Epic Mickey 2 is a big disappointment. While a lot of people weren't expecting much from the sequel, I really quite enjoyed the original and its cast of characters. The follow-up feels like it's taken numerous wrong turns during conception and development, resulting in an awkward, dull, and simplistic 3D platformer.
Key to my dislike is the story. The original featured a cast of great characters, including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. This Disney relic hated Mickey and wanted his heart, making him a bitter and resentful character, the kind of which you don't often see in games of this type. There was also an evil threat in the form of The Blot, a monstrosity that had destroyed Oswald's homeland, and a crazy scientist who had made some nasty contraptions. In short, it was an adventure worth going on, and by the end I actually cared for the characters and what had happened to them due to my actions. Almost none of this is true for Epic Mickey 2.
The sequel, once again handled by Junction Point Studios, sees you teaming up with Oswald, who's now a good guy. That's problem number one. Problem number two is the comparatively weak evil menace - if you can even work out who it is. The world of Epic Mickey 2 tries to be a place of woe and sorrow, but it just can't match the bleakness which made the original game a memorable experience. And that's problem number three. It's as if the designers took Epic Mickey and ran it through a filter that syphoned all the edginess, leaving nothing but a sanitised experience.
Having Oswald alongside you is a terrible move. He has his own set of abilities carried out through his remote, which essentially let him hack into terminals and electrocute enemies. He also carries a boomerang. When he's AI controlled he rarely does what you want him to, often wandering about aimlessly and getting into trouble. These AI issues are gone when a second player takes control of him, but it's questionable whether or not you'd actually want to play as him, given that his moves are incredibly dull compared to Mickey's paint and thinner.
Once again, outside of platforming, the core gameplay mechanic here is built around Mickey's brush. He can either thin objects into nothingness or paint them back into the game world - providing the object in question can be painted, of course; many core objects can't be. The idea is that painting is good and thinning is bad, but most scenarios can be accomplished using either. It's a neat little mechanic, but the basic puzzles offer nothing players of the original won't haven't already seen. Choosing between an invisibility and thinner-resistant paint adds an extra element to certain conundrums, but there's still nothing clever about how they're used.
Simple sums up Epic Mickey 2 quite well. Other than the odd annoyance brought about by a camera that makes combat somewhat tricky, there's almost no challenge in the 12+ hour adventure. Without a story or characters to care about, the game became tedious midway through, and any side-quests I was involved in quickly fell to the wayside.
Unlike the original, Epic Mickey 2 found its way onto all the current consoles (including the Wii U), but you can clearly see the game's Wii origins. Outside of a clear bump in resolution, there are few obvious improvements over the game running on Nintendo's original Wii, although the addition of a second analogue stick does make combat a little easier. It's also worth noting that the game's musical elements are nothing more than one character who talks in song. If you're expecting a full on musical extravaganza, you'll be left disappointed.
Such is the disappointment of Epic Mickey 2 that fans of the original will feel that the entire soul of the game has been ripped out and replaced with a cheerier but gormless imposter, while anyone who didn't rate it will find even less to enjoy here. In many ways, Epic Mickey was fortunate to get a sequel. But given how that opportunity has been squandered, I'd be amazed if a third game is ever given the green light.
Version Tested: Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 game was played through to completion, taking approximately 12 hours. Numerous side quests were played. Retail code was supplied by Disney.