Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two preview
by John Keefer, shacknews.com, Mar 23, 2012 3:00AM PDT
Warren Spector has become obsessed. Calling Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two "the worst-kept secret in the industry, he revealed the inspiration for the game was his infatuation with one of the original game's main protagonists: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
"I was always intrigued by the story of Oswald," said Spector, sporting a burnt orange Oswald shirt. "But I became enamored with him by making the game. I really liked Oswald being a foil for Mickey, and when Disney approached me to make this game, I had to do it."
For most, the story of Oswald is a mystery. Oswald was originally a Walt Disney creation, but Disney lost the character in a contract dispute in 1927. Out of the despair for the loss, Disney quickly created Mickey Mouse as his new champion and icon. Oswald's rights were returned to Disney in 2006, but the character had stayed in relative oblivion until Epic Mickey debuted in 2010. That story was crafted as homage to Oswald's redemption and his realization of the importance of family.
With the sequel's move into cooperative play, Oswald can assume the role of cohort and constant companion throughout the new game. In what Spector described as "drop-in, drop out co-op," the game's AI will control Oswald until another player wants to come in, at which point Oswald becomes playable. The abilities of Mickey's paint brush and Oswald's remote control will be complimentary, and it will be up to the players to determine how to use those abilities to solve puzzles and progress through the game.
Spector has never shied from being ambitious in his game design, and with Disney as the parent company, the fact Epic Mickey 2 will be a musical in line with Disney's animated movies should come as no surprise. Well, okay, maybe a small surprise.
"This will be the first musical comedy game," he said. "The musical numbers will not be interactive, but part of the cinematics." Spector would only add that "several songs" will be in the game and that Jim Dooley (of Pushing Daisies fame) wrote the score and all the songs. One of the opening scenes in the game has the Mad Doctor singing to Oswald about doing good and making things right.
Familiar characters and settings will return. Oswald's girl Ortensia is back, as is Gremlin Gus, but the Gremlins will now play a larger role. The Blotlings also show up, but have gotten together as the Blotworks. Ostown has changed by natural events, and a version of one of Spector's favorite places, Frontierland, has been added. Spector said that more characters and places are being introduced in the game.
Player direction has been simplified. If the player isn't sure what to do next, someone in-game will tell you, making it a bit easier for players to get through the tough spots.
Spector did point out flaws in the first game, decisions for which he took responsibility. "I didn't want voices in the first game. Oswald was a silent film character and he wasn't supposed to talk. That was a bad decision on my part," he said. "Now, we are going to have every line of text voiced. Oswald will have a voice for the first time ever."
Comic book writer Marv Wolfman crafted the new story for the sequel and wrote the dialogue. Veteran voice actor Frank Welker will provide the voice to Oswald, and while other actors have not been revealed, Spector did let slip that Cary Elwes would be voicing Gremlin Gus.
One of the biggest problems in the first game from a player standpoint was the camera, and Spector admitted that the positioning was not what it should have been. "We wanted players to determine if they wanted to play as a platformer or action-adventure. We have a dedicated camera team that has made more than 1,000 changes to the system. As it stands now, you will never have to touch the manual camera controls while on the main story path. However, you will want to use the manual controls if you are a completionist and have to collect everything."
Spector was adamant, however, that the camera was not broken in the original game. He defended the "impossible task" the team faced of having to set the camera's location as various aspects of the environment were deformed and reformed. "The team did a great job based on what we wanted to do," he said.
No mention was made of the balky controls of the original game that frustrated reviewers and players alike. With Epic Mickey 2 being developed simultaneously for the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, hopefully those issues will be addressed on the non-motion controllers offered by the HD platforms.
Disclaimer: Publisher Disney provided transportation and accommodations to attend a preview event in Austin, Texas.