At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, we learned that the first level of Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is based on the 1953 animated film Peter Pan. Since facing off against Captain Hook on the Jolly Roger though, we've heard little else about what other Disney celluloid classics would be the source of inspiration in the upcoming 2D platformer. That was remedied at a recent press event, however, when Junction Point Studios' Warren Spector and DreamRift's creative director Peter Ong revealed a brand new world--or castle wing--based on Aladdin. From the streets of Agrabah to the Cave of Wonders, players will get to unleash Mickey's paint-and-thinner powers in a variety of familiar locales from the 1992 film.
Drenched in Disney detail and complemented by a rainbow-shaming color palette, the Aladdin-based level impressively pops off the screen--even when the 3DS's extra dimension is turned off. Ong credits his passionate team and their crazy-good access to Disney's feature film division with creating the eye-pleasing presentation. “It was really important for us, as it is with every wing in the castle, to make sure the visuals we created were as faithful as possible and as directly translated from the classic Disney films that we're drawing from. Disney's feature animation department gave us actual source working file images from the original movies.” Especially easy on the eyes are the small areas that display the gradual transformation of the castle into the Aladdin illusion state.
In addition to putting our combat skills and platforming prowess to the test, the obstacle-littered alleys of Agrabah also taxed our ability to swiftly swap between paint and thinner. A number of challenges tasked us with “thinning” out bladed chains on the lower screen, returning to the action on the upper display, then “painting” the chains--sans blades--back into world so we could swing on them. Painting and thinning Mickey-propelling barrels--often on the fly--poses even steeper stylus-piloting challenges. We quickly learned keeping one eye trained on the fast-moving action up top, while using the other to peer at player-shaped platforming opportunities down below, is the way to go.
Aladdin himself actually appears in the level, but interacting with the street-rat-turned-prince is totally optional. Early on in the world, observant players will spot a silhouette of Jasmine's dreamboat on the bottom screen. It takes some extra effort to reach his location on the upper display--as it does with most helpful characters in the game--but painting him into existence is a strategy that pays off in the end. During especially frantic encounters with Mizrabel's goons, melon-tossing guards, and floating blue ghosts, players will be relieved when they discover the genie-freeing hero randomly popping up to help out by tossing apples at Mickey's enemies.
The mouse ear-wearing masses will be thrilled to know Aladdin isn't the only familiar face they'll run into in his home town. During our demo, we had the opportunity to rescue both Snow White and Cinderella, and get pummeled by Pete. Of course, not even a pair of fan-favorite princesses and a canine bully can scratch the surface of the game's magical cast. Ong explains,“The cast of characters is huge...it spans every era of Disney, from the early classic Disney period up to the Renaissance period and up to modern Disney, right up to Rapunzel from Tangled.” Don't look for any Pixar stars though--this one's all about the mouse's pals.
Aside from featuring a fan-pleasing world based on one of Disney's best films, our demo did a fantastic job showcasing the dynamic gameplay made possible by the dual-screens. We were frequently engaged by areas that forced us to balance between traditional platforming play on the top screen and mastering paint and thinner mechanics on the touch display. While this smart level of integration surprised us, it seems it was part of Spector's plan all along. “One of the things that really appealed to me about DreamRift as a partner...if you look at the work they've done on games like Monster Tale and Henry Hatsworth, they're kind of the masters of top and bottom screen interaction. I love that about their games...I really wanted to make sure we captured that in any Disney Epic Mickey game we did.”