Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Epic Mickey: Where is Oswald?

We're an Xbox 360 family because my husband is a hardcore gamer.  I can't generally play games with him because he's so good, that he leaves me in the dust where I inevitably get shot to pieces by the enemy.  Many times.  And then I get angry and controllers fly....it's a bad scene.  I do really enjoy watching him play though because so many games now have fully developed story lines and characters.  I wanted to see if Shepard would save the world and get the girl in Mass Effect, and I kept hoping beyond hope that Marston would find his family safe at the end of Red Dead Redemption.  If a game is just about hopping from level to level, shooting bad guys and racking up points, it's just not as interesting to me.  Those games have their place, but they are not as immersive or as impressive as games with fully fleshed out worlds and characters.  Epic Mickey promised to be my kind of game.

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.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with a lot of what you said as a big girl Disney fan who has an aversion to these "new fangled" video game systems (I never really evolved past Super Nintendo)

    Oswald wasn't ever intended to be a main part of this game and I'm not sure where you gut the idea he was. It's called Epic Mickey. Not Epic Oswald and some of that Mouse guy all of you like. Oswald was a way for them to have a "bad" version of Mickey to chase along the game. Nothing more. So that was on you if you went in expecting this epic Oswald story that was never supposed to be there.
    Go back and look at all the Mickey Mouse games made. You're playing to play as Mickey. And in this one, even better: you get to play in a jacked up version of the Magic Kingdom! Fans are playing for that stuff. Non-fans are just playing to play the game.

    My chief complaint with the game was the game play. The game is set up poorly with looking around and maneuvering the lands. I haven't gotten very far when I have time to play but even my game-savvy husband had a tough time getting around.

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  2. Yes, the wonky controller was really frustrating. I loved the idea behind how they used the thing, pointing it like a paintbrush, but the targeting was so bad I kept thinking I was aiming in the right place and then I wasn't and, then I was dead. My kids fared a little better, but that's a given in just about any game!

    As for my Oswald expectations, if you'd seen some of the promo stuff that I got as "press" and even sitting at the panel at NYCC, they talked up Oswald something fierce! I knew I'd play as a butt-kicking Mickey, that he was the main focus, and that the Magic Kingdom was going to be all kinds of messed up, but they talked and talked about Oswald. In fact, at NYCC they discussed how excited they were to have him in the game, and how it was so great to bring him back after all this time. They got into the detail of how complicated it was to determine his voice since he didn't have one already and the one panelist (whose name I should know but don't) waxed poetic about how proud he was that his vision for Oswald's voice was what they eventually chose. Yes, Mickey was billed as the Big Cheese, but they spent a lot of time telling us about how Oswald was back and would play a big part as Mickey's nemesis. His part in the game is there, but as a sidelined supporting character not as the co-star that he was billed as in so much press ahead of the release. That's was a let down for me.

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  3. Haven't played Epic Mickey yet, but assume that I'll have a similar reaction. And I can't imagine the disappointment I would experience if I'd sat in the NYCC and then saw the role that the Lucky Rabbit really had. Thanks for the review.

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  4. Yes, I really was not happy. It looked like it could have been so good, just amazing, from all the previews and the finished product just didn't live up to the hype.

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