Next month is bound to be big news for Disney. I mean, acquiring LucasFilm for $4 billion and the rights to Star Wars (while announcing a new movie to boot) is huge news too, but November will bring about the return of Epic Mickey, a franchise birthed by Warren Spector and his team at Junction Point two years ago exclusively for the Wii. This time around, the sequel Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two will be released across a number of platforms, including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U, along with the original Wii. But that's not the end of the story.
Along with that console release, Disney Interactive is also preparing a side story specifically tailored for the Nintendo 3DS and it's shaping up to be one of the handheld's best third-party games to date. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a side-scrolling game compared to full 3D movement like Power of Two but its world is equally magical, combining the sheer beauty of what the 3DS can do in the third dimension with levels that actually pay tribute to Disney's games of old, calling back to the Sega Genesis days.
Remember the Sega release Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse? Then you're gonna love this, as it's a spiritual sequel of sorts. (And they threw in some Aladdin for good measure!)
The game takes place following the events that unfolded in Epic Mickey. An evil witch by the name of Mizrabel, who also appeared in Castle of Illusion long ago, has made her way into the Wasteland with the help of masterful wizard Yen Sid. She's taken control of a castle with Minnie Mouse trapped inside. Oswald the Rabbit, Mickey's newfound buddy from the original game, tells him what's going on and the famous mouse sets forth on his most dangerous mission to date, paint brush and thinner in hand.
Like the original Epic Mickey, Power of Illusion gives you the ability to use both paint and thinner within the stage using the 3DS' touch-screen. You can draw items that will prove useful if drawn correctly, though even the slightest error could put you in danger. For example, in one sequence you have to vividly draw a cannon out of a traced frame. Doing it right will allow you to use it on enemies without hurting yourself, but if you screw up you could very well take some damage.
But mostly Power of Illusion is built around traditional side-scrolling platforming rules, along the same lines as Castle of Illusion. Mickey can jump on enemies by leaping into the air and then using his butt to launch off of enemies that are in his way. He can use his paint brush and thinner as well, should the situation call for it.
Along his journey, Mickey Mouse will encounter a number of worlds inspired by classic Disney films. He'll fight his way through the city of Agrabah that first appeared in Aladdin, fending off guards while figuring out what to do with his supplies. More levels are included as well, including Rapunzel's tower from Tangled and the undersea kingdom ruled over by King Triton from The Little Mermaid.
Along with familiar worlds, Mickey will also encounter a few faces from the Disney universe. These include Scrooge McDuck from the DuckTales franchise (sadly, he's not bouncing on the moon this time around – sorry, NES fans); Ariel, Ursula and Sebastian the Crab from The Little Mermaid; Rapunzel from the recent Disney release Tangled; and Gopher from Winnie the Pooh, among others. It's practically a who's who of classic Disney faces, all of whom help out Mickey once he frees them from Mizrabel's devastating spell.
Though Power of Illusion doesn't quite make the sort of pop-out 3D effects that other games on the platform do, it's a beautiful sight. The 2D levels really show an excellent amount of detail, thanks to the developers at Dreamrift – the same team behind the Henry Hatsworth games. Its 3D is casually used to bring these worlds to vivid life, while the emphasis remains on the sort of approach that made Castle of Illusion's simple charms work so well. We can only wonder why that game wasn't included with this package – perhaps Sega wasn't ready to cooperate on the project or wants to save it for a later release. Ah well, still plenty of adventure to be experienced here, no biggie.
It's been a while since we've had a terrific side-scrolling Mickey adventure... in fact, the last one we can remember was Mickey Mania on the Sega CD and SNES. We'll happily take Dreamrift's 2D version of Epic Mickey. Power of Illusion looks to be quite enjoyable, and should make plenty of wishes come true when it arrives on November 20th.