Warren Spector wants Mickey Mouse to take out Master Chief. The acclaimed game designer behind ground-breaking titles like the original “Deus Ex” and Thief believes that Walt Disney’s best-known creation has it in him to become a video game star to rival the Spartans of Halo or iconic PlayStation characters Nathan Drake and Kratos.
With his team at the Junction Point development studio, Spector’s building the game that he believes will do just that. “Disney Epic Mickey” casts the world’s most recognizable mouse into an adventure that plumbs the forgotten corners of Disney history, while providing a morally morphable version of Mickey. The game happens in the Wasteland, a once-peaceful retirement dimension where long-forgotten characters and amusements from Uncle Walt’s empire reside. The pocket universe is the work of the Wizard from The Sorceror’s Apprentice, clearly meant as an allegory to Walt himself. When the magic mirror from that same movie beckons, Mickey teleports through to the Wizard’s workroom. There he finds a magic paintbrush with tubs of paint and thinner that can create or erase the cartoon essence that makes up all the Disney characters. Tomfoolery on Mickey’s part winds up spilling the two magic liquids onto the Wasteland, as well as creating the Phantom Blot, the game’s big villain.
Later events pull Mickey into the Wasteland where he has to make amends for the damage his actions caused. Using paint, he can rebuild parts of the world or he can erase elements of the geometry using thinner. The game tracks how constructive or destructive you are and characters’ responses to you will change as a result. “Epic Mickey” will also confront players with choices that shape Mickey’s personality. Choosing the loot of a treasure box over helping to free a friendly, trapped Gremlin gets characters buzzing about what a jerk you are.
Setting up this kind of conflicted heroism may seem like a stretch for Mickey Mouse , but Spector says he’s only bringing to bear behavioral aspects of Mickey that have already been displayed in the character’s extensive filmography. And Mickey’s not the only character who gets added depth in the game. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first successful creation, plays a prominent role in the game as the ruler of the Wasteland.
Walt Disney actually lost the rights to the character and wound up creating Mickey as a replacement. The game casts Oswald as a slightly jealous older brother with a tense relationship meeting the younger Mickey who wound up with the fame and adulation that could have been Oswald’s. So, the mischievious and sometimes self-centered company icon gets a varied emotional palette in the upcoming game and players will be able to make decision that swing that pendulum even further across the poles of selfishness or altruism. Spector’s known as a pioneer in the type of game design that’s centered on player choice and the mechanics in “Epic Mickey” fall in line with the build-your-own-solution modes of most of his work.
The Austin resident says the game’s a dream come true for an animation buff like himself. Old theme park rides serve as some of the game’s levels and travelling between environments happens via side-scrolling adventures through old Disney movie scenes. Moreover, the game’s cutscenes play out in a visual style that mimics the work of artist Mary Blair, whose style of mid-century cute informed the creation of “It’s A Small World” attraction. You really get the sense that the vaults are being opened with “Disney Epic Mickey” and the game could re-introduce a new generation to not only Mickey Mouse, but the expansive genius of his creator, too.
“Disney Epic Mickey” comes out exclusively for the Nintendo Wii on November 30th.