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Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion review

Paint it back.

Hello readers. Today we have IMPORTANT NEWS for fans of classic Sega Mega Drive platformer Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. First of all, you are old. That game came out 22 years ago. Yes really.

Secondly, Castle of Illusion is not as good as you remember. I know it seemed great at the time, but so did the Spin Doctors and Ghostbusters II. Allow YouTube to tear your rose-tinted glasses from your face and crush them under its cruel heel, and the game will be revealed as a solid but derivative and repetitive platformer.

Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion has long been billed as the spiritual successor to Castle of Illusion. Congratulations, then, to Disney, which has created a game even more derivative and repetitive than the original.

The game is set in the mysterious Wasteland, an obvious literary allusion in a game packed with references to T. S. Eliot's masterpiece. Tiresias appears here as Oswald, an old rabbit with saggy ears in place of wrinkled dugs. Rather than the plight of Phlebas the player is asked to consider that of evil witch Mizrabel who, having stooped to folly, seeks redemption by capturing Disney characters and sticking them in random locations around some castle. Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, indeed. One can almost hear the plaintive cry of "shantih, shantih" as Mickey runs around jumping on mushrooms' heads.

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Jiminy f***ing Cricket, the jumping. In the Mega Drive game, enemies were destroyed by pressing the button once to jump on them. At least that's how I recall it working, not only in Castle of Illusion but in Every Platform Game Ever Made in the History of Time and Space. Except this one, friends! In Power of Illusion, you must press the button again while Mickey is in mid-air to turn his jump into an attack, or he falls on the enemy and loses a heart.

Perhaps this does not sound like a big deal to you. Perhaps this is because you have not spent the last six hours trying to override 30 years of learned behavioural response. Why not simulate the experience as you complain in the comments below by forcing yourself to type out every letter twice?

Otherwise it's business as usual. Mickey runs around pirate ships, jungles, caverns and the like, leaping over gaps and swinging on ropes and trying not to get murdered by purple bats. It's all presented in 2D side-scrolling environments with 3D backgrounds, which is about as useful and shrewd a use of technology as a bluetooth gramophone.

You could almost forget you're playing a 3DS game at all, especially once you've turned the button right down because you can feel a migraine coming on. But the creators of Power of Illusion game will not have that, oh no. For it is 2012! This means that, along with a stupid shop selling upgrades no one cares about, there must be INNOVATION!

In Power of Illusion, the INNOVATION involves drawing things on the bottom screen. There's no creativity involved, it's just a matter of dragging the stylus round a simple outline. The object then appears in the gameworld and Mickey is able to interact with it in dull ways.

Having to break away from the platforming action to do a bit of tracing every five minutes is tedious enough. It doesn't help that the game makes you sketch the same objects over and over again, or that they randomly disappear after a short while. As in the other Epic Mickey games, our hero carries thinner along with paint and sometimes this must be used to erase objects. Here, instead of tracing outlines, you scrub out entire images. The wildly audacious contrariness of this idea is unlikely to blow anyone's mind.

Too hot to handle, too cold to hold, they're called the Ghostbusters and they're in control.

All this combines to render what might have been entertaining set pieces tedious and frustrating. For instance, plenty of platform games feature sections where the hero is shot out of a series of cannons, and plenty of fun they are too. Here, you must pause the game while Mickey's in mid-air to do a boring drawing of the next cannon. Then pause it again to erase the floating platform in his way. Then again to draw the next cannon, and so on. Only to start all over if you miss a jump, because all the things you just drew have vanished for no reason. It's like trying to win Wimbledon while filling out a tax return.

On top of all that, the game features quantities of backtracking which were declared illegal in 1998. You're always being told to go and find characters who have suddenly appeared in levels you've completed, forced to retrace not just your steps but the same old drawings. Once rescued, the characters want to have endless text-based conversations in which they task you with the most tedious side-quests known to humanity. Frankly, Snow White, you can find your own sodding broom.

For all that Castle of Illusion was derivative and repetitive, at least it was enjoyable. At its core, this game is also a decent platformer, but the silly drawing gimmick and incessant backtracking spoil the fun. There's a lack of imagination here, from the use of the touch screen to the naming of the character upgrades (nothing says the magic of Disney like "MELEE DAMAGE III").

Power of Illusion is unlikely to entertain fans of the Mega Drive game beyond the initial buzz of nostalgia, and kids of today won't fancy trekking all the way back through the Neverland jungle to find Wendy's needle when they could be watching the Power Rangers kick space robots to death. Oh Mickey, what a pity.

4 / 10

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