When gamers first heard about a Mickey Mouse title coming to the Wii, no one was excited. It sounded like another kiddie game that revolved around Disney’s mascot running around and teaching the world about the power of friendship.
Later, there were talks of the gameplay and Mickey going through Disney history with a paintbrush, which was still nothing mind blowing. Then it was announced that it was Warren Spector’s brainchild, the man behind the superlative Deus Ex series and the original System Shock, and everyone’s jaws hit the floor and they started paying a little more attention.
During an interview with Game Informer Magazine, Spector shared that the game was titled Epic Mickey, and would focus on the lovable mouse being trapped in a post apocalyptic world of forgotten Disney characters, armed with only the abilities of saving it with paint or destroying it with thinner. The idea of Mickey Mouse handling such dark and difficult situations seemed to be a healthy risk for a Wii game, giving the system more diversity.
However, after the game’s release last November, on top of the interesting story was the glaring blemish of extremely weak gameplay.
The game itself was a strange hybrid between an old school platformer and modern adventure title, with a less than accurate control scheme. The wonky camera didn’t help either, often getting lost behind walls or underneath Mickey during important fights.
Spector went public about the gameplay and lack of camera controls, saying, “Third-person camera is way harder than I even imagined it could be. It is the hardest problem in video game development. Everybody gets it wrong. It’s just a question of how close to right do you get it.” He went on to claim that the issue stems from the fact that the game was not a pure platformer, and that the game was being “misunderstood.”
While not the first of its kind, Epic Mickey has been the recent victim of the age-old debate of Gameplay versus Story.
Years ago, the only story needed was a basic one that gave directions. Pacman had to eat up all the dots and not the ghosts, Mario had to save the Princess and the Space Invaders had to be stopped by the tiny pixelized ship. These were not deep ideas; one easily got the point across to the players playing.
Regardless of all the bells and whistles that Epic Mickey was laced with, it was still a video game, and games are meant to be played. Great stories are fine, but that’s what movies are for, and if a game isn’t fun, it’s not going to be played. I’m sure the ending to Epic Mickey is complex, deep and remarkable, but I may never get to see it if I’m constantly dying due to Mickey’s excessively floaty jumps or the camera’s short attention span.