Release Date: November 23 (Europe), November 18 (North America)
Platforms available on: PS3 / Wii / Xbox 360 / PC / Wii U
Developer: Junction Point Studios
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is the kind of ambitious sequel you would expect from a master craftsman like Warren Spector with the considerable resources of Disney behind him. There are few aspects of the 2010 original that haven't been improved or expanded on, and the result might well have been a classic had the technical issues of its predecessor been addressed too.
Like its forbear, Epic Mickey 2 takes animation's most important rodent into darker territory than usual. Players return to the twisted world of Wasteland, a place inhabited by Disney's forgotten toons, to uncover the source of a devastating earthquake that has left the landscape in a mess. A supporting cast member from the previous instalment, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, makes a comeback - except this time he's a game-changing second playable character.
The introduction of Oswald and co-op gameplay takes Epic Mickey 2 to greater heights, paving the way for new kinds of puzzles and teamwork-based conundrums. Oswald's skillset is different to that of Disney's mascot. He is equipped with a magical remote control, allowing him to bend machinery to his will and make short work of robotic foes. Those lengthy ears can also act as propellers for gliding across short distances.
Mickey and Oswald's abilities complement each other well, and must be applied in unison to solve many of the game's puzzles. For instance, Mickey may be required to complete an electrical circuit by filling in a gap with his paintbrush, so his coney companion can send a charge along it to open a locked door. Oswald can also carry Mickey across short distances when flying.
Things fall together nicely in co-op multiplayer, which is limited to local split-screen, with players in store for a strategically rich experience that retains the sense of fun the first game had in spades. The title doesn't measure up quite as well when tackling the adventure solo. It's still a co-op centric experience, so Oswald becomes computer-controlled, which occasionally puts the player at a disadvantage. Some of the dual character manoeuvres can be fiddly to pull off with one person, particularly taking flight, while the lack of online play feels like a missed opportunity.
Developer Junction Point Studios has been quick to point out that the camera is improved this time. Awkward and obstructed viewpoints were among the biggest drawbacks of the original, and although many of these issues have been stamped out, we felt the game still fell short in this area. Despite promises that the user will never have to manually adjust the camera, players will still find themselves grappling with it to find an intuitive angle for combat.
One of the headline features of the PlayStation 3 version Epic Mickey 2 is the inclusion of PS Move support. Playing the game in this way is a very novel experience that works well enough for the most part. With the standard controller in one hand and the Move in the other, character movement is carried out using the analogue stick, while functions like aiming and jumping are assigned to the wand.
Motion control is not without its drawbacks. Should you want to adjust the camera, it's far easier to use the right analogue stick, rather than drag the Move cursor across the screen. Moreover, a standard gamepad is more than adequate to get the most out of the game, so tackling it with a peripheral in each hand just feels like overkill.
Another thing we should point out is that Epic Mickey 2 is technically a musical - something you don't see much of in the console world. This has no bearing on the gameplay, but the cut scenes spring to life in typical Disney song and dance fashion. As we've come to expect from the studio, the numbers are well written, composed and performed, and are packed with wit and humour.
Despite the best efforts of all involved to try to avoid the pitfalls of the original, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two still is still guilty of some of the offences of old, but it's as stylish and creative a platformer as you are ever likely play. Nobody can fault the developers for their ambition, and it's abundantly clear everyone on board had love and respect for the source material. Perhaps the third time around they'll perfect the formula.