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The power of inclusion in Epic Mickey 2


In retrospect, it's obvious that Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two would be a musical. It's the natural path toward making the Disneyest thing possible, and that's where Junction Point creative director Warren Spector's interests lie. Before I played a demo, I and other press were presented with a cutscene setting up the story.

The Mad Doctor makes a dramatic return to Os Town, amidst rumbling earthquakes (thanks for physically making my seat rumble in the theater, Disney), claiming to be reformed and seeking a hero to help him save the people from some unknown calamity.

And all this claiming and seeking is done in song. "Help ME, help YOU!" he sing-talks in heavily accented English. It works to convince Oswald to join him, and it worked to convince me that Warren Spector is all about the principles of Disney. I guess I didn't need much convincing there anyway.

Gallery: Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (360/PS3) | 21 Photos

Of course, accessibility is very Disney (and very "big budget video games"). Yes, that applies to accessibility in the pick-up-and-play sense, but first and foremost in the sense of making things widely available for purchase. The biggest difference between Epic Mickeys 1 and 2 is that the sequel is now multiplatform, with HD versions on Xbox 360 and PS3 joining the Wii game. While all the design work for all three versions is done in Austin at Junction Point, development of the HD ports is in the hands of Blitz Games, a prolific UK-based developer whose funniest credit is the Burger King trilogy.

Those HD versions aren't quite as impressive as they could be, at least not yet. I'm willing to chalk performance issues up to the early state of the demos I saw, but both the Xbox 360 and PS3 builds had performance issues in spades. On Xbox, the game stuttered for a few seconds every time I got out Mickey's paintbrush. On PS3, weird color artifacts abounded, and Oswald's electricity (more on that soon) didn't connect with where I aimed it. The good news is that both look lovely, even in their current work-in-progress states, rendering all the Disneyana in rich detail and warm colors. The PlayStation 3 version, I was told, will even support the Move peripheral, for a "true" Epic Mickey experience -- which is a good thing, as aiming the paintbrush with the right analog stick is a pain.

After a short tutorial, Oswald and Mickey are united, never to part. Oswald, is always there, and he forms the basis for the other kind of accessibility. A second player can drop in at any time to control Oswald, who has a boomerang ability and a remote control that can fire a bolt of electricity. AI takes over when nobody else is playing. The idea is that it makes it easy for a parent or friend to start and stop playing at their leisure. It had the unintentional effect, for me, of allowing me to just let the computer take over when I couldn't get the electricity to aim at a battery correctly -- again, something I'll assume is up to the early state of the game.

In the demo, Oswald and Mickey are deposited in Os Town, where they must reactivate a pump to drain a fountain of thinner, and get access to an elevator below. I did this two different ways: first, by collecting three round ... battery ... things with Mickey's "Fairy Brush" ability (telekinesis, essentially), depositing them on their three power stations, and charging them with Oswald's electricity ability; and second, by placing just one, and supercharging it with a crazy-looking machine.

Here, again, the persistent player choice is demonstrated, as supercharging a single battery is easier, but results in a permanent gushing of thinner into some poor Toon's house instead of a nice, harmless drain. Normally, these decisions will be permanent, but as I had the benefit of playing the same demo three different times and knowing it would be reset immediately, I had no trouble at all randomly spraying thinner and/or electricity into everything. For everyone else, though, yes, your choices will have real and lasting consequences.

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