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E3 2010 games to watch: Epic Mickey preview

Some you’ll know, some you won’t, but all will require your complete and undivided attention. So tune in to GamesRadar every Wednesday and Saturday, and have that attention primed and ready.

Today, we’re looking at Warren Spector's stunning-lookingDisney reinvention, Epic Mickey.

Why Epic Mickey is one to watch:

  • It's no ordinary throwaway cartoon license. Epic Mickey is Disney bringing the mouse back in style, bringing in the big guns in terms of development talent and telling a fantastic, high-concept story that turns everything you knew about Uncle Walt's tooniverse upside down.
  • The game's development is being headed up by one Warren Spector. If you need refreshing, he's the certified goddamn genius behind Deus Ex and Thief, and has been as responsible as anyone for turning games into a mature, intelligent art form. Don't expect a bog-standard platformer here. Epic Mickey is going to be a lot deeper and more clever than that.

  • The story is fantastic. In a nutshell, Mickey discovers - and finds himself trapped in - a dark, decaying realm known as the Cartoon Wasteland, a place which is home to all of Walt Disney's forgotten, unsuccessful creations. The key figure here is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt's pre-Mickey attempt at a mascot character. He's lonely, angry and bitter at the success of his 'brother', and Mickey's going to have to work seriously hard to build bridges and redeem his sibling.
  • It looks creepy as all Hell. This isn't a bright and shiney blue-skied Disneyworld,so don't go expecting any pink castles or stars to wish upon. The Cartoon Wasteland is a broken down, hopeless place, a nightmarish skew on traditional Disney imagery, draped in decay and crumbling steampunk technology. The early preview build we've seen looked a bit basic, but we've been promised that the game is undergoing a full visual overhaul for E3, which should bring it in line with its stunning production artwork.

  • The gameplay is pure Warren Spector. If you haven't played any of his older games, you need to know that that means one thing. Immense freedom. With a player-driven narrative, Epic Mickey rarely presents a right or wrong way to approach a puzzle or obstacle. Spector claims to have found at least six ways of completing even simple stock puzzles (Note 'found' rather than 'programmed'. Epic Mickey really is that organic), and such is the game's freedom that you don't even have to fight the bosses. Get to know them, understand their wants and needs, and if you providewhat they desireyou can pass without any aggression whatsoever.
  • And that choice of approach extends to a full Fallout-style morality system. Play destructively and Mickey will become a hardened battle mouse, stronger and more powerful, but mistrusted and shunned by the Wasteland's inhabitants. Play benevolently and his creative powers will increase, and he'll also gain the allegiance of more of the characters he meets. This will open up new solutions to problems, and even whole new areas and levels within the game.

  • Speaking of destruction and creativity, those elements are key to Mickey's navigation of the Cartoon Wasteland. He carries with him both paint and paint thinner, which he can use respectively to paint in and rebuilt the environment around him or wipe it out of existence.

    And it's not a scripted environmental on/off switch. Mickey has limited paint, so he can, for instance, choose to spare some by only repainting odd sections of a missing bridge. He'll save paint, buthis crossing will be a lot riskier. Creativity, freedom of choice, risk and reward. That's what Epic Mickey is all about. And if they all come together as well as we trust Spector will make them, it should be a corker.

But what do you think? Are you excited to see more of the mouse, or has something else caught your eye during ourE3 2010 previews? The comments await your opinions, as do our thriving portals onFacebookandTwitter.

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.