Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion - Wait until you see what they've done to Mickey on 3DS… or rather what they haven't

They don't make games like this any more. Except for the simple fact 'this' is a brand-spanking new side-scrolling 2D Mickey Mouse 'Illusion' game for 3DS on a 3D display and uses a touch screen and stylus to activate special abilities. It's got the same production values as '90s platformers but uses current-gen tech to stay relevant.

Above: No 2D platformer is complete without a sunny forest level

And so, despite being on 3DS, it's the loving attention to what made the original Mickey Mouse platformers so great that makes this so exciting. So let's take a look at what's new and what's brilliantly, heart-achingly old after our hands-on with Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion at Gamescom.

Bottom bounce

Mickey's traditional 2D moveset returns! Jump once and then push the jump button again while you're in the air and Mickey will hitch up his knees and bring down bottomnal (that's a word we just made up) justice to any enemy below. Some enemies require more than one bum-related strike, but that's OK – repeat bouncing is enjoyable.

Above: Enemy placement is quite wicked, leaving little room for error

You can also crouch – and we immediately recognised the pose he assumes as the one from Mickey Mania/Mickey's Wild Adventure. But what's even more instantly recognisable is the sound that plays when you collect an item – it's lifted straight from the original 16-bit version of Castle of Illusion. Shivers, meet spine. There are also swinging chains which Mickey can grab onto...

Above: The oldest swinger in town

...and while there are more animation frames in his swing in 2012-o-vision, he's doing so in the same body shapes as his 1990 self. But while the fan service even extends to the speed of movement and height of jump (at least in regular play - I'll come to that), there are some new aspects too.

Looking a bit thin

The paint/thinner mechanic of Epic Mickey is present, although judging from the demo we tried, it's mercifully underplayed. You can fire globs of paint at enemies if you like, but you don't have to – you can play 95% of the time in classic Castle of Illusion style, only pausing for touch screen paint/thinner puzzles. These are refreshing for requiring you to actually use your brain without holding your hand.

Above: The Touch Screen is used for more advanced use of the pain/thinner mechanic

For instance, there are some barrels - a bit like Donkey Kong Country's - which propel you upwards, but you have to paint them in first. To do this, you tap the outline on the touch screen with your stylus (or thumbnail if you're feeling accurate) and then trace the outline of the shape that appears. Do it right and a platform, or in this case the barrel, will appear.

However, after painting in two barrels, we're propelled into a third barrel, which chucks us back down the other way. A few more goes but with the same result. Then we remember the thinner – the barrels can also be erased from the world using the same method, only scrubbing out the object on the touch screen. It's simple enough, but the fact the game doesn't spoon-feed you the answer makes it feel so much more rewarding when you finally progress.

Think Tink

There is another use of the touch screen – a small icon in the top-right corner that shows a thumbnail of another Disney character. This depends on which ones you choose at the start of the level, up to three from a selection that widens as you unlock more. Each one has their own unique special ability. For instance, Tinkerbell sprinkles fairy dust on you, allowing you to jump higher for a limited time.

Above: We didn't see Rapunzel during our hands-on. Reckon her hair's climbable?

The 3D effect looks superb, even when the slider's all the way up to the top. A lot of 3DS games' maximum settings are too deep, but the three or so layers of 2D parallax just look beautiful on maximum. The game still runs at 60fps in 3D mode, making it feel like a solid cartoon world that you're peering at through a window. And the art style looks how you remember the original looked, not how it actually looked. In other words, really good.

Above: London Skies is an early level. Relatively easy, but pretty in 3D

Crucially, the game plays like a classic platformer with only the paint/thinner mechanic really affecting the core gameplay. And don't be fooled into thinking this is a child's game. It's child-friendly, certainly, but it's no cakewalk – we were 'out' a couple of times during our hands-on. It's as hard as the old Castle of Illusion, which should be great news for fans of the old games.

2D platformers are rare these days, at least in terms of boxed releases. But if the final game turns out to be as good as it looks like it will be, this could find a new legion of Illusion fans… and then perhaps we can have some more. Welcome back, Mr Mouse.

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  • Maria-Ann Harrison - August 28, 2012 9:04 a.m.

    what Christopher explained I am in shock that a stay at home mom able to make $5841 in a few weeks on the internet. did you see this webpage
  • H Hog - August 25, 2012 1:28 a.m.

    Wait, wait wait.... looking at the screenshot gallery -- Why does Mizrabel the witch look like Maleficent? That wasn't what she looked like in the original Castle of Illusion! If anything, she looked more like the "old hag form" of the Evil Queen in Snow White.
  • IceBlueKirby - August 23, 2012 2:56 p.m.

    Is that a Thwomp with Pete's face on it? Yeah, I gotta get this game.
  • shawksta - August 23, 2012 9:02 a.m.

    Damn, this game is doing awesomely. Classic old Mickey with the classic hard difficulty, Glorious! People really need to know the difference between a game that's clearly made specifically for kids, and a game that's Rated E and kid friendly, it really grinds my gears when people take it too far.
  • PhantasyPopStar - August 23, 2012 5:50 a.m.

    Unless they plan on releasing this on the Iphone/Ipad it is completely useless. Shame, I used to respect Disney. But turning a blind eye to the more obvious and successful gaming platform is pretty much unforgivable..
  • Leroy_Jenkins - August 23, 2012 6:16 a.m.

    A company known for predominantly kids films, releasing a game about a cartoon character on a portable platform which is mostly adopted by kids?! GODS BE DAMNED! Seriously though: get a grip. Arsehat.
  • codystovall - August 23, 2012 7:58 a.m.

    Another reason for me to get a 3ds.
  • shawksta - August 23, 2012 9:12 a.m.

    >Implying it wouldn't be so rage inducing playing a game meant to be difficult and needs precision while having to have your fingers obscure the screen controlling the damn thing and that's without the paintbrush gimmick >Waaah Waah why doesn't my [insert platform here] get [insert said exclusive game] I bet you think all of Wii's exclusive 3rd party is "useless till ported to Ps3/360" too
  • J-Fid - August 23, 2012 1:36 p.m.

    Calm down, he is a troll. He's saying the same thing on other articles.
  • PhantasyPopStar - August 23, 2012 1:40 p.m.

    ssssssshhhhhhhhh! 8p
  • PhantasyPopStar - August 23, 2012 1:39 p.m. You're either a fanboy, pointless apple hater or just plain ignorant of the facts.. its all available. do your research and for the love of god see the light.
  • shawksta - August 23, 2012 3:10 p.m.

    Relax there, my only grudge on your comment is randomly bashing it and being "disappointed" as if 3rd party exclusives never existed.
  • H Hog - August 25, 2012 1:44 a.m.

    Yeah, uhm, that article already states it -- the most succesful games on iPhone have mostly been either casual hits, or ports from bigger games with touchscreen controls tacked on. (Ironically, similar to early DS games, come to think of it.) While I'm sure you can play one hell of a game of Angry Birds on your iPhone, a game of this caliber just wouldn't work as well on mobile platforms without majorly dumbing it down - the required touchscreen controls are too precise to work without a stylus, and it's been created with the thought of having 2 screens available to display scenes and puzzles without breaking up the action on the "main" screen. So before you start calling other people fanboys, get your head out of your own rectal cavity, buddy.
  • Shinn - August 23, 2012 4:56 a.m.

    Castle of Illusion was one of the first games I fell in love with, just reading about this game brings back all of those memories. I must buy this.
  • db1331 - August 23, 2012 5:24 a.m.

    No doubt. I must have beaten that game 100 times on my old Genesis. These pics took me back.