Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Epic Mickey: Where is Oswald?
Everyone is familiar with Walt Disney and his amusement parks. We all know Mickey and Goofy, but very few know about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This little rabbit was Mickey's predecessor way back in the 20's and he was hugely successful. But despite Oswald's popularity, it was Mickey that became Disney's greatest success when the rights to Oswald were lost in 1928. Mickey became famous and Oswald, under different ownership, gradually disappeared from the limelight. It wasn't until 2006 that Disney finally got those rights back and Oswald came home. His original shorts were re-released in 2007 and the first new hints of him in Disney merchandising appeared in the form of t-shirts and Christmas ornaments. This was all pretty exciting for Disney Geeks, but the most exciting development for this Geek was his pending appearance in Epic Mickey.
I could not wait to see Oswald again, newly animated, running around my TV screen with Mickey. I don't own a Wii and I was so desperate that I convinced a friend's kids to give up their Wii so I could play, with the promise that I'd give them the game when I returned the console. So, for the last month my family has been playing Epic Mickey until today, when I returned the Wii and the game, unfinished, and somewhat disappointed. The game itself was a classic platformer. Nothing new or exciting and honestly it's a bit tricky to play with the nun chucks. The "paintbrush" with either paint or thinner is a neat idea in an animated world, but aiming it is so flaky that you often miss your target. My biggest disappointment though, despite downright frustrating gameplay, is something else entirely.
The alternate universe of the Cartoon Wasteland is fun. Disney fans will easily recognize the different rides, like It's A Small World, turned into something a bit creepy and odd. I know, the real ride in the real world might be called creepy and odd but you get my point. The music is ever so slightly different and a bit off key, the boats float in paint thinner, and there are evil brooms right out of Fantasia throwing buckets of the stuff in your direction as you jump Mickey from boat to boat. This part of the game was well done and appeals to my inner Disney Geek. Mickey then moves from one land to the next by jumping into old black and white film reels. This is also very cool as are the little glimpses of Oswald, who Mickey is chasing. And of course there are cut scenes, which, given that this is Disney, should be amazing, but....
The cut scenes aren't actually animated. Nope. They're static images that the camera pans across. And they're done in a very minimalist style, more like storyboards from a work in progress than a finished product, and you have to read the words that pop up on screen to know what the images are telling you because the images themselves convey so little. What? This is Disney. What the heck happened? Oh, and you know that cute little rabbit, Oswald? The guy who was touted as getting his first new appearance in 50 years and who hasn't been part of the Disney family in even longer....you hardly see him at all. Other than his appearance in the opening animated sequence, which is fantastic, Oswald is as elusive as a seat on the Monorail after the fireworks.
I didn't come to this game as a Gamer. I came to this game as a Disney Geek who couldn't wait for the opportunity to see a beloved character of old make a triumphant return to the masses. I couldn't wait to show my kids the cute, trouble-making rabbit. Sadly, I'm going to have to wait a bit longer since his role in this game is practically non-existent. Epic Mickey held such promise as a reintroduction for this long forgotten character, but instead it turns out to be a poorly executed platformer, with dull cut scenes and very little of the spark of brilliance that is the hallmark of the best stories created by Disney. Epic? Not even close.