The style is to die for, but the substance? Eh, not so much.
Stylistically, Epic Mickey is an incredible game. From its opening cut scene to its final moments, the game’s presentation is top notch—even more so if you have any knowledge of Disneyland. However, the gameplay is hit-or-miss with a main concept that feels extremely limited in scope. The end result is a mildly entertaining game at best that is often too frustrating for its own good.
The game is centered on Mickey Mouse's journey through Wasteland, which is basically the land of forgotten Disney characters from the early days of the company. Some of the references might not resonate with all of the players, but the story progression is easy to follow and filled with a lot of good humor. It's told through the use of stylish storyboard-like cut scenes that do a wonderful job at injecting personality into every character, even without voice acting. The world of the Wasteland outside of those scenes is also very visually appealing, showcasing a twisted version of Disneyland and the various characters that inhabit it. If you've been to Disneyland, or even Walt Disney World, then a lot of the settings will look familiar, but not quite as you remember them.
Epic Mickey is focused around one primary gameplay mechanic: the way that paint and thinner interact with the world around you. Paint will fill in areas and transform enemies into friends, while thinner destroys everything it touches. At its heart, it makes interacting with the cool, themed areas fun. Unfortunately, the quests that you undergo are usually contrived.
The majority of the game's quests involve you searching for random items that are hidden in the environment. The game gives you little clue as to where this items might be, making these awful fetch quests even worse. Not every quest devolves into this boring trope, but when they triumph past it, it rarely impresses. When it gets down to it, you're juggling between fetch quests and basic environmental puzzles that hinge on painting or thinning sections to access items or other areas.
There is a degree of choice in how you complete quests, but it's all so binary. Most of the time, the game tells you that you can do either one thing or another. When it doesn't explicitly state the second option, you usually can just find a hidden character that will solve the problem for you. No huge changes occur depending on your decisions, outside of being able to interact with certain characters or the path ahead being less dangerous.
You do have to deal with the consequences of some choices, but in a terribly unfair way. For example, you're tasked with finding the missing parts of animatronic Goofy, Donald, and Daisy, which are strewn about specific areas. Unfortunately, the only time you can search for these parts is when you go through these levels the first time, as there is no way to return later, and you're never warned about this fact. To top off this frustration, sometimes you get the last part by talking to someone right next to where the animatronic character is located. They try to make up for this design flaw by offering the pieces you miss in stores across the game…for an exorbitant fee. Even when you go through all this trouble, though, there isn't much of a reward outside of seeing a cut scene and having another boring quest added to the list. That basically sums up the game: it's a series of mediocre-to-terrible quests that the game offers you little or no incentive to complete.
Luckily, there are some bright spots on your 10-to-15-hour quest. Some levels have really cool set pieces, and the boss battles are mostly well done and suitably epic. The 2D platforming levels, of which there are more than thirty, aren't that challenging, but they're fun to explore. The visual presentation of each level is excellent, as they mimic various Disney shorts. In general, the way the game looks and sounds is wonderful and rife with numerous Disney references. As far as unlockables go, there are truly only two worthwhile ones: two classic Disney shorts. While there are a myriad of other collectibles, they net you little else, if anything at all.
The game controls with no real issues outside of the camera, which is annoying at times. Usually you have free reign over it, but occasionally the game will lock it into place, giving you no easy way to look at certain parts of the environment. It also becomes a problem during combat, as the lock-on system, activated at the press of a button, doesn't work too well and rarely gives you a clear shot against most enemies.
Epic Mickey is a game that falls short in the part that counts: the gameplay. It might look great and feature an engaging story, but the chief gameplay element of paint and thinner isn't engaging enough to carry you through the story and presentation. Way too often, the game is more frustrating than it is fun. If you're a fan of Disney, Epic Mickey is still worth playing for the in-jokes, the twisted version of Disneyland, and the plot, but only if you can tolerate mediocre and uninspired gameplay.