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Critical Reception: Junction Point's  Epic Mickey

Critical Reception: Junction Point's Epic Mickey

December 1, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

December 1, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Disney and Junction Point's Epic Mickey, which reviews say brings "surprises, historical reverence and inspired platforming creativity." Epic Mickey currently earns a score of 78 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Games Radar's Chris Antista scores Epic Mickey at 9 out of 10. "Epic Mickey is absolutely breathtaking," he praises. "For animation nerds, it's going to be nothing short of a godsend."

"The game takes place in Wasteland, a warped, scuffed re-envisioning of Disneyland that is essentially an afterlife refuge, where cultural castaways can live on in peace eternally," Antista explains. "There's a crisis occurring here, and what Mickey's estranged sibling wants more than anything is to get the famous mouse out of the Wasteland as soon as possible."

The unique setting is one of the game's strongest features. "The thousands of pieces of Disneyana tucked into every fiber of Epic Mickey's being is inarguably part of the game's charm," Antista claims. "And recognizing them, especially for an animation enthusiast, is a wonderful, nostalgia-fueled game in and of itself."

Antista is also impressed with Epic Mickey's platforming gameplay. "Outside of a slightly crappy camera, I haven't fallen so head over heels with the look, feel, and play of a third-person platformer since the original Banjo-Kazooie," he writes. "And through it all, Mickey runs, jumps, and spins attacks with all the grace found in Mario Galaxy, only with collectibles Disney fans will find infinitely worthwhile."

"For me, the surprises, historical reverence and inspired platforming creativity make this the Wii game of the year," Antista says. "Hopefully, it won't all be lost on the broad audience it's aiming for, because both Disney nuts and old school gamers will find Epic Mickey well worth their while."

Randy Nelson at Joystiq gives Epic Mickey 4 out of 5 stars. "There are moments in Epic Mickey that are so good, so polished and so full of charm I would have sworn that I was playing a game Shigeru Miyamoto had a hand in," he writes. "If only the whole game was like that."

"Epic Mickey's main gameplay hook [is] the ability to erase and restore elements of the world using paint thinner and paint, which stream forth from Mickey's magical paintbrush," Nelson explains. "It's the key to plenty of clever environment-based puzzles, but it's also at the center of some more meaningful choices. For example, you have the ability to eradicate enemies using thinner or hose them down with paint and turn them to your side."

These decision points add depth to Epic Mickey's core gameplay. "Apart from how good the whole dissolve/rebuild play mechanic feels and the sheer "Disney-ness" of everything, the moral decisions are what I'll most remember about Mickey's adventure," Nelson praises. "Choices like 'Do I drop a safe on someone to get what's inside, or take the time to find a more clever solution?' not only lead to different endings, but a feeling that you're truly affecting the game world in a way greater than even creating and destroying chunks of it."

Camera issues prove annoying, however. "While the camera initially seemed good enough, it got progressively worse as I made my way further in and constantly wrestled with it to avoid falling to my death or being hit by enemies," Nelson recalls. "Things got worse when, in these same situations, I had no way of orienting Mickey toward his foes apart from moving the camera manually and keeping the Wiimote reticule trained on them. Then the game would go into unintentional slow-mo and change from quite pretty to pretty painful to look at."

"I found myself comparing Epic Mickey to another incredible rich and charming platformer with its own share of iffy mechanics and rough edges: Tim Schafer's Psychonauts," Antista notes. "Both games share a similar vibe, but, more importantly, are flawed first platforming efforts from their creators. It's saying a lot that Warren Spector got so much right in this first try, and that, after the credits rolled, I wanted to go back for seconds. I just hope all the problems will be addressed next time around."

Game Informer's Andrew Reiner scores Epic Mickey at 7 out of 10. "As a tribute, Epic Mickey hits most of the right notes," he says. "After soaking up the nostalgic sights and sounds, I tracked down and watched old Mickey cartoons. Thanks to this game, I've developed an appreciation for Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit."

"Epic Mickey clings tightly to one cool gameplay gimmick -- Mickey's ability to apply paint and thinner to the environment," Reiner continues. "Junction Point uses this paint and thinner mechanic to create a variety of clever puzzles and combat scenarios. Objectives are rarely clearly telegraphed, which leads to paint and thinner being tossed around liberally. The hunt for solutions is the heart of Epic Mickey's gameplay. One spray of thinner could reveal a secret area, and a blast of paint could reanimate a machine that changes the complexity of the entire level."

Reiner notes disappointment with a large portion of Epic Mickey's gameplay, however. "As much as I loved the artistry in the worlds and the general vibe of the game, many of the missions Mickey is sent on are the very definition of mundane," he warns. "Miserable talk-intensive fetch quests periodically rear their ugly heads, and challenges like 'shoot the glowy bits on seven passive thinner tentacles' do little to get the blood pumping.

"As imaginative as the worlds are, the quests feel tacked on, and sometimes come across as time sinks to extend the length of the adventure. The end result is a game that offers fun gameplay mechanics that are sapped of life due to the mind-numbingly boring nature of the quests."

"I got a kick out of the side-scrolling levels, which turn Mickey's oldest and most memorable cartoons into fun (albeit challenge-free) platforming sequences, but getting to them meant slogging through the larger worlds," Reiner concludes. "Epic Mickey goes out of its way to show gamers Walt Disney's body of work, but rarely fires on a level that turns this beloved content into exciting gameplay."


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