For all its pedigree, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a waste of time. It's not unplayable. It's not even intrinsically boring. But its core paint and thinner mechanic using Mickey's brush slows the pace of this 2D platformer down to a crawl, making for a seriously flawed traipse across key Disney franchises.
If you've a great love for Walt's work, or you're prepared to endure the lingering feeling that your precious gaming time is slipping away, you may well get something out of it. For most, though, it's a sadly skippable missed opportunity from the House of Mouse.
A comforting illusion
A canonical sidestory of the home console releases of Epic Mickey, Power of Illusion is loosely based on the Sega Mega Drive classic Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
Its roots are evident: the butt stomp method of vanquishing foes returns, the difficulty of the platforming is fairly high, and the concept of playing in multiple worlds within the one castle is back in full force.
The Epic Mickey lineage is also clear, thanks to Mickey's ability to bring objects into the world with paint and remove them using thinner. The 'Best of Disney' atmosphere is here too, with loads of your favourite characters popping up across gorgeously drawn stages ripped from the movies.
But it's this first element of the Epic Mickey influence that drags the whole thing down to a trudge. The exploration and platforming are a chore because you constantly have to keep one eye on the lower screen for items that can be brought into and out of existence.
You might need to bring a cannon into the world to fire across a gap. "Fine," you think, "I'll just tap on it and it'll appear".
Wrong. Power of Illusion wants you to tap on the bottom screen to freeze the action, select the outline of the cannon, then draw the item with paint. The process can take tens of seconds.
If you run out of paint you have to wait for it to replenish over time or collect a Paint Brush power-up. If you mess up the drawing, you fail and have to start again.
There's no skill or though involved in this. The game is just consuming time for the sake of it, and when there are multiple items in a row to deal with you can spend minutes repeating this laborious activity.
The reality of action
Worse still, whenever you die you have to start the whole section again. That means not only re-doing the business with the paint and thinner but also re-discovering the Disney characters scattered about the level.
Mickey moves slowly, and the enemies can really pack a wallop if you run into them, making each return to an area tiresome.
This paint and thinner problem is further compounded by the necessity to revisit stages to find more characters and fill up a meter in the castle's hub world, unlocking new stages that house your stereotypical pattern-based boss fights.
Even the hub area is slow and bland, with Mickey taking forever to wander about the map, retracing his steps to talk with characters over and over until you achieve the objectives they set for you.
Not even the presence of the mighty Scrooge McDuck - who owns an upgrade shop - is enough to lift these moments from tedium.
The charm of the 2D visuals fades fast. It's great to see a sharp looking 16 bit-esque Disney world again after so many great platformers from back in the day, but backgrounds feel lifeless and animation frames are few. The soundtrack is fine, but the character sound effects are patchy at best.
I had high hopes for Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion when I previewed it, but those hopes have been dashed by the full release. It's too platform-centric and lightweight to be a decent puzzler and far too slow to be a good platformer, making for a game that only Disney aficionados will truly appreciate on any level.
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