Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not Quite Epic

Right now I am breaking my own rules. I generally have little patience for games, especially games with questionable game mechanics, or those which are released with too many bugs. What's more, I have gotten to the point where I assume a console game will not be buggy. Sure, my PS3 will have to update games pretty often, but in general it isn’t anything too harsh or evil that has to be fixed.

So, if I keep on playing a buggy game, in a way, it's a testament to the game's design. Vampire: Bloodlines was such a game. Never had I played an RPG like this before. It was deep, beautiful, dirty and atmospheric, but oof it was rough around the edges. Apparently, show-stopping bugs did not stop or even slow the release of this game. But I kept playing and fortunately, after Troika went defunct, people took it upon themselves to create patches for the game simply because it was just that good.

Such is the case with Epic Mickey. That's right, I am comparing Vampire: Bloodlines to Epic Mickey. Hear me out.

I don’t expect Nintendo games to ship with bugs and I think I have good reason to feel this way—their track record is solid in regards to certifying games for release. But now we have Epic Mickey and my preconceptions of Nintendo have changed drastically. Here is a game that has so much going for it, and there is a lot I love about it... but I get a sick feeling when I think of the issues it has, because I know how good it could have been.

"Disney fan", that’s me. I love old Disney cartoons and going to Disneyland as a kid was as big a deal as Christmas in my household. When I sign my name, I dot my “I” the same way that Disney did because as a kid I basically wanted to be him. Did I tell you I'm a Disney fan?

What's that in the corner? Hey, it's
a blue V.I.N.CENT from
"The Black Hole"!
Epic Mickey takes place in a twisted, dark version of Disneyland and it is a serious homage to old Disney cartoons and to the theme park. There are plenty of hidden gems in the game, especially for a Disney buff. The level design is very creative in parts. As a transition between areas, there are brief side-scrolling levels within old cartoon shorts that I found most creative and served as a little break from the bigger, 3-D world. Within these levels are film reels that unlock the full cartoon that the level is based on, which is a far greater incentive than a generic trophy. The look of the game is fantastic and seeing the twisted takes on beloved areas in the theme park presses me to keep playing.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes, but then there is the harsh reality of the gameplay and the bugs. Most reviewers (as well as creator Warren Spector himself) have already said enough about camera issues in this game, so I'll just say that considering the amount of jumping to be done, it really is a serious frustration. On the very first level, the one in which I was taught to jump, I kept missing the jump and losing health. I’ve played my way through these kinds of games before. I know how to jump. Worse, there are other areas where moving the camera isn’t an option and a blind jump seems to be your only option. Frustrating.

But the bugs are even worse. In fact, if it weren’t for the internet, I would’ve given up on the game entirely. It happened after I accomplished my epic task of getting up to a safe that was suspended over a pirate (long story). Anyway, I get to the safe and nothing happens. I wonder if I did something wrong. I spend a lot of time messing around and trying to see what I missed. Turns out, I didn’t miss anything—it was a bug, and the cutscene just didn’t run. I had to exit the world, go through a cartoon side-scroll level and come back in order to get the cutscene to play and for the story to progress. Thankfully I found the answer online, but I have to think that this would've totally stopped anyone who didn’t think to do that.

This is a Disney game starring Mickey Mouse, so of course kids will play it, but if what happened to me happens to them, they won’t get past Toontown. In other moments of the game, Mickey’s movements went completely awry and I had to restart the game to get him to start moving correctly again (and not kill himself in a sea of paint thinner).

And yet, like Vampire: Bloodlines, I keep playing. I want to see more levels, I want to unlock cartoons, I want to see how it ends. Considering my usual patience-level for buggy games like this, I think that is pretty high praise. But in the end, my feelings about Epic Mickey are pretty sweet and sour. I will always think of what the game could have been.
blog comments powered by Disqus