E3 2010: Epic Mickey - hand-on with a deep Disney dork

You know when Mickey Mouse became lame? The second he put a shirt on. Throwing clothes on the rat brought him to suburban life, followed by sterile corporate iconography, and on to his current relevance which doesn’t extend far beyond baby clothes. BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS THAT WAY! Mickey Mouse began his career as a mischievous, kick-you-in-the-ass thrill seeker and nobody knows that better than Warren Spector, the visionary developer who brought us Deus Ex and Theif: Deadly Shadows.

Above: “Sit your ass down… Hu-Ha!

It’s easy to forget Mickey was once a kinetic figure of mischief and mayhem; an uproariously hilarious cartoon star beloved to generations before Disney itself subdued those aspects of his personality as he became more of a company figurehead. But Spector remembers. And he’s ripped the people clothes off the rodent chucked him back into the role that made him famous. Today people know him as a character things happen to, but Epic Mickey’s bringing back the mouse that makes things happen.

At first glance, Epic Mickey might deceive you into thinking that it’s a simple platforms. But pull back the layers, and you’ll see where Spector’s pedigree for immersion and diversion comes into play. Mickey has unwittingly brought strife to a forgotten land of ink and paint cast asides, and he’s given the tools to either restore or convert the environment to his own purposes.

Above: Fill it in...

Spraying paint can not only change enemy behavior, it also affects the world around you. You’ve got two meters: One of life-giving paint and another of weaponry paint thinner. Their quantities are limited and how you Mickey distributes them is up to you.

Above: Or blot it out.

Color in a bridge or platform to reach new heights, or cast paint thinner and remove aspects of the environment to reveal pathways and coveted items. Thing is, there’s morality system in place that subtly effects Mickey’s appearance and perception. Characters that populate the Cartoon Wasteland will react differently to Mickey depending on his actions.

It’s an RPG-quality that’ll sound familiar to those who’ve played Mass Effect, Infamous, etc., however, from my all too brief hand-on, the outcome was far less predictable. And that’s meant as the highest compliment. There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut right and wrong in Epic Mickey, yet there are viewable consequences to Mickey’s actions, be they noble or utilitarian.

Holy crap… can you honestly believe that last sentence was about a Disney game starring Mickey Mouse?! Screenshots may present Epic Mickey as a family-friendly platformer, and it can in fact be played as one (there are Quest, Action and sidescolling Travel maps,) but gamers who labored to experience every little detail of Deus Ex can probably expect to find the same here… provided they don’t shrug it off as kiddie game. And you most certainly shouldn’t! I dare you to go to the next page...