★ 1/2 out of four stars
Rating: Everyone, cartoon violence.
No question: Mickey Mouse is the embodiment and true legend of the Walt Disney Co. Problem is, who under 20 really knows this?And that makes "Epic Mickey" even more disappointing, since it tarnishes the beloved character with a game fraught with technical and game-play problems.
The setup: Mickey has spilled dark ink onto the land where long-forgotten Disney characters have gone into retirement, and now they are stuck in a bland, colorless existence. Mickey has to save them. The story allows young gamers to get a taste of Disney history and view classic imagery from the animation studio's heyday, but the execution is a letdown.
First, the game play is bland. Players wield a magic paintbrush that can fill in missing pieces to the landscape, such as a gap in a bridge or a secret entranceway. The brush also can be used in combat. But the poor design leaves players with no way to tell how to use the brush -- it's just swipe and hope.
Second, the in-game camera is shoddy. It constantly turns in ways that hinder the player's progress, making it difficult for gamers to finish a level. The rest of the game is filled with mundane fetch quests.
Sure, the various destinations -- such as Ozland, Ventureland and Tomorrowland -- are colorful and scenic, but there is little incentive to see the game through.
Maybe some parents will rent this game for a weekend to introduce Disney's first hero to a younger generation. But it will be a sad ride down memory lane for the adults and an unadventurous experience for the kids.
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DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS
★★★ 1/2 out of four stars
Rating: Everyone; mild cartoon violence.
Instead of trying to invent the next great game-play element, sometimes just doing the classic thing really well is all you need to succeed. Case in point: "Donkey Kong Country Returns," a sequel that contains few changes because the original was so solid.
This is traditional 2-D platform gaming at its best, side-scrolling as it is meant to be. You play as Donkey Kong, and while Diddy Kong comes along for the ride now and then, you don't switch between the characters as you did in previous editions.
You'll bounce around from ledge to ledge, swinging on vines and making leaps across bottomless crevasses. Collecting bananas is the name of the game, and there are plenty to snatch up. Plus, there are hidden collectibles to obtain, which unlock bonuses and give the game a surprising amount of replay value.
The sequel also throws in on-rails action to make things interesting. These sequences, whether riding in a mine car or atop a rocketing barrel, provide harried moments that are not just about collecting bananas but keeping Donkey Kong from plummeting into a pit while outrunning enemies.
With exciting level design packed with action and beautiful visuals, this offers Wii players many reasons to return to the jungle and guide Donkey Kong through his adventures.
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