It’s ironic that the latest blockbuster starring Walt Disney’s most iconic cartoon creation is a bit of a Mickey Mouse affair. Last year’s PlayStation 3 release of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, the sequel to development juggernaut Warren Spector’s popular Nintendo Wii game, fell flat on its button nose due to shoddy level design, dull visuals, and artificial intelligence more irritating than the Mad Doctor in song. Unsurprisingly, this unnecessary PlayStation Vita port succumbs to the same symptoms, serving up a subpar adventure that trundles along with its vivid red shorts nestled uneasily around its ankles.
Following the exact same blueprints as its studio slaying brethren, the whimsical adventure plops you in the golden shoes of the aforementioned hero, and tasks you with restoring a dilapidated Wasteland with a magical paintbrush. You’ll be accompanied by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit along the way, a big-eared co-star who’s spent much of his career outside of the spotlight. With the city of forgotten cartoon characters in disarray, it’s down to you and your unfortunate friend to watercolour the world back to life, unravelling an array of mysteries along the way.
As with the PS3 version, you’ll be able to target various objects with your enchanted ink, restoring numerous platforms and paraphernalia to their original state. Alternatively, a deft shot of paint stripper will erase certain objects from the location, opening up plenty of puzzle opportunities as you progress. Adequate control for this mechanic is incorporated with the shoulder buttons and right analogue stick, but you can also stab the front touch screen with a daring digit to unload a dollop of colour in a more tactile manner. The latter works fine, but targeting a miniscule minion with a humdinger of a finger can obscure your vision a little more than we would have liked.
Portly thumbprints are the least of the game’s problems, though, as this excursion through an anthropomorphic underworld proves to be a chore to play. The game does a terrible job of communicating with you, leaving you nursing a headache as you hunt for the exact pixels that it wants you to interact with. The platforming – which isn’t as prominent as you may anticipate – is slippery, making it hard to judge jumps in a lot of environments, and both the main and side quests are dreary, sending you on tired fetch quests through a world that’s bursting with unfulfilled potential.
There are some promising vistas and nice nods to Disney culture – pushing together the pouting lips of a lovesick Snow White and dashing Prince Charming to open a single locked door, for example – but these moments are few and far between, and outside of a sequence of two-dimensional sections that splice classic cartoons with simple platforming arenas, the art direction is disappointingly dreary for a franchise with such vibrancy to draw upon. Furthermore, the performance is atrocious in places, with the framerate slumping to single figures in some intensive sequences.
It doesn’t help that you’ll spend much of the release wrestling with the finicky camera, desperately trying to get a good look at your next dangerous bunny hop, before settling on a leap of faith when the lively viewfinder fails to settle where you want it to. The lengthy boss fights tend to accentuate the game’s flaws, as you fiddle with the chugging lens, trying to centre it on the massive foes towering over your feeble mouse-like frame. At least the adventure is quite forgiving with checkpoints, meaning that you won’t have to replay too many sections when you inevitably fall victim to the title’s design shortcomings.
Worst of all, though, is the dim-witted artificial intelligence of your four-legged companion. Clearly conceived as a co-op experience, you’ll need the input of Oswald to progress through many puzzles and environments. Unfortunately, despite the character’s constant affirmations, he’ll rarely do what you require of him, sometimes staring pensively at objects that you need him to interact with, repeating phrases such as, “I’ve got this,” while he fails to move a muscle. The package does boast local Wi-Fi multiplayer, but this requires you to collude with someone else that owns the game, and unless you’ve already arranged with a buddy to buy the title, finding a partner to play with may prove more challenging than locating the love of your life.
There’s definitely some promise buried deep beneath Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’s surface drudgery, but this needless PlayStation Vita port fails to uncover it any better than its PS3 counterpart. In fact, the underwhelming adventure actually fares worse on Sony’s pocketable platform, delivering a framerate that flirts with single digits and some pretty inconsequential touch screen features. Your system may be starved of full retail releases, but Tearaway is only a few months away – rip this one off your wishlist, and let it wallow in Wasteland like it deserves.