The game's camera is so frustrating and imprecise that I found myself struggling more with trying to see what was happening around me than with solving any of the game's puzzles, and the repetitive and uninspired platforming levels are so difficult to maneuver using the Wii-mote and nunchuk that the game literally gave me hand cramps after only a few hours of play. I found that when I was failing (which was often) it was not because the challenges were hard, but because the design of how to interact with them in order to resolve them was flawed. I felt like I was struggling with the game itself and not the enemies or puzzles.
The Mickey Mouse telephone, for example, is part of a puzzle requiring you to dial a specific number in order to open the door leading out of a certain level. Unfortunately, just as with the real-life Mickey mouse phone, the number wasn't provided, so I had to guess. Which meant pushing numbers in different order until finally arriving at the solution. The problem with this is that the phone is gigantic compared to Mickey, so in order to dial the number, I had to jump Mickey from button to button over and over again in order to suss the exact combination of digits that would open the door. This became, in effect, a number puzzle hidden inside of a jumping puzzle, and simply landing on the desired digit easily became more frustrating than trying to guess the number I was going for.
What's doubly frustrating here is that it's entirely possible the solution to the puzzle was elsewhere, to be provided to me had I thinned where I had painted, or painted where I had thinned. In playing the game, it's never clear what the consequences of any one action may be, which makes it difficult to make an informed decision. Solving the phone puzzle took half an hour from my life that I will never get back, and helped me to rapidly fall out of love with the game.
While the Wii is not well known for being particularly friendly to 3D action games, most of the successful Wii action games compensate for the platform's technical limitations with engaging visuals and experiences that are as much fun to behold as they are to play. Epic Mickey does not succeed in this. Getting through even the most basic levels involves multiple failures, active combat with the game's controls and camera, and the progression from level to level is so tedious the game rapidly drains one's will to carry on. Even the desire to simply find out what happens next is not enough to sustain interest, as each cinematic simply unfolds another tragic chapter in Mickey's ongoing divorce from innocence as he faces, time and again, how, from his Happiest Place on Earth he has made life for those in Wasteland a living hell.
Bottom Line: Epic Mickey is the most disappointing kind of game: a high-concept affair that does so much right, it's crushing that the one thing is does most wrongly is not be fun to play. This will be a frustrating game for core and casual gamers alike, but mostly for casual gamers who, attracted by the story and presentation, will be put off by the dated and difficult play.
Recommendation: Give it a chance if you're curious, or have a soft spot in your heart for The Mouse, but come ready to be disappointed.
This review is based on the Wii version of the game.
Game: Disney Epic Mickey
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Junction Point
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Release Date: November 30th, 2010
Available from: Amazon