The first thing you’ll notice about Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is how sterile everything looks. Gone are the murky, almost depressing locales from the Nintendo Wii original, replaced by wholesome environments, which – at most – feature a little bit of damage here and there. In terms of grunge, this is more Bon Jovi than Nirvana. Unfortunately, the bleak, grey setting of the first game was one of the main things that drew players in, furnishing a believable fantasy world, and providing a structure that you don’t usually find in games of this ilk. That’s gone.
The second thing that you'll observe shortly after you begin playing is that your team-mate here is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the antagonist from the last game, who was previously all about smiting Mickey in a brutal fashion. Without the grimy locations and masterfully played main enemy, you’re left with a generic platformer that feels like it's been released a thousand times before.
It doesn't help that the game's co-op element is weak. You'll be drawing straws over who gets lumbered with Oswald, seeing as the retro rabbit is woefully dull to control. Mickey still has his magical paintbrush and paint thinner, which can be used to manipulate the environment – and still works as well as it did in the previous game – but Oswald has a boomerang, and, well, not much else. Even if you decide to forgo the discussion regarding who gets to take control of the eponymous mouse and decide to play the single-player mode instead, you’ll find that nine times out of ten, the AI-controlled Oswald is absolutely useless. When you need the guy to flick a switch to open a door, he’ll usually be off wandering around aimlessly elsewhere, and you’ll just have to wait. Failing that, he’ll be standing directly in front of you as you try to attack an enemy, complaining all the while that you’re hurting him.
Sorry Oswald, but you get what you get.
Epic Mickey 2 has the distinct feel of a game that's been rushed to retail. From the pacing notes intended for the voice actors that appear during the subtitles of the game’s opening movie – we assume erroneously – to the sub-par graphical performance that really doesn’t do much with the step up from the Wii to the PlayStation 3, the product as a whole leaves a lot to be desired. In some cases the problems are positively infuriating when a level objective isn’t explained at all, or you lose a life because of the fact that Mickey takes damage if someone so much as sneezes somewhere in the game world. The latter is all the more jarring when you consider that enemies require pixel-perfect precision in order to take them down.
But it isn’t all bad. The side-scrolling sections of the game are reminiscent of the likes of LittleBigPlanet, and showcase some of Mickey’s earlier cartoons nicely. Sweet collision detection, passable graphics, and some timing challenges that’ll make you want to tear your hair out (in a good way) make you wish that the other 90 per cent of the game was built to the same high standard.
Alas, Epic Mickey 2 seems to be striving for mediocrity at every turn. Perspective shifts that run outside of the realm of any cognitive reality will cause you to jump to your death on more than one occasion, or slide forward when you could swear that you’re on a level piece of ground. Add to that a camera that appears to love being hated, and boss fights that go on way, way, way too long, and you can safely avoid this without feeling like you’ve missed out. In fact, a full price purchase would probably be a big mouse-take (sorry), despite there being a good 10 hours of gameplay here.
Epic Mickey 2 represents a big drop in quality over its predecessor. Given the switch from the relatively underpowered Wii, that just shouldn’t be the case. Stepping away from the innovative core of the previous title has lumbered this sequel in sub-standard platform land, making it difficult for us to recommend.