True greatness for this game is but an illusion.
The original Epic Mickey was a ridiculously hyped title that wound up being a severe disappointment. Its multiplatform sequel, did so poorly that the studio behind both games sadly closed. What a chipper way to start a Disney-related review, huh! Regardless, the team behind such Nintendo DS games like Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure and Monster Tale have worked their magic with a new game, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the Nintendo 3DS. This ode to the SEGA Genesis classic, Castle of Illusion, showcases the developer's tendencies once more. That is, that underneath a promising game with some great elements is a myriad of questionable design decisions that adversely affect one's enjoyment of playing the game.
Power of Illusion begins with Oswald the Rabbit contacting a relaxing Mickey Mouse through a television. He reports that a mysterious castle has appeared in Wasteland, and has seen Minnie Mouse trapped inside, along with countless other characters. Oswald urges Mickey to once again come save the day with the help of Yen Sid's magical paintbrush, of which he "borrows."
The gameplay of Power of Illusion is a bit on the slow side, and this is mostly due to two factors: Mickey Mouse's speed in general, and the constant focus on painting and removing objects into a given stage. First off, Mickey walks in a plodding pace, which takes a little getting used to, especially with typical 2D platformers having a bit of speed to them, or even a run button.
If you're looking for a game to speedrun like Mario, Mega Man, Metroid, or Sonic, you should turn your attention elsewhere to something other than this game. Power of Illusion is much more focused on the player meticulously exploring levels, coming across secrets such as various Disney characters, items, and tickets, the currency of the game.
While the painter/thinner mechanic for Power of Illusion is an interesting one, it doesn't really add that much to the gameplay. Instead, one could say that it takes away a little enjoyment from the game. The mechanic itself has object silhouettes on the bottom screen that can be tinkered with, either bringing them into existence on the top screen via painting or removing them from sight by using paint thinner. For painting, you simply trace the object as carefully as possible, while with thinner, you rub all over the object until it has disappeared.
Painting can serve a purpose like bringing forth a platform that leads Mickey to a higher area of the level in which he wouldn't otherwise be able to reach. One boss in the game requires you to paint thorny bushes into the arena so the boss foolishly collides with it instead of hitting Mickey. Conversely, the thinner can be brushed onto objects like cannons, removing them and their dangerous cannonballs which they fire so Mickey can safely pass by them.
The first half of the game really relies on you switching back and forth between actual platforming and painting/thinning objects into and out of the playing field. This constant interruption of gameplay destroys a good chunk of any sense of enjoyable pacing Power of Illusion attempts to create. However, latter levels actually use both mechanics less, so they're more entertaining to play through.
Disney Epic Mickey's handheld debut with Power of Illusion features approximately a dozen levels that are sorted across three different worlds. Each level is based off a Disney property like Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, for starters. These levels go by quite quickly, making the game a disappointingly short experience. Some longevity is brought into the mix with the Fortress, a hub where Mickey goes from room to room, satisfying the requests of Disney characters that he stumbled upon in the various levels. These requests range from giving a character an item from another character, painting something into existence for someone, or finding a lost item that is hidden in one of the game's levels. The latter makes it so you will be revisiting levels multiple times.
This immense sense of backtracking will most likely annoy a lot of players, but overall I didn't find it too tedious, as the level designs are rather well done and fun to play through. However, Mickey won't go empty-handed for doing these tasks. The rewards given to Mickey Mouse for his good deeds include things like increased health, a boost to his paint and/or thinner supply, and added strength to his physical attacks.
Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a gorgeous 2D game, with hand-drawn sprites that are amazingly detailed, parallax scrolling backgrounds, and stereoscopic 3D that makes the visual experience a feast for the eyes. The music is suitably whimsical and wondrous, offering apt themes for the various levels they are attached to. Sparse voice work, which is limited to hoots and hollers at the beginning of a character's dialogue, adds to the polished presentation of Power of Illusion.
What the presentation of this third Epic Mickey game makes is sort of a mirage of a remarkable game. Instead, it's purely an illusion-- it's a competent platformer with a few poor design decisions and problems which unfortunately affect the quality of the overall game. Is Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion a poor game? Absolutely not. Is it a spectacular game? Well, the same answer works for this question as well.
[SPC Says: 6.5/10]