While Mickey Mouse has been the face of The Walt Disney Co. for more than 80 years, I don't think he's anyone's favourite toon. The kids in my family adore Ariel, Simba and Buzz Lightyear, while I have a soft spot for Scrooge McDuck. Mickey is more corporate logo than character, the smiling figurehead at the prow of the mighty SS Disney.
And yet, here he is in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Disney, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99; Wii U, $54.99; Wii, $49.99), his second high-profile video game in three years. It's the continuation of designer Warren Spector's effort to rehabilitate the rodent - and given the drab, charmless result, it's a project I'm ready to give up on.
Epic Mickey 2 returns to the Wasteland, a decrepit world based on classic Magic Kingdom attractions like Frontierland and Adventureland. After the Wasteland is torn up by earthquakes, Mickey is summoned to help restore it - and find out what caused the disaster. The Mouse is again armed with a magical brush that can shoot paint or thinner, while his buddy, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, carries a remote control that can harness electricity.
The most interesting puzzles here require using the brush to rebuild or destroy structures around the Wasteland. Unfortunately, Mickey also has to use paint and thinner to fight mobile enemies - a chore made frustrating by clunky controls, sloppy aiming and awkward camera angles.
Oswald isn't much help: When you need him to zap a monster, he's usually wandering aimlessly in the distance. Having another human control Oswald makes combat a little more tolerable, but he's usually extraneous and at times actually interferes with the task at hand. Epic Mickey 2 is the latest example of a studio forcing cooperative play on an audience that wasn't asking for it.
There were moments in Epic Mickey 2 that made me furious, which isn't the emotion I normally associate with The Happiest Place on Earth. Rather than correcting the flaws that marred the original, Spector and his team at Disney's Junction Point Studios have added more nuisances. It's enough to turn even the most mild-mannered Mickey fan into an apoplectic Donald Duck. One star out of four.
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