Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Disney Epic Mickey

Disney Epic Mickey

Spring 2011 Video Games
Ages: 13 & Up
Price: $49.99
Gaming System: Nintendo Wii

The amazingly imaginative plot of this strange and dark Disney videogame will interest diverse players: Disney goes well beyond its smiley-face persona and creates a "Dark Knight" version of Mickey's animated reality. This is the story of what happens to actual Disney characters once they're forgotten. This is the anti-Magic Kingdom!

The game setting is Wasteland. It's a dreary and warped parallel universe of Disneyland that cast-off and long-gone Disney characters inhabit, where they live on forever in an animation afterlife. The leader of Wasteland is an actual character Disney created prior to creating Mickey Mouse-if you can grasp that! His name is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, an animated character that Disney in partnership with Universal Studios dreamed up in 1927. Oswald never really made the big time because of a tiff between Disney and Universal. And that's when Disney gave birth to its longest-standing icon, Mickey Mouse. You'll be shocked and amused by the similarities in their appearance-Oswald looking a little like a crude Mickey but with rabbit ears.

Anyway, in this intriguing game, Oswald isn't a bad guy, just a forgotten guy and somehow Mickey ends up in Oswald's forgotten realm and must escape it. And Oswald wants to help Mickey get out.

Okay, that's the great appeal of this game. The gaming part, a little less so. While Mickey travels freely (though not agilely) through the levels of this elaborate and rich broke-down palace of a 3D platform game, traipsing past all sorts of nostalgic remnants of Disney's great past (from 20,000 Leagues to neon-bright Tomorrow Land to the retired pirates of Ventureland), the gameplay isn't as extraordinary as the setting. Camera views are as good as they should be and Mickey at times proves hard to maneuver. That aside, the environment of each level seems to be alive and responsive to whatever choices Mickey makes-and that's pretty cool. And Mickey's greatest tool in the game is his magic paintbrush that can apply paint and thinner to erase or recreate entire areas of the animated environment.

A downside for Parents Against Animated Violence is that in carrying out his various quests, Mickey must engage in combat. That's right, our little Mickey Mouse. The fighting is a little off-putting, but there are actually visuals of Mickey with a mean face, so get used to it-or don't get it.

Otherwise, Mickey does a lot of the usual platform-game tasks-fetching things, running and jumping around, trying to find where you're supposed to go, etc. The game play even revert regularly to 2D stages that probably are supposed to remind you of the Golden Age of Disney cartooning, but in fact look as flat and uninspired as they are. But then, just about when you're saying you just can't go on, Mickey faces off with an amazing Captain Hook and you're hooked once again.

Epic Mickey isn't for everyone and most little kids won't get it at all. But if you have a longstanding appreciation for the Disney oeuvre, you may want to take a look.

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.

Players possess the ability to restore or remove parts of the world with the power of Paint and Thinner. They can add platforms, activate nodes, erase objects to reveal hidden items, solve environment puzzles, and use it as a passive or offensive weapon. The incalculable number of ways Mickey can interact with the world is simply staggering.

Don Oldenburg   ©2011 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Disney Interactive Studios
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers

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