Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.
For the week of November 29, 2010, you should insert credit into: “Disney Epic Mickey.”
Everybody’s been calling it “Epic Mickey” but the full name of the game includes the last name of the mega-entertainment company’s founder Walt Disney, but it also now stands for a brand. For some, it’s a saccharine, Pollyanna sensibility that’s become shorthand for safe, bland entertainment.
It’s easy to forget that there was a man behind the empire, a man full of the quirks and contradictions that we all possess. What “Disney Epic Mickey” restores is a bit of the variable universality to Walt’s most famous creation. Somewhere in his history, Mickey ossified into a smiling cipher, losing the mischief and wit seen in “Mickey & the Beanstalk,” “Fantasia” and other classic films. Junction Point’s work in the game restores some of that mischief and more importantly, leaves it up to the player as to what kind of Mickey Mouse they want to inherit.
The game mostly plays as a running-&-jumping platformer, but with one important difference. The magic brush Mickey wields dispenses paint that lets him restore the crumbled structures in the Wasteleand limbo where forgotten Disney characters dwell. It also shoots out thinner that dissolves those same buildings and other toons, too. The game tracks how much you recreate or destroy the Wasteland and its characters’ reaction to your Mickey change accordingly. But, it often feels like you’re fighting the controls in the game. The camera’s tough to steer and doesn’t always track the action well. Less patient players will find themselves frustrated by the imprecision of the Wii-mote for the aiming portions of the game, too.
Despite all that, Mickey still winds up being a hero in “DEM.” The very fact that Disney’s putting out a game where its big-eared moneymaker can be less than totally virtuous is laudable. Adults can get a Mickey that’s more complex and younger gamers can get a sense of what made him popular in the first place. “Disney Epic Mickey” may be a little rough around the edges but it’s a game that manages to add more depth to the title character than any other experience in years.