Those of you that know me know that I have held a long-maintained respect for Disney animation and the theme parks. That, and I think John Lasseter (Pixar, bringing Miyazaki films to the states, and influence on current Disney animation, and yes, this particular game) has been amazing for modern Disney.

And I grew up playing Mickey Mouse. From Sorcerer’s Apprentice on the Atari 2600, to Mickey Mousecapade on the NES to my personal favorite, Castle of Illusion on the Genesis (there’s a cameo nod to one of these in Epic Mickey). Mickey Mouse was more a 8-bit and 16-bit hero back in the day, and his games were good. It’s no wonder younger gamers forgot that, as for the most part, the company’s video game fare for the last decade has been primarily quick and dirty “Disney Channel” cash-ins.

When Warren Spector started talking about this game, he kept going on how much of a big Mickey/Disney fan he is. It’s natural to always want to see if someone is a legit fan, or merely a fanboy, so I started reading his interviews, and watching his videos. I listened to what he had to say. And he knew his stuff, portrayed with this near childlike level of enthusiasm, excitement, and sincerity. This was also cemented by his obviously very proud display of Mickey memorabilia, and then followed up with his posted yearning of wanting to do a Scrooge McDuck game. My skepticism was over. He passed his unknown “test” with me, and nodded my approval while sitting back and waiting to see what he was going to do next.

I’ve seen the results. And it’s addictively magical.

Just a few hours in the game, I’m thrust into a very familiar world that I’ve visited on my own. One of the theme parks, where I’ve personally walked, and one of animation where I’ve spent hours glued to a TV or movie screen. I played with some of the toys, read some the books, seen other items, and heard the familiar themes. It’s all twisted, of course, a broken “second best” world made by an unloved and forgotten cartoon character who just wanted attention, while his “younger brother” captured all of the fame and adoration instead (and yet, Mickey himself has been reduced to little more than “corporate icon” status these days).

I remembered Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar, and felt pity for them that while they remembered Mickey, he didn’t remember them. Mickey himself admits to feeling a sense of familiarity in this knock-off “Disney World”, and while he’s still realizing what he’s done, there’s a sense of build-up in wanting to know more. He’s not some two-dimensional cartoon character that is out to save a princess or is just going to solve the mess he made by jumping on enemies, he’s there to either save the world he’s responsible for destroying, or just get home. And people DO remember how you interact with others, and what you’ve done. Greed and selfishness, or kindness and retribution? My actions have paid off in many respects.

The paint mechanic is fun. There are some issues, however. Camera angles occasionally get stupid and obscure Mickey, and while it looks like you should be painting/thinning items from certain angles, it doesn’t register. It’s infrequent and (for me) easily forgotten, but I’m not going to pretend that these issues don’t exist.

The side-scrolling levels between worlds are also very easy, but they are still wonderful. Each adopts a different animation style from one of Mickey’s previous cartoons, and each cartoon looks radically different from the next, but incredibly accurate to the source material.

And there’s still so much to see.

Admittedly, I’ve rolled my eyes at the Wii’s whole “We put smiles on people’s faces” philosophy, because it sounds so cheesy, and more akin to a greeting card slogan, but I’ve smiled during this game. And I’ve smiled a lot.

The reviews have been all over the fence for this game. As I said, there are some minor issues, but some of the harsher reviews clearly didn’t remember “Mickey the video game platformer hero” from the 1980’s and 1990’s, and I suppose find themselves “too cool” to play as a cartoon mouse. Their loss, and don’t let their sourness make you question at least trying this game out.

If you love Disney, whether it’s the whole thing, or even just one item, you’ll be swept off to a world of nostalgia, and it feels pretty comfortable setting up and staying there a while.

UPDATE: Yes, I gushed over the Tron section with Pete as a Sark hybrid. Due to this game’s unlocks, I have also now seen a proper Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon, as well as a classic Mickey Mouse short from 1933 (both unlocks in the game). Oswald is charming. I hope Disney does something special with Oswald now that they have him back.

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