I’ve got a love/love relationship with Disney games, when they happen to be from an older console cycle. Duck Tales and Darkwing Duck were a blast on the NES, while the Sega Megadrive gave way to such gems such as Aladdin and Castle of Illusion. That’s where Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion comes in, as the iconic mouse once again visits his butt-stompin’ roots in this new 3DS title. And boy oh boy, does it suck. Ah ha!
One cartoon character isn’t going to take this lying down, and to that end, super-witch Mizrabel has kidnapped an animation studio worth of more popular Disney icons to the Wasteland, so that she can drain them of their heart power in order to escape.
It’s up to Mickey to save the day, as he heads to the wasteland with his trusty paint-brush in hand to take on a villain who might actually have some decent motives for doing what she does. And if you’re looking for more story, that’s about it, because Power of Illusion keeps things all too brief and simple.
But hey, you’re not buying a Mickey Mouse game on the 3DS for an award-winning story that would put Spec Ops: The Line to shame, are you? Of course not! You’re here for some good ol’ fashioned platforming gameplay, with a few new gimmicks added to the repertoire of the infamous mouse! And you’re about to be immensely disappointed as well at the manner in which the game wastes a golden opportunity!
On the surface, all the ingredients are there. Mickey can pull a few move out of the Super Mario Bros catalogue and curb-stomp foes with his posterior, while his paintbrush allows him to fling some acrylic and thinner attacks at enemies on the screen. The touch screen can be augmented with several sketches, which allow you to draw in some help during the course of the game, while performing decently enough will net Mickey a few power-up bonuses as well.
Add to that a spin attack, and the 3DS touch screen being used to paint obstacles out of the way, and we should have a winner on our hands, but here’s a stinker for you: The touch screen addition absolutely kills whatever momentum this game builds up.
It’s a good idea, on paper at least: Players find themselves faced with an obstacle, so they start a quick mini-game to draw in something to help them get past it. And the first couple of times, this is actually neat.
But the novelty wears off damn quick after around ten minutes, and finding yourself pausing to draw yet another block to cross a chasm or two, wears thin on the nerves. Precision drawing is a fine idea, but it’s one that is overused here, and could have gone with a less is more approach. It would have been easier to just assign certain functions to the touch screen that require a quick tap, but Power of Illusion prefers to do things the hard way.
So what of the worlds themselves then? While it may not take part in every single Disney universe out there, Power of Illusion plays it safe by sticking to familiar locales, from the nautical themes of Peter Pan, down to de ocean where de action is harder mon (That’s a little Mermaid reference by the way).
Between those stages, are moments where the castle of illusion breaks through, creating levels that have a certain maze-like structure, and require a helluva lot of backtracking so that you can free all the Disney characters and obtain items from them. Doing so opens up new areas in your home base to interact with, such as a Scrooge McDuck section where you can upgrade Mickey, or a room where you can listen to Beast bitch about how his rose petals.
But as a pure gameplay experience, Power of Illusion is most certainly not a game with childish difficulty in mind. Varied enemies make themselves known, stages become a mission to get through and the action remains constant, except for those moments where you have to paint yet another crushing block out of your way.
It’s essentially a Super Mario Bros clone when it comes down to it, and it doesn’t look too bad either. Sure, the characters may be jaggier than a mid-nineties PC game, but the effort to make the game world a layered 3D affair works well here, complemented by a bloody marvellous orchestral soundtrack.
Power of Illusion should have been a pretty decent game that capitalised on a famous brand and some nostalgia, but one can’t help but shake the feeling that the game is incomplete. It’s got the potential to be more than it should be, but developer DreamRift just never follows through on the good ideas, presenting something that is irritatingly monotonous at best.