Unless you own a Wii, you might not have had the chance to experience Epic Mickey. The original game was released in 2010 on Nintendo's soon to be upgraded console, to a generally positive reception. Two years on and Disney's most famous character returns in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, the Warren Spector (co-creator of Deus Ex and Thief) crafted sequel.
As the title suggests, Epic Mickey is a game best enjoyed when tackled with a friend. Mickey Mouse is joined once again by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit - this time as a fully playable character - available to a second player at a moment's notice.
The story starts sometime after the events of the first game. Wasteland is in trouble, and after his sterling efforts last time, Mickey is called back to help. A certain Mad Doctor who was once a foe is now seemingly trying to make amends for his past transgressions, offering to help local citizens as inexplicable earthquakes ravage the peaceful world of forgotten cartoons.
And so the stage is set for a Disney-centric 3D platform adventure, with RPG-lite elements and some musical numbers thrown in for good measure. The "paint and thinner" mechanic from the first game makes a return, and a similar aesthetic prevails. Mickey and Oswald must return normality to Wasteland and uncover the truth behind the strange events transpiring around them. Along the way they meet a variety of Disney inspired characters, and by means of distraction, embark on a series of simple mini quests (usually of the fetch/retrieval variety).
Once again using his trusty magic paintbrush, Mickey must fire streams of paint to reanimate parts of the world around him, changing the environment as he goes. He can also, as was the case in the first game, use paint thinner to remove certain parts of scenery. It's a simple, but visually appealing mechanic, mixing gentle puzzles in and around all the platforming and exploration.
The puzzles themselves are fairly straightforward, and Junction Point should be commended for offering multiple routes through each environment. Whilst choice is fairly limited, an element of morality is often introduced, with players usually able to find a slightly longer (but ultimately more morally fulfilling) solution to the various scenarios presented to players. Linking certain zones are some very pleasant, but painfully easy 2D platform levels. Every time one was completed I was left wanting more, and these sections didn't appear as often as I'd have liked.
Epic Mickey 2 is at its best when enjoyed with a friend. The first player assumes the role of Mickey, the second taking control of Oswald. Together the two Disney characters explore a world full of vibrant colours and striking environments, hopping between platforms and solving arbitrary puzzles as they go.
Environments are steeped in Disney lore. Anybody who remembers the iconic cartoons from their childhood will no doubt notice the numerous references etched into the landscape around them. Big fans of the studio will likely think themselves in some kind of nostalgia heaven. Spector's vision - the distinctive imagery, the nods to heritage - is written large on the walls. It's impressive. Even if cartoons aren't your thing, it's presented in such a way that it isn't too overpowering.
Whilst Mickey paints in the world around him, Oswald uses technology to achieve his goals. Using a charge from a remote control carried throughout, the rabbit opens locks, stuns enemies and reprograms terminals. It's not rocket science, and more often than not it just comes down to flicking a switch, but there's a nice symbiotic relationship between the characters, and utilising each other's strengths is the name of the game.
Using each other's strengths is a necessity because despite being clearly aimed at a younger demographic, EM2 still maintains a decent challenge. Some platforming sections are very tricky and will likely cause some frustration, regardless of who sits behind the controller. Boss fights can be a little arduous at times, but seasoned co-op players will probably find enough enjoyment elsewhere to overlook these occasional annoyances.