Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion 3DS Review
We at iGR feel that we must apologize, since, although some of us do have Nintendo gaming systems, there is a dearth of reviews for games on the Wii, the Wii U, the DS, and the 3DS. While this is a gaming site for adults, it is also gaming site that recognizes that gamers have lives beyond the controller, and so for those of you that have children, we will be trying to include reviews of more family-friendly titles. For the sake of getting a few reviews of this nature on the site, we’re looking back to last year, and Disney’s Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS. Made by Dreamrift and Disney Interactive Studios, it plays homage to multiple previous games.
As the name would imply, the game takes place in a location from a previous game starring Mickey Mouse, the Castle of Illusion. Because the main villain from that game, Mizrabel, seems to have been forgotten, she and her castle have been taken in to Wasteland, the setting from the regular console-based Epic Mickey games. However, because of this, she was also freed from her prison, and managed to kidnap many characters from across Disney’s animated history. Seeing what’s happened, Oswald the Rabbit calls Mickey to return to Wasteland, since Mizrabel is trying to take over Wasteland using heart power from Disney cartoons that people haven’t forgotten. That includes Minnie Mouse, who Mizrabel, in the guise of the villain Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, traps and keeps near to her. It actually winds up working quite well, as players journey across parts of the castle disguised as scenes from Peter Pan, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid. Along with characters from those particular films, Mickey also rescues characters from The Lion King, characters from Alice in Wonderland, the whole of the Disney Princesses set and (for some) other characters from their movies (well, except for Pocahontas, because technically she’s based upon a real person), Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and Scrooge McDuck. With each rescue, Mickey sends them to The Fortress, a keep within the castle that operates as a home base in between levels. It makes for a far more in-depth game than one would expect from a game aimed at kids, and it’s nice to see the familiar faces.
As far as the game play itself goes, save for the fact that 3DS game cards tend to have capacity of almost the same level as a DVD disc console game (maxing out at 8 GB, according to released specs), whereas DS games have about half that maximum capacity, the 3DS technology feels under-utilized. The game itself is a side-scrolling platformer, using what basically amounts to 16-bit graphics, save that the stereoscopic display aspect means that the game’s imagery at least has more depth to it, similar to many animated films that use the technology. However, it does use the technology taken from the DS rather well, having the touch screen be the interface for the paint brush inputs. Basically, players use the screen to trace out images that result in objects being placed in the level. Some of these objects are ones that a player can choose to place, others are already present in the level, and yet others are actually characters, the rescue of which a player affects via drawing a representation of a character. The boss battles all require that a player use the drawing interface well in order to achieve victory, so players are rewarded for frequent use. As far as combat with regular enemies goes, players can either drop on top of them, execute a spin attack, or use either paint or thinner in order to execute ranged attacks and get special item drops from eliminated enemies. There are many environmental factors to consider, as it is a platformer, so there is also some puzzle solving involved during the game.
Outside of the regular plot, there are also many side quests which players get from characters that Mickey rescues, and which grant boosts to Mickey, alongside the boosts that Mickey can buy from Scrooge McDuck. Sometimes, they only become available after upgrading the rooms in the fortress in which the characters reside, which require Upgrade Stars or completion of the side quests to obtain. The Peddler character from Aladdin can sell the stars, once Mickey rescues him, but players also earn them for completing levels. The other benefit to completing these side quests is that the backgrounds of the rooms for each character begin, with each upgrade, to resemble certain scenes from their respective movies. While a few are a little underwhelming, most seem to be digitized and minimized versions of the actual art from the characters’ movies, and is one of the few times where the stereoscopic aspects of the game truly shine for the system. This is partly because of how Disney films used to be shot, with multiple celluloid drawings being layered on top of each other during certain parts of the film, creating a forced perspective.
The level design, in spite of its constraints as a side scrolling environment, is unique enough throughout each level to make each one a different challenge. The imagery and obstacles present within these levels sometimes repeats, but only within each of the three separate types of levels, or when the “illusions” of the levels break and the castle reveals itself. Navigating them correctly to the end sometimes takes a few random guesses, but usually, if no proper path reveals itself, the player can paint (or erase, as the case may be) their path. Many times, a quick reaction on the touch screen can be the difference between getting to the next part of the level and getting stuck in a loop. One of the better aspects of the level design has to be that each level is actually set in two parts, and each one has slight changes so that the play doesn’t seem too repetitive. However, due to the large amount of dialogue, side characters, and side missions, there are only twelve unique levels, which means that there are only twenty-four stages, and players have to go through all of them twice. Some of them even require three retreads, so, save for dedication to getting every character and finishing every side story, it can be a little tedious.
As far as the audio goes, the music is nice and uncomplicated, although it does at times recall the films the levels are trying to evoke. The regular music for The Fortress and the wings of the Castle of Illusion is also fitting, making one think of a dire and desperate situation at times, interspersing it with a simple sense of danger around every … corner may not be appropriate for a game like this, but it’s the only word that works. Of course, as the dialogue is text-based, there isn’t much with the character speech. However, there are some familiar sound bytes, such as Goofy’s “a-hyuck” and Donald’s yelling quack. Oswald the Rabbit actually gets in a, “Hiya, Mick,”, while Mickey gets a few real words as well as some different sound reactions. It isn’t incredible, but it does round out the game.
Side note: Stick around for the credit cut scenes, they’re pretty interesting.
Ultimately, Disney’s Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is enjoyable as a hand-held console game, and although it doesn’t use the 3DS system to its fullest, it is definitely something that Disney fans can enjoy playing, and which parents can feel comfortable purchasing for their children. It can help introduce a new generation to classic animated cinema, while also having material that is tame enough for anybody old enough to hold the system. Since this is a review based on the concept of a game that is “family friendly”, the pluses and minuses will take in to account the possibility that this is a game that you may be getting for your kids, along with the regular considerations.
+ Successfully incorporates concepts from other games
+ Uses many characters familiar to Disney fans
+ Level design is well-themed
+ Controls are fairly intuitive once learned
+ Touch screen interface is used to great effect
– Doesn’t fully use the 3DS technology available, both in image generation and in using available data storage
– The need to repeat levels for side missions can be tedious
– Errors in drawing cause potential need for repeating the same drawing multiple times
– Side scroller set in a game series of third-person RPGs
+ Lots of puzzle solving areas
+ Helps hand dexterity with writing (if using a stylus)
+ Can help reading due to text-only dialogue
+ Exposes kids to older generations’ cartoons
+ Only shows cartoon violence
– Repetition can make the game boring for kids
– Could be a bit pricey for a handheld title
– Battery drains more quickly with the 3D mode on
– Limited replay value