Developed by the legendary Warren Spector (of Deus Ex fame), the original Epic Mickey carried a fair amount of expectation, taking the world of Disney in a darker fantasy direction and introducing an interesting paint mechanic to take advantage of the Wii’s unique control methods. Unfortunately, upon release, it was not received well, due to limited gamely, clunky implementation of said painting mechanics and a poor camera. Junction Point, the developers of the original Wii games, were closed down by Disney in January due to disappointing sales of the game, so the responsibility for this Vita port falls to Blitz Games Studios. Does the sequel iron out any of these issues? In short, no, it doesn’t.
Not having played the first game, I had to fill in the blanks of the backstory and go searching out some plot points myself, as the introduction seems to assume the player has knowledge of the previous title; the game’s intended target audience of younger players may be confused at the start.
Everything is tickety-boo in the world of Wasteland (the place where forgotten Disney ‘toons go to live after their fame has dissipated) since the events of the first game. Sure enough, the antagonist of the previous adventure, the ominously titled ‘Mad Doctor’ arrives to warn the town of an impending danger. He seemingly whisks away previous hero Oswald, leaving it to Mickey to jump from Cartoonland to Wasteland to take the reins and discover what the ex-villain is up to. Fear not, you are soon re-introduced to your mousy partner, who seems convinced that the Doctor has changed his ways, and the duo set off to restore order to the devastated town.
After the tutorial style level, the game opens up a little, providing areas you can explore (to a limited extent), whilst throwing quests and tasks at you. Some of these distractions from the main quest are within the hub areas themselves, whilst others need to be pursued It is also not very adept at making it clear what you need to do. Quests pop up and appear in you menu, but it can be difficult to actually find objects, areas and characters that pertain to the quest itself, and the game does little to point you in the right direction. This encourages wandering around and exploring the various areas, but would be confusing for a younger player.
Despite this confusing opening, it is bright, breezy, fast paced and successful in introducing you to the main mechanics. These include the painting and thinning mechanics, controlled via the left and right bumpers that allow you paint in or remove objects in the world. It’s a visually arresting mechanic, and seeing Mickey restore colour and life to the world never really gets old. In addition to this, the paint can also be used to combat enemies. Granted, combat is fairly infrequent compared to other games, but the thinner is used to destroy enemies, and the paint is actually used to make them friendly, indicated by blue hearts emanating from them. You also have the option of bashing them with a spinning attack, but combat on the whole seems to be a secondary concern.
It is clearly more concerned with puzzling, and it constantly asks you pull levers, stand on buttons and push spheres around. There is no sense of urgency, and for the most part the game allows you plenty of time to complete objectives. Unfortunately, the physics and generally untidiness of the controls can make many of these puzzles more frustrating than they should be.
It suffers from the same problem that appears in many a 3D platformer: namely a fiddly camera and some uneven and difficult to judge jumping sections. It’s one of the major negatives that mar the whole experience – it can often be very niggly, imprecise and difficult to actually interact with this otherwise engaging world. Some of the moves you are introduced to are a pain to actually implement.
And for this Vita version, some obligatory touch options have been included. You can tap the thinner of paint can in the corner of the screen and then touch the relevant object onscreen you want to cover. It’s nice for the first time, but I soon found myself reverting to the triggers. A little more annoying is the onscreen prompts that require character interaction, such as when Oswald needs to use his electrical prod to access or interact with the various electrical boxes that are vital to some puzzles; doing so can be frustrating and time-consuming in practice. This also extends to moves that require the two characters of Mickey and Oswald to work together. It can take time to line the characters up and animations can be lethargic and unresponsive.
Exacerbating this, Oswald is a fairly dumb AI companion, and requires careful attention to get him to do what you want. A quick hold of the circle button calls him to you, but he has the habit of getting stuck on scenery, and taking his sweet time lining up with what you need him to use his abilities on. Oswald can hover in mid air, but only after Mickey has thrown him skyward. Mickey can then jump into his arms and then the pair can travel gaps and chasm and the like together. The animations that accompany these actions are delightful, but don’t compensate for the fiddly nature of getting them to work together.
Breaking up the 3D nature of the game, travelling between the various hub areas is done so via 2D platforming sections. These are a visual and thematic delight, ranging from toybox aesthetics to old style, Steamboat Willy-style graphics, and really punctuate the action well. The art style carries over from the original game, and continues to be quite lovely. It is bright, colourful and distinctively Disney, also charmingly broken up by cartoon quality cutscenes that are peppered with musical interludes – all very pleasant and appealing. The voice acting adds to this amiable atmosphere, being varied and charming, with a variety of accents from both sides of the Atlantic that give the world a twee, good-natured feel.
Frankly, playing this off the back of the Last of Us was a breath of fresh air, and I rather enjoyed it, despite it’s obvious drawbacks. It is a hugely charming world, and a nicely paced adventure that has some refreshingly different mechanics, but is ultimately let down by a lack of polish in its controls and a camera, and a general lack of intuitive guidance. On the whole, enjoyable, but with games such as Sly Cooper and the Jak and Daxter trilogy also on Vita, it faces stiff competition.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Format: Playstation Vita Release Date: 19/06/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Lords of Football for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.