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The Next Level In Gaming

When I was younger, Disney cartoons were one of my favourite things to watch – the fantastic animation, characters and beautiful worlds they involved. However, as I got older, these worlds and characters seemed to get further away - although the fond memories were there, it felt as though I had to leave them behind – like Peter Pan wanting to refuse to grow up and abandon the old joys of the past.

However, then came a saviour from the past – Square Enix, owners of Final Fantasy, a newer franchise I had come to love, announced a joint project – Kingdom Hearts. Older now that I was, I couldn’t imagine it. Gunblades and Alice and Wonderland? Cloud Strife and Donald Duck? It could never work!

But it did. As soon as I actually played the game, my eyes were open and I fell in love with a new idea, the colourful worlds of Disney symbiotically merging with the concepts of Final Fantasy, and becoming something even more. Aside from taking me back to the old memories, it actually did something new – it somehow managed to bring a new maturity to Disney, while retaining it’s childlike innocence. And it made Mickey kick ass. I never thought I’d see the day that Mickey Mouse would be imbued with fighting spirit, or that I could even be fooled into believing that Goofy were killed in battle. But it happened, and it was good. I wanted more – and I still do, even after the sequels and spin-off titles. And while I still wait for Birth By Sleep, and hope for news of a Kingdom Hearts III, I’ve found something that has peaked my interest for a similar type of enjoyment.

You see - when Kingdom Hearts did the impossible, and brought a new maturity to Disney’s characters, some people at Disney slated it as an ‘abomination’, an idea that shouldn’t have existed. But the people loved it, and pleaded for more. It seems that Disney have realised that people enjoy seeing their favourite cartoon characters in a new light – and that there’s more potential to create something spectacular. So soon, we’ll be seeing just that – in the form of Disney’s Epic Mickey.

The story of Epic Mickey lies in a similar vein to that of Fantasia - the mischevious mouse causes trouble in the study of his master – the sorcerer from Fantasia itself – Yen Sid. Hidden through a mirror, Mickey finds a miniature theme park called the Cartoon Wasteland, a living world populated by all of Yen Sid’s forgotten and rejected creations. Panicked as he hears his master approaching, he accidentally spills paint and paint thinner over the model world, and flees after hastily cleaning up.

However, his actions are not without consequence, the fluids creating an evil creature within the world known as the “Phantom Blot”, who attempts to take over the Cartoon Wasteland, which is ruled by Mickey’s long lost brother, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Years later, his deed forgotten, Mickey finds himself sucked through a mirror, into a twisted version of the Cartoon Wasteland - a disgraced Oswald seeking revenge on the brother who destroyed his world.

It all sounds quite sinister, and the world seems to be very surreal and bizarre – looking something like a dark mix of Alice and Wonderland’s randomness, and the surreal magic of Fantasia. Originally planned for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Disney instead opted for creating it solely for the Nintendo Wii. It could perhaps mean the game won’t look quite as crisp as it could have done – but hopefully Disney knew what they were doing here.

The gameplay itself is said to focus largely on platforming with RPG elements, and looks to be a third-person title in a similar style to that of Kingdom Hearts. There will be combat of some description – since there are said to be bosses and enemies, but little is known of the actual system. However, in Okami-like style, it seems Mickey will be equipped with a paintbrush that gives him the ability to create things – such as bridges – by using Paint, and the ability to destroy things by using Paint Thinner, including both obstacles and enemies. Also, it will be possible to draw certain sketches in order to activate special powers, such as a clock to slow time, or a television to distract enemies.

It seems the game will not be entirely linear – offering possible side quests, and a sort of morality level not unlike that of Imfamous or Fable, swaying between statuses of “Hero” and “Scrapper”, depending on your actions. Your status will in turn affect Mickey’s appearance, abilities, and even how other characters react and communicate with you – so it looks as though playing through as a “Hero” may offer a fairly different experience to playing through as “Scrapper Mickey”.

There will apparently be multiple ways to solve certain levels, and although the exploration of the game has not been explained fully yet, there will be 2D platforming sections that are used to travel between areas, based on classic cartoon shorts, such as Clock Cleaners.

The game really is looking quite dark, with some of the most twisted creations Disney has ever seen – artwork depicts barren wastelands and some sort of Mickey-inspired robot that looks like something from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Mickey’s enemies will include spawn of the Phantom Blot, known as ‘Blotlings’, robotic creations called “Beetleworx” sent the Blot’s henchman ‘The Mad Doctor’ (seen before in the classic Mickey Mania), and also the children of Oswald, cute creatures that seemingly impede Mickey’s progress in more non-violent ways such as grabbing hold of him and refusing to let go.

It seems Epic Mickey will be focusing on more vintage work than that of Kingdom Hearts, with many of the characters and villains from older concepts and such. However, with a steampunk-like style and some elements of post-apocalyptic influences, we’ll be seeing many of them in a new light. But it’s not only characters we’ll be seeing – it’s been said we’ll be seeing some areas inspired by real-world Disney locations, such as Disney’s “Spaceship Earth” from the Epcot park, and Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World and Cinderella’s Castle attractions.

I look forward to seeing more about this game – but I definitely think it’s looking to be something quite unique. Whether or not the game will be any good is yet to be seen – but Disney have definitely got a powerful concept here.


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Leon On May - 10 - 2010

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