forgotten. In fact I'm a little disappointed Petetronic wasn't the long john silver version as seen in the concept, I thought the idea was that we'd have the old petes looking like Pete from the 1930s, and then Petetronic would be the beetleworx pete with his 90s look to epic things up a bit. I think that's what epic Mickey missed out on, the combination of emotional depth with gameplay scenarios, because that's what truly makes for an epic experience.
Which leads me to the only point I have to take issue with seriously...Oswald. Oswald is a wonderful cartoon character, and the videos leading up to Epic Mickey have protrayed him as such. Warren Spector is a genius, he know's how Oswald ticks and what makes the character so appealing, and I love the idea of making him a star again, buuuuuut....Epic Mickey doesn't do that. In fact I think a tricks been missed- originally I heard Oswald was going to be the villain and that Lasseter asked that he be the hero throughout...but it doesn't work well. Oswald comes across as resentful but...it's very subdued. Oswald would be livid if Mickey came back, I reckon. Not only that, but Wasteland feels less sad and more tired, especially because Oswald is revered as such a hero. It makes everything feel a bit floaty instead of really emotionally engaging. I know the point was to have fun, but that comes with experience and juxtiposistion, which creates fun.
I'm going to be a bit selfish and say my piece about what I think should have happened, and hopefully people will tell me I'm wrong or will chip in with ideas. Let's say Oswald is bitter and jealous of Mickeys fame- he tries desperately to shape wasteland to his own view of how things should be, putting his ego everywhere (this was shown in the level design...but for some bizarre reason it's considered to be a good trait and noble. It's definitely unhealthy and that should have been EM's theme of redemption vs revenge.) Oswald makes everyone forcibly happy through the league of petes and has the mad doctor create scenarios in the wasteland for him to solve (as in tales of the wasteland.) He doesn't tell anyone about Mickeyjunk mountain- the doctor makes the beetleworx which have been seen around wasteland but ultimately are only gathering mickey junk. Then Mickey arrives and Oswald see's his chance to escape, so the beetleworx are sent after a poor and naive mickey who can either find ways to escape or figure out the situation. The phantom Blot would come into play as the piece de resistance of the mad Doctors plan to rule wasteland alone, and of course then you have a reason that Oswald went over the edge- temptation by the mad doctor- this would dramatically change the dialogue and missions characters would give you from fetch quests to a sort of underground resistance, or even just making everything happy and toonish again in a fun romp. So Mickey has to make choices at the same time as Oswald- he can either fight the mad doctor and save everyone, fight the blot and go home, or face Oswald and convince him to be the one to save Wasteland. Boom- heartwarming story that seems much less confused and bitty than the one presented in Epic Mickey, and also seems to actually offer fun and a little darkness at the same time.
But for as much as I've said that...Epic Mickey is triumphant in it's redemption of Mickey Mouse.
I'm serious, never before has anything made me appreciate Mickey more than this game. He's a real amalgamation of all his previous character traits, and he genuinely wants to do good even when he's being mischevious. He's just as confused as anyone else as to why he's been taken away and he really grows as a character throughout. It's the most heartwarming aspect of Epic Mickey, that Mickey is the one who is able to redeem people and convince them that there's a genuine side to him- a side that we aren't presented with very often. He's not putting that happy go lucky attitude on, he really means to do good and people warm to that. It's the very definition of epic. A fantastic achievement.
So, A mixed bag. I haven't mentioned the camera because, well, everyone else already has and anything I would say has already been said before. Junction Point Studios have opened the box of possibilities- they've achieved something no-one else has achieved- made a game that honest to god makes everyone who hears of it think. It makes them realise the potential, the possibilities, and when they play it that's doubled. The game is really fun to actually get involved with and while it isn't a solid, faultless package, it's a breathtaking experience you won't have had before. I thought Psychonauts was the last great platformer- but this game is so much meatier. I can't score it because of the balance, really, but heck, I had a blast playing it, and I definitely would love to see more. I hope we do see more.