Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion Review: A great tribute to classic 2D platformers

Power-of-Illusion-box-artIt’s likely that when you hear Epic Mickey, you think the Power of Two, Disney and Junction points sequel to 2010’s Wii exclusive. This year, however, Junction Point released two Epic Mickey games, the second being Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion — a 2D side-scrolling platformer for the Nintendo 3DS. As quiet as Disney has been about the release of this game, don’t let the fact that it’s on a handheld sway you into thinking its just a mere companion to The Power of Two; in fact, it’s so much more than that.

Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a 2D side-scroller that sends you on a magic journey as Mickey Mouse to save Minnie from the evil witch Mizrabel. Sound familiar? It should, because that was the very same premise of SEGA’s Castle of Illusion, released back in 1990.

Power of Illusion bridges the generation gap, serving as a great tribute to Castle of Illusion. In the game, Mizrabel and her Castle of Illusion reappear in Wasteland — the home of forgotten cartoon characters. Like its predecessor, Mizrabel kidnaps Minnie and the other toons, and it’s up to you to save them.

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Despite the 20-plus year difference in releases, one thing remains true: a good Disney platformer never gets old. From the opening line — “Once upon a mouse ” — to the delicate 2D side-scrolling landscape,  Power of Illusion harkens back to a golden era of platform gaming.

Of course, over time technology has improved and with that comes all-new innovation. Utilizing the 3DS touchscreen technology, the game uniquely blends traditional platforming with Junction Point’s iconic Epic Mickey paint and thinner concept. Throughout the levels you’ll need to use paint and thinner to transform the environment. To do so, the bottom touchscreen portion of the 3DS will have you either trace the outline of an object (if you are painting it) or erase the contents of an object (if you using the paint thinner). Properly doing so will result in the object on the top screen either being placed for your use or removed for your convenience.

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As clever as this concept may seem, it’s also one of my biggest criticisms of the game. That’s mostly because of its execution, which requires you to tap the screen when adjusting form the 2D side-scrolling gameplay to the painting and thinning portion. It’s an awkward motion, especially when you take into account having to jump and then tap while in mid-air. Having to quickly switch from the jump button to using a stylus is certainly not an easy transition and often results in missed jumps.

The wonderful thing about Mizrabel’s Castle of Illusion is that it allows for diverse environments. The castle is divided into four wings, each based off of a different Disney franchise — Peter Pan, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King. Each level is created in traditional 16-bit fashion, a nice touch for those who prefer the simplistic beauty of yesteryear’s graphics. For you modernists, the game does allow for 3D play, providing a nice layer of depth to each level.

The level design is fantastic, and it makes for some truly difficult, yet satisfying platforming moments. I’m not gonna lie, some parts are challenging and the rarity of checkpoints makes dying that much more frustrating. Each wing is comprised of a couple mini-levels related to the overall theme, but differing in execution. Each has its own unique feel and elements. For instance, the rooftops of London for the Peter Pan wing features plenty of jumps, and later in that wing, cannons on Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger fire at you. A portion of The Little Mermaid wing takes place underwater where your jumps have you float a little longer. The game does an excellent job of easing you into the difficulty, as each themed wing gets progressively more difficult and expects more out of you.

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Scattered throughout the Castle of Illusion are captured Disney characters. Upon finding and rescuing them, they will be transported to a safe portion of the castle known as The Fortress, where each character safely resides in their own uniquely themed room. Between levels you have the option of visiting them to unlock side quests which will reward you with money, Mickey’s paint and thinner upgrades, and stars to upgrade each character’s themed room. This presents a fun mini-game to break up the monotony of platforming.

All in all, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a solid platformer that uniquely blends traditional and modern gameplay elements. It certainly lives up to some of the great platformers of the past and should be considered a treat for any fan of the original Castle of Illusion game. Power of Illusion is more than just a companion 3DS game and I’m somewhat saddened Disney hasn’t given it the attention and marketing it deserves.

Score: 8/10

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