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Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (3DS) artwork

Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (3DS) review

"Although the stages are large enough to be interesting, you’ll have to visit each one several times if you want to discover all of the castle’s secrets. You unlock life meter extensions and improvements to your various attacks by completing various side quests, so you might have a rough time defeating Mizrabel if you don’t seek out all of your potential allies (though perhaps not, since she’s not actually a difficult opponent)."

The sorcerer Yen Sid needs to lock up his magic brush. He may be a powerful fellow and his flowing beard might be spectacular, but his track record when it comes to protecting his tools could charitably be described as “quite poor.” Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion represents the third time that Mickey Mouse has stepped through a portal and stolen the amazing implement. This time, the famous rodent is on his way to Wasteland to infiltrate a magical Castle of Illusion (does that name ring a bell?), where he hopes to rescue copies of his friends from the sorceress Mizrabel before they grant her the power to invade the real world or some such nonsense.

Power of Illusion is a very basic game, which works both for and against it. You start on a menu screen that looks like an ancient parchment. Nodes appear, the first of which serves as a portal to a hallway that eventually grants access to four action stages. Once you clear those initial stages, you’ll open up a boss encounter and then second and third hallways… until finally you’ve accessed a total of eleven levels and a handful of boss encounters. You’ll also find special characters from the classic Disney universe. They’ll retreat to the castle fortress, where you can then talk to them and receive quests that will drag you back to familiar stages so that you can find items and still more characters. By the time you reach the end of the game, your simple hub menu could be filled with a motley crew of heroes and villains who are all working together to stop the evil sorceress.

The action stages are all reasonably large, with a checkpoint halfway through. Initially, they offer a decent challenge, but you’ll soon get used to their hazards and discover all of their secrets. By the time you reach the closing credits, you’ll likely have reached the conclusion that all but a couple of the stages are toothless. They look nice, but the true appeal is in the vibrant visuals and cartoony vibe, not any test of your gaming prowess.

Although the stages are large enough to be interesting, you’ll have to visit each one several times if you want to discover all of the castle’s secrets. You unlock life meter extensions and improvements to your various attacks by completing various side quests, so you might have a rough time defeating Mizrabel if you don’t seek out all of your potential allies (though perhaps not, since she’s not actually a difficult opponent). The general setup makes sense, but it’s unfortunate that the developers didn’t pad it with more unique stages. The fourth or fifth time you’re forced to run through the same area, your romp in the mysterious castle begins to feel less like an adventure and more like a chore. There are a lot of nooks and crannies to check, and you’ll have to peek at each one nearly every time you revisit a stage, just to make sure you’re not missing anything. It gets tedious.

Adding to that tedium is the fact that Mickey must use his brush to paint in helpful ledges or to remove harmful or otherwise distracting obstacles. There’s a slight element of puzzle solving, which is neat, but such events tend to drag the game’s pace to a screeching halt. You have to keep your stylus at the ready as you work through conventional platforming sequences and then you tap the screen or press the X button to single out an object that you will either erase or trace. It’s not a particularly engaging use of your time, and there are even some cases where you have to interact twice with the same object--to erase a swinging scythe and then redraw it as a dangling chain--or when an object will disappear after a short period of use and you’ll have to draw it yet again. Though it’s possible to fail in your attempt to draw or erase one of those objects, you’re unlikely to do so more than three or four times out of the many, many times you have to create or eliminate portions of the architecture. The whole affair comes off as gimmicky and unnecessary, even though it does feel true to the series.

When he’s not relying on a brush, Mickey is a capable protagonist. He can use a special spin attack to knock opponents and blocks around, or he can land on foes from above with a butt stomp that also allows him to spring upward and reach higher ground (if you press the button at the proper moment). Additionally, it’s possible to fire paint and thinner as projectile weapons, if you’re not worried about exhausting your meters, and special abilities such as sketches will allow you to take out enemies in creative ways. You can also produce special ledges to reach high ground, where new allies might be waiting.

Although the developers must have spent the bulk of their time designing stage layouts, they clearly put a fair bit of effort into the interactions between characters back at the castles. Unfortunately, a lot of it is just filler. Scrooge McDuck is useful because he opens a store from which you can purchase some valuable improvements, and there’s another merchant who you’ll encounter near the end of your journey. Otherwise, the characters are mostly cosmetic aside from the slight boosts they grant you. Mickey gains stars for clearing stages and he can use those to upgrade the “rooms” where allies dwell, which changes what they say and causes new backgrounds to appear. Though it’s kind of neat to obtain items that are drawn from the worlds of heroes like Aladdin, Ariel, and even more obscure characters such as Aurora (from “Sleeping Beauty”) and Tiana (“The Princess and the Frog”), it’s never so cool that you’ll be likely to welcome the opportunity to revisit a familiar stage yet again in search of a bolt of cloth or some grubs.

After finishing Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, it’s difficult not to come away with the impression that the game wasn’t quite finished. There’s a lot of high-quality content, but the adventure would have benefitted immeasurably from the addition of another 10 or 12 stages, so that it wasn’t so necessary to keep running back and forth along familiar ground. There’s definitely some appeal here and young kids will probably enjoy themselves a great deal more than jaded adults might, but the overall package doesn’t live up to its full potential and it definitely lacks some of the indefinable magic that Disney-based games had even in the NES, SNES, and Genesis days. Give it a shot if you’re in the mood for a solid platformer, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself pining for the days when games like this one were truly magical.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (February 03, 2013)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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