From these small exerts, Spector and his team had to go about gifting Oswald a modern, less bovine-antagonistic persona. While we had him cornered, we put the question to him: what personality quirks did Junction Point manage to extrapolate from the limited footage at their disposal.
"We want to capture some of that chaotic energy he has", Spector explained. "He is without a doubt the most cartoon-y character Disney has ever come up with. He can be set on fire and he'll be fine. He removes his ears constantly and uses them like oars...on one occasion he even takes off his head and uses it as a bowling ball".
"We catalogued everything he did in the cartoons and used the abilities that we thought would be a good fit in a game - you'll notice you can throw your arms like boomerangs. Walt Disney didn't know it, but he was a game designer at heart. I'm completely sure that people are going to see those boomerang arms and say 'oh, that's right out of Zelda'. Or Mickey grabbing on to Oswald's legs as his ears spin like a propeller. People will make the connection to Sonic and Tails, but really it's all from cartoons from the 1920s".
Interesting that Spector should namecheck Sonic and Tails, as Epic Mickey 2 shares the same asymmetrical multiplayer, with Mickey and Oswald - now on the same page - boasting radically different abilities. Mickey retains his unique brushstroke attacks - capable of creating or obliterating landscapes depending on whether it's paint or paint-thinner dripping from the end of his brush - while Oswald has a small remote control which allows him to befriend hostile robots (aka the 'Blotworx') by jolting them with a shot of electricity.
Co-op is drop-in and drop-out, and when two players club together to combine their bespoke abilities it becomes possible to reach areas beyond the reach of lonely mortals. With both characters being so wildly different, we find ourselves compelled to ask Spector: how do you balance the skillsets to ensure both players have the same amount of fun? "I'll let you know when we've managed it", he replies with a grin.
There's a fallibility about Warren Spector that, paradoxically, is extremely reassuring. He knows that if you make a game without imperfections, you've made a game that's firmly ensconced in a comfort zone. Instead of deflecting criticism like Batfink, he absorbs it. It's given him the steel to push gaming boundaries with previous titles such as Deus Ex, and he's at it again here with the first ever....gaming musical?
"I've been wanting to make a musical forever!". He enthused. "I've had ideas kicking around for a while on how to turn songs into game mechanics. But if I tried to make it, I'd get fired, gamers would hate me and I'd never get to work in this industry ever again. So consider this a test".
Bah. We were looking forward to stomping around in time with Bare Necessities and Prince Ali, but as things stand the musical interludes will be relegated to the cut-scenes, with the promise that positive user feedback might lead to more interactive symphonies in future Epic Mickey games.
But even as thing are, the solo numbers appear to have the chirpy Disney vibe down pat. First up on the mic is Epic Mickey 1's main antagonist The Mad Doctor, who has seemingly turned over a new leaf. He serenades an earthquake-ravaged Cartoon Wasteland with a rousing call-to-arms for a new hero, ending the dirt by pointing squarely in Oswald's direction. Can the Doctor be trusted, or is it part of a fiendish plan to lure Mickey back into the Wasteland? Well, what do you think?
More Epic Mickey is undoubtedly a good thing. We loved the first game for its open-ended creativity and reverence for Disney's rich history, and news of a sequel that fixes Epic Mickey's camera woes (it now comes equipped with a Mario Galaxy-esque automatic camera) is news that threatens to have us spontaneously burst out into song. We'll have further hands-on impressions next issue after we've cleared our throats.