I grew up with the original 8-bit Nintendo, followed by the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Some of the best games of that time were the ones based on Disney properties. I still have fond memories of DuckTales, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, Aladdin (I’m not touching which version’s better with a ten foot pole), Mickey’s Magical Quest (SNES) and of course The Castle of Illusion: Starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis). Thankfully, I still have these cartridges in my collection as it seems like ports over to the Virtual Console may never happen. Imagine my excitement when Epic Mickey: Power of of Illusion was announced as a 3DS game. A 2D “sequel” to one of the best Mickey Mouse games ever created? Sign me up. That was my attitude before I played the game. Now I’m filled with bitter disappointment and left with no choice but to hook up my Genesis to play a Mickey Mouse game that’s truly fun.
As is the case with so many games these days, there’s a somewhat long and irritating story at the beginning of the game that you must sit through before actually playing the quest. As it turns out, Mickey must infiltrate the castle of illusion to rescue his friends from Mizrabel. As stories go, this one is pretty straight-forward. In classic 2D fashion, you’ll jump on enemies and traverse the environment from left to right. The jumping feels a bit off in this game as Mickey seems to jump too high, and his descent is slower than one would think. In addition, to bounce even higher off an enemy you can press the jump button at just the right moment of impact to reach slightly out of reach platforms. As this is a game set in the Epic Mickey universe, you have the magical brush at your disposal. This allows you to paint in objects or erase objects. In theory this sounds like a good game play mechanic, but the execution is simply dreadful. Any semblance of flow in this action-platformer comes to a screeching halt every few screens or so to utilize the touch screen. You will have to trace the object to have it appear or disappear with the stylus. As you can imagine, this totally breaks the game as you’ll constantly be changing from playing with the analog stick and buttons to picking up the stylus and drawing. For those reviewers and gamers that complained so much about Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow on the DS for having to seal bosses after the battle, take that times 500 and you’ll understand why this is such a bad design choice.
As mentioned earlier, you’re on a quest to save your friends. These are iconic characters from various Disney properties. You’ll encounter favorites like Peter Pan, Beast, and Uncle Scrooge to name a few. While it’s heartwarming to see the developers pay fan service for including so many great characters, it’s a shame they’re utilized so poorly. Once you find them you’ll get a few lines of text and they’ll disappear to an area of the castle that you return to from time to time to go on simple fetch quests for them. Imagine how cool it would have been if you could swap out and play as them with special powers. Or if you could have had a buddy tag along with you to assist with new weapons and items. The ideas are countless, but once again the execution just isn’t there.
Graphically the game looks great. The 3D effect is somewhat subdued, making the background look a little further off in the distance. The animation of the characters is fantastic and all of the hand-drawn enemies and friends you spot throughout the game look like they’re ripped out of a Disney cartoon. The various levels you visit are themed on different Disney properties, but there definitely could have been more worlds to explore. As it is, the game ends far to quickly and seems like it might have been rushed to market. The audio is decent, but nothing really stood out as amazing.
I love 2D platformers. I grew up on them and still have a blast playing them to this day. I thought maybe nostalgia had blinded me to what I was experiencing in Power of Illusion, so I went back and played Mickey on the Super Nintendo and Genesis. Both are leagues better than this game, not only in game play style, but in graphical variety, fun levels, and some really unique ideas. The SNES Mickey allows for suit changes with different power-ups and the Genesis Mickey really shows off some creative level design. Both are so much more fun to play, which is sad when you think how long fans have waited to play another game that’s like them. In fact, I would rather shell out $40 to have a compilation cart of the older Mickey games than to play this new one. For those younger gamers out there – or for those who have never experienced the 16-bit glory days of Mickey Mouse – Power of Illusion will be adequate. You won’t know what you’re missing out on. For those that have played those classics, you will be bitterly disappointed with this new iteration. Come on Disney, Capcom, and Sega, what are you waiting for? Work out a deal and get those classics released so the masses can truly appreciate all that you have to offer.
Note: This review originally appeared on, and can be found at, the very awesome multiplatform video game site: Gaming Age.