Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is a follow-up to the 2010 Wii exclusive platformer, one that aimed to take the family-friendly Disney mascot into darker and more adult pastures. The sequel is coming to new platforms and offers two-player co-op, a better camera, more permanent story choices and a more animated, musical approach to narrative.
The original Epic Mickey saw positive critical acclaim but wasn't branded as a must-play, thanks to some awkward controls and platforming. It's fitting, then, that the sequel stays the course with its Wasteland setting and darker tone, and instead focuses mainly on mechanical changes and additions.
One such thing is the camera. A dedicated team has made over 1000 tweaks to how it behaves, with the aim to have a viewpoint that shouldn't ever be adjusted by the player. This is a great step considering the original's complaints, and one of the main gameplay focused tweaks Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two has in store.
New protagonist for co-op antics
A second playable character and antagonist of the original, Oswald, can be controlled as a second player. He offers a unique set of abilities compared to Mickey. While Mickey will continue to use paint and thinner to build and destroy the environment, Oswald wields a remote control, enabling him and powering electronic devices.
With their respective abilities, it means the pair must work together to reach new areas, constructing and activating different elements as they go. Our brief hands-on with a demo saw it being used through simple means, such moving lifts in a side-scrolling section, or moving batteries to drain a fountain to access a new area.
It should be noted that controlling Oswald will only be through local split-screen co-operative play. While online co-op isn't available, the drop-in drop-out nature akin to the LEGO games makes it accessible, and if playing solo, he will always be there to lend a hand.
The first ever musical video game
This adventure is being touted as the first ever musical video game. While creative director Warren Spector has seen some friction from publisher executives for the idea for years now, it's one that seems to fit Epic Mickey, especially since singing and songs have been a fundamental aspect of Disney films for decades now.
How they'll be delivered in the game is through a non-interactive means, and won't be controllable or part of the core gameplay in any way, Instead they'll be used to help push the story forward. One such cutscene near the start of the game sees the Mad Scientist plea with confused townsfolk that the Wasteland needs a hero to save itself - Oswald - and that the two deserve a second chance.
The song is superbly written, well delivered and raises a smile in a way that Disney films often do so well. It's so enjoyable that, even at this early stage, it's a shame to say it's restricted to the cutscenes. Hopefully it's successful enough to see experienced elsewhere in future games, but at the very least its inclusion in this limited way is certainly a welcome one.
Elsewhere, characters will offer spoken dialogue after a silent cast from the first game. Specifically, Oswald will be given a voice for the very first time in any medium (by veteran voice artist Frank Welker) which Spector says is a great step for Disney as a company in recognising the continued importance and contribution of video games.
Best played on PlayStation 3?
One of the more pleasing announcements for Epic Mickey 2 was that it will be released on more platforms. As well as returning to the Wii - which is said to be the lead platform - it will also be releasing on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac.
While the HD versions will have their own unique set of assets, it doesn't necessarily mean the Wii is a slouch visually. While Xbox 360 and PS3 will look sharper and more detailed, the art style and appeal is similar and remains very appealing on Wii.
A clear difference between systems, however, is the use of the paintbrush. The Wii version will once again make use of its pointer controls for direct aiming, something which the PS3 version also offers thanks to PlayStation Move.
While it's straightforward to use the right analogue stick to aim the magic paintbrush, using a pointer appears to be far quicker and easier. Without similar support on Xbox 360, PC or Mac, and between the pointer support and the HD update, it looks like the PS3 will offer the best of both worlds and could be the best version overall.
As for the actual world and story, it will continue to offer persistence and choice. While players can now go back and revisit previous areas of the game, certain acts in the game will be irreversible, as opposed to the original's ability to erase, repaint and experiment as you see fit - making choices even more important.
It rounds off a number of changes and additions that developer Junction Point are employing to make Epic Mickey - whose first outing was a fun but flawed platformer - into a more accessible, deeper and standout experience, and one that aims to propel Mickey and forgotten hero Oswald into the gaming limelight.
> Read Digital Spy's Epic Mickey 2 interview with Warren Spector
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two will be available on Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac later this year. A separate 3DS tie-in is also in the works.