Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Mickey Mouse and other Disney favorites return in this 3DS entry in the Castle of Illusion platformer series.
The spiritual successor to the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis classic Castle of Illusion, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion on Nintendo 3DS certainly hits all the right notes in terms of presentation but trips up in the gameplay department, both due to its slow-paced platforming and because completing the entire game takes little more than four hours.

The graphics in this game are undeniably gorgeous. Sticking to the 2D pixel art style of its 16-bit predecessor, Power of Illusion is awash with attractive and colorful backgrounds and sprites that look like they have been taken straight out of a cartoon.

The gameplay itself is a solid, though simplistic platforming fare. You control the eponymous mouse on a quest to rescue Minnie and a host of other Disney characters from the Castle of Illusion where an evil witch called Mizrabel is draining the paint from her captives to fuel her escape from the Wasteland.

There is certainly no shortage of cameos here including classic Disney mainstays Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck as well as fan-favorite Scrooge McDuck and numerous characters from popular Disney animated movies such as Aladdin, Simba and Rapunzel.

To help him on his way, Mickey is equipped with the ability to bounce on the heads of his enemies (albeit with an awkward double tap of the jump button) and has a magic brush that can fire projectiles. The game also has a unique mechanic in the form of painting and erasing objects to make them appear or disappear from the game world. This is done on the bottom screen of the 3DS and although it helps to change things up, the actual minigame, which involves using the stylus to draw over the outline of an object, quickly becomes slow and tedious.

In some cases it is necessary to remove, redraw and remove objects in rapid succession and it takes a good few seconds each time for the game to pause, switch to the bottom screen and then materialize or dematerialize the object you've drawn or erased. Over time this mechanic gets increasingly boring and slows the game down far too much. There is also no actual skill involved, it's as simple as drawing over the lines.

In addition to these environmental obstacles, there is also the option to bring 'sketches' in to each level. These range from platforms you can draw to reach high places to a treasure chest that will produce hearts or paint refills. While these do add a little extra strategy to the game, most of them aren't really all that useful and you can pretty much complete the game without using any of them.

Another major element of the game is the fortress - an area where rescued characters go and can be spoken to between levels. Most of them hand out quests which can involve fetching an item from another character or replaying an already-completed level to acquire an object or rescue a related character.

Sadly though, apart from one or two characters (such as Scrooge who offers access to a shop where you can buy a few generic upgrades), these quests are rather bland and serve mostly to extend the game's short runtime. While it can be nice interacting with some of the characters, others have little of interest to say and replaying levels repeatedly for quest items can get boring fast.

This brings us to what is perhaps the biggest issue with the game - the length. It took me a mere four hours to finish the entire thing, including the lengthy end credits sequence and almost all the available quests. This might not have been so much of a problem if the game had been priced accordingly, but upon release it was selling at full-price and even today its value hasn't dropped much.

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a fun romp through a colorful and vibrant platforming world of Disney characters and it's worth a playthrough, especially if you are a big Disney fan. If you are looking for a meatier experience however, especially a more RPG-centric game focusing on the Disney universe, the Kingdom Hearts series might be a better option.