Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is the spiritual successor of the 1990’s cult classic, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
Much like the game it’s been inspired by Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a 2D platforming game that uses the pain/thinner mechanic seen in Epic Mickey and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.
Making full use of the Nintendo 3DS’ touchscreen and 3D visuals, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a charming trip down memory lane. But, is your nostalgia good enough reason to invest in Mickey’s latest handheld offering?
For those who’ve never played Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, I suggest you get yourself a second-hand Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, and grab the game off eBay. Sega’s early Illusion helped bolster the companies 16-bit system before the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog.
While Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion borrows a lot of design ideas from this 90’s classic, it suffers along the way by some annoyingly derivative gameplay ideas. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion isn’t a direct sequel to the Nintendo Wii original game, Epic Mickey, but does lend itself to the same universe established in the game.
Shortly after the events of the aforementioned original, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit makes contact with Mickey Mouse once more to tell him of the presence of a mysterious castle in Wasteland – the place where forgotten cartoon characters live. Turns out the evil witch Mizrabel and her castle of illusion has been transported to Wasteland, and with it a number of kidnapped cartoon characters from various Disney films/shorts.
Once more in Wasteland, and after bursting into the castle of illusion, once more, Mickey Mouse needs to find and rescue all of the kidnapped ‘toons in order to stop the evil witch from returning to the ‘real world’. And so, he sets off across three worlds to do just that.
The story is classic Disney. There’s a lot of innocent humour, as well as a lot of learning to appreciate virtues and respect other peoples feelings, all set against a backdrop of good triumphing over evil. Fans of Disney story-telling, and naturally young kids, will get a kick out of seeing the various Disney characters interact with one another within the story, though ultimately merely provides a context which to frame the action – one that for the most part is uninteresting.
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion‘s main draw is its gameplay – well designed side-scrolling platforming. On one level it attains the same balance of similarity, oddly enough, and some new fresh ideas thanks to the added hardware grunt of the 3DS. Mickey’s movement is exceptionally tight and his range of attacks (jump/twirl etc.) respond well and when all meshed together just ‘work’.
What doesn’t work overly as much is the paint/thinner mechanic made famous in Epic Mickey. Since the 3DS lacks the obvious input of a Wiimote/nunchuck interface, the development team decided to relegate the mechanic to have a duel attack/draw use. At any time you can use either paint or thinner to attack enemies, or in context sensitive situations where drawing a simple shape using the stylus on the touch screen will create an object to aid Mickey. Additionally, you can erase the same shape to remove it.
Used sparingly this is actually a lot of fun. You can unlock various sketches in-game that grant you aid from other characters or massive blocks to destroy enemies. However, as the game plots along you’ll find every minute or so you’ll be having to draw or erase something to progress, sometimes within seconds of one another. I simply feels like you’re constantly getting plugged out of the experience far too often to actually enjoy the game.
While I appreciate the paint/thinner mechanic is perhaps pivotal to the Epic Mickey universe, I felt it was used far too much, and the game would had been all the better if it was more a straight side-scrolling platformer with none of the paint/thinner elements.
Other avenue where Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion totally forces you off the main path is with its huge number of side-quets. Normally I’d enjoy a game which gives me plenty to do, though by and large this is usually totally optional. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion however, twists your arm and forces you to them in order to progress.
For the most part it involves spending time going between the various rescued cartoon characters, talking with them and getting them things. It’s all incredibly mundane and actually distracts you from the game itself. There are some quests that have you re-play levels to find a particular item – though mix in the frustration of the paint/thinner mechanic and some incredibly strange difficulty spikes in later levels.
With the game only have three short worlds these side-quests feel more like padded out the experience more than anything over say, including more levels. The requirement to actually need to do them in order to unlock a new world also tastes bad in my mouth. It feels, to me, lazy game designing.
But, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion isn’t all bad. From a visual perspective the game is top-notch. The 3D visuals really help make the games colourful and vibrant world pop-out. I played around with the 3D setting on/off, and noticed a dulled effect to the game when completely switched off.
Character sprites, especially Mickey’s, are also incredibly vibrant. Each character is brimming with life and attitude, again none as much as Mickey himself. Sprites, I feel, are a dying breed in this day and age and with Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion‘s inspiration being what it was, I felt a certain jolt of nostalgia for an era long, long past.
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion was, for the most, an enjoyable side-scrolling platforming experience. The art design and general look of the game felt like a reimagined Castle of Illusion, with excellent character sprites and vibrant 3D effects. The gameplay, while largely derivative in areas, was exceptionally tight with just that little extra dose of difficulty.
It isn’t perfect, though for fans of Sega’s Illusion games and Disney lovers alike, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a nice romp down memory lane, with a few bumps along the way.