‘We’re here to talk about “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two,” clearly the best kept secret in video gaming,’ jokes Warren Spector, Creative Director and Vice President of Disney Interactive’s Junction Point Studio in Austin, TX at an after-hours media event held earlier this week at the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History.
Before he takes the stage, however, he is introduced by Brenda Gunn, Associate Director at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas. Gunn speaks on Austin’s role in shaping the video game industry beginning in the 1970s and commends Spector who — along with Richard Garriott, George Sanger, and Bill Bottorff — inspired the University to create and maintain its massive collection of thousands of video games, consoles and development materials including concept art, design documents, game proposals and internal correspondence.
When it’s his turn to address the small crowd, Spector offers a refresher course on the first ‘Disney Epic Mickey’ via a trailer and stats. ‘Disney Epic Mickey was — and remains — the best selling single platform game in Disney Interactive’s history,’ he notes,’ So obviously we appealed to players.’
He continues on to explain that their objective with the first game was to create a game ‘that had the same broad appeal as a Pixar film or a classic film from Disney.’ Not intended to reach any specific demographic, he says, but to reach every one. Recapping the results of survey Disney administered to ‘Epic Mickey’ players, Spector says, ‘We really did make a game that appealed to everyone. Over half of our audience around the world was made up of adults. So I think on that score I’d have to say the game was pretty successful.’ So successful in fact, that according to the survey, Spector reports that over 90% of participants in every territory worldwide were interested in a sequel.
But tooting the company’s horn only goes so far as Spector owns up to what he felt could have potentially been handled better in the first game. He explains, ‘The first time out, creating a studio, creating a team, creating a tech base, creating a world, figuring out who these characters are, creating new game play patterns and new game systems, you never get everything right.’ He announces three things he seeked out to change in the sequel: camera, voice and persistence.
It’s of little surprise that the issue of the camera comes up as it is easily the feature from the first title that receives the most complaints. Seemingly defiant to the cause, Spector has famously defended the camera’s team and continues to do so, although he admits changes were needed. ‘The reality is we made a game that allowed players to determine whether the game felt like a platform game or an action-adventure game and those two genres require very different game camera systems… I think the team did an amazing job on the first game but we knew we could do better,’ he says. He then goes on to explain that in anticipation of the sequel, he dedicated the team from the beginning to work on improving the system. As a result, more than 1,000 specific changes were made to the automatic game camera system with the objective of the player never needing to touch the manual camera controls if sticking to the main story path.
When it comes characters speaking, Spector explains the reasoning behind choosing what they call ‘bark text’ in the original ‘Disney Epic Mickey.’ ‘We did that for two reasons,’ he says, ‘both of them really dumb and both of them my decisions.’ He explains that although the team was inspired by Disney for the original game, they also found inspiration in old Nintendo games and Japanese RPGs. His idea is then solidified when he decides that since Oswald was a silent film star and couldn’t talk, then nobody could: ‘I thought that was funny, that’s how dumb this is.’
To make up for it, Junction Point brought in comics writer Marv Wolfman (who already has a storied history with both Disney and Marvel in particular). Wolfman helped craft the game’s story and wrote the dialogue for all of the characters who are voiced by their respective Disney voice talent. Returning as the (actual) voice of Oswald is Frank Welker. We later have the opportunity to hear Oswald’s voice very briefly, which to me sounds a bit like a slightly higher pitched version of another of Welker’s famous characters, Fred Jones of ‘Scooby Doo’ (though I reserve the right to regret that description later on). Oswald’s significant other, Ortensia, ‘is a character from start to finish that you interact with a lot,’ though who providers her voice is currently a secret. Gremlins also take a more prominent role in the sequel and are fully voiced, but Spector tells us only that they are voiced by some ‘interesting names.’ It would later be confided in me that one of the mysterious voices is that of actor Cary Elwes (famously of The Princess Bride and recently featured in The Adventures of Tintin).
If speaking weren’t enough, Spector also pronounces ‘Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ as being the first musical comedy video game. He says, ‘much of the story is told through song, so I want all the Gleeks to turn out in force for it.’ While Jim Dooley returned to compose the music for the game (whose tone changes based on the mood of the game), the songs’ lyrics are penned by Mike Himselstein (who we’re told performs double duty as the voice of Yen Sid). How many songs are in the game is a secret (we will later hear one as part of the opening cinematic), but I was told ‘at least five,’ that you will have to play the game through different ways to hear them all and we can expect 1 or two additional songs to debut at E3.
The third obstacle Spector looked to tackle was persistence: ‘If your choices actually aren’t permanent — if they don’t matter — if when you leave a map, the changes you made revert when you come back, play style doesn’t matter as much as it should… every thing you do in “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” is forever until you decide to undo it… if you erase something, it stays erased. If someone doesn’t like you, they stay not liking you until you change your mind.’
While the game will include familiar places and settings such as Mean Streets, it offers ‘many all new places’ to visit as well as new takes on familiar ones. Whereas in the first game, Yen Sid’s workshop was only seen in the cinematic, it now serves as the training ground for Mickey to explore. OsTown becomes significantly more involved although Spector notes it has since been changed by ‘seemingly natural events’ since Mickey has seen it last. Spector also shows us a still from ‘let’s just say a version of Frontierland,’ noting it was ‘something we wanted to do in the first game… Frontierland has changed more than any other part of the Disney Parks, so there’s plenty of forgotten, rejected stuff to have fun with there.’
A new army has risen in the Wastelands too, a curious hybrid of Blotlings and Beetleworx known as Blotworx. How exactly this new species came about is all part of the mystery surrounding the sequel’s story.
Spector then treats us to the opening cinematic for the game which clocks in at around 4 1/2 minutes and helps to explain what’s been occurring between the two titles as well as introduces us to our first song and sets the initial mood for the game.
‘If “Disney Epic Mickey” was the story of Mickey as a hero, reminding people that he is a video game star,’ Spector says, ‘”Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” is as much about Oswald and — now that we’ve reminded the world who he is — making him a big star.’
He then introduces Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives, to dole out some history on Oswald, how he came to be, how Walt Disney lost control and how Robert Iger bartered for Oswald by offering up sportscaster Al Michaels. She talks about some of the Oswald items she has brought from the archives to share, some of which just recently discovered and never displayed publicly, but her biggest treat by far is being convinced by Spector to screen a copy of ‘Hungry Hoboes’ for the audience of media and Junction Point developers. The 1928 short was thought to be lost for good but was just recently discovered at the Huntley Film Archive of Herefordshire, UK. The only known print of the short went up for auction last December and sold to an anonymous buyer for $31,250 and is now in the hands of The Walt Disney Company.
It’s an incredible thrill to see the short by Walt Disney that only a handful outside of Disney have seen in more than eight decades. It’s an absolutely funny (and sadistic) film loaded with one sight gag after another — let’s just say I learned a whole new way to collect eggs from a chicken.
I will later have the opportunity to speak with Cline after the event and ask about plans to release it, but the film has yet to be fully soundtracked and restored, so it may be some time before that will happen. Cline will also explain how most of the films that are recovered tend to be from overseas because they generally didn’t require the films to be returned to the distributor. Also of interest is that while the title card of the film does actually read ‘Hungry Hobos,’ the official title and copyright is for ‘Hungry Hoboes,’ with the Disney Archives at a loss for why the discrepancy.
Spector then re-addresses the group to discuss the ‘couch co-op’ play aspect of the game. ‘The two characters have distinct and unique, complementary abilities,’ he says. Mickey has the ability to use his sketches, paint and thinner, while Oswald has a remote control that allows him to zap enemies and repair and even reprogram electronics and animatronics throughout the Wasteland. Oswald also has ‘helicopter ears,’ which while don’t really afford him the ability to fly, they allow him to glide slowly back to earth, allowing Mickey to hop on for a ride as needed (or for fun). Speaking of sketches, Spector doesn’t mention it, but Mickey has a new one in ‘Disney Epic Mickey 2,’ the fairy sketch, which allows Mickey to make objects light enough to levitate and move through space. Oswald himself has another unspoken talent, the ability to detach his leg and use it as a boomerang to battle enemies.
The split-screen, ‘couch co-op’ play is drop-in, drop-out and is supplemented by AI. Oswald is with Mickey every step of the way, whether there is a second player or not. If co-op play isn’t taking place, Oswald will assist brother Mickey the best he can.
Note no mention of rumored ‘Power of Illusion’ Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Android or Apple iOS devices is made during the presentation.
I now have the opportunity to actually play a demo of the game on all three consoles. Areas to explore include the training level in Yen Sid’s workshop and Mickey’s ‘house,’ OsTown and the 2D transition levels known as the Dahl Engineering Corridors (DECs), so named for noted children’s author Roald Dahl who created the Gremlins and worked with Walt Disney on related projects.
The first thing I notice is how remarkably similar the game play is between the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. There are some differences of course, the most notable one being the lower resolution on the Wii, which is almost sad after experiencing it on the NextGen consoles. While PlayStation Move support is expected (but not available for the demo), the Wii does have another major advantage in the controls, those being the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers. In fact there is at least one sequence in which Oswald re-programs a device by slowly turning the Wii Remote. On that note, the Junction Point team also brought along working prototypes of an Oswald Remote Control Nunchuck which complements the ‘Epic Mickey’ paintbrush one. Surprisingly, I find the controls on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to be really simple to use and get accustomed to, although I do not like how the crosshairs automatically snap back to the center of the screen when you let go of the analog control, making aiming particularly challenging at times.
The DEC transition level proves to be fun and entertaining enough and is full of Disneyana and tributes to Disney films and characters, featuring everything from a giant Chip head to the judge from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to a Dumbo comic book to Goofy pogs that were part of a one-time publicity event, but reside in the Disney Archives as a result. Here is also a not-so-hidden basketball hoop which is one of the elements that exists in every game by Warren Spector (in ‘Epic Mickey,’ it was in a hidden room).
The co-op play is pretty fun and direct although it appears that Oswald sometimes has an artificial mind of his own within the mode. It may simply be a matter of the game still being developed, but it can usually be easily remedied by dropping out and back in after he sets himself straight. When not in co-op mode, Oswald is on his own and usually does a pretty good job at supporting Mickey, although he sometimes seems a bit bored through the process and will either entertain himself by removing his foot and studying it. On occasion, he will do something that doesn’t quite make sense, although it turns out that he seems to be aware of elements of the game that haven’t quite made it into the demo too.
The automatic camera control seems way more refined for me when I play on the Xbox 360, so much so that it’s almost obvious to me how much better it is, but as time goes on, I start falling out of love with it, often finding myself having to switch to manual operations, either because the automatic system didn’t keep up with me, or I’ve managed to require some odd perspective to complete a task. Often times I also end up with the screen being obfuscated by large polygons I can only presume to be my head. That aside, I find the d-pad manual controls easy to use on the NextGen devices and have little problem managing the camera as I need to do to unlock a Hidden Mickey constellation in the training level.
One other discouraging element, ironically enough, is the voice. The demo environment is so noisy that it was impossible to hear most of the gameplay so I find myself wishing subtitles were at least an option. It is still in development, however, so hopefully they will be added in the future, not just for noisy environments, but for playing with the sound muted in quiet environments and, of course, out of courtesy for the deaf.
Below are some photos from the event as well the box art and some screenshots from the NextGen and Wii consoles provided to us by Disney Interactive as well as some raw gameplay footage and the game’s announcement trailer.
Lastly, in celebration of the announcement, I would like to offer the opportunity for one Stitch Kingdom reader to receive this limited edition ‘Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ t-shirt. Featuring Mickey and Oswald against the Texas star, this shirt was produced for the Junction Point development team as well as event invitees. It is sold orange aside from the design and features the ‘Epic Mickey 2′ logo in white on the back. Please note you must be 18+ and a US resident to win.
The video goes into the world of Wall-E, one of six that will ship with the game, with more to become available via downloadable content on the Xbox and PlayStation 3 platforms. We also get to see one of the players dressed in the Wall-E costume along with a sighting of Buy-N-Large in gameplay.
Although we could expect more screenshots and character designs in honor of San Diego Comic-Con, the next official video release date is August 18, presumably in honor of Disney D23 Expo.
We also have new screen shots from the game which feature Donald Duck, Wall-E and MO costumes in the Wall-E world.
And new costumes from Wall-E including WALL-E, EVE, MO, BURN-E and Cockroach
At E3, Performance Designed Products (PDP) unveiled some of its offerings for late this year which includes custom licensed controllers for Disney’s ‘TRON Evolution’ for the PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii as well as what is reported to be a TRON-themed iPad case complete with light-up elements.
PDP also revealed its peripherals planned for ‘Epic Mickey’ from Disney Interactive and Junction Point Studios: a paint-brush themed housing for the Wii Remote and a Wii Remote recharger-slash-sculpture featuring Mickey facing the Phantom Blot.
Armada of the Damned is an entirely new experience within the Pirates of the Caribbean universe. The game takes place before the events of the blockbuster films. Players will take on the role of a pirate and embark on epic land and sea adventures. Numerous moral and character choices will need to be made that affect their character and the original story within the world. Players will explore a massive open world while fighting enemies, mystical creatures and Mother Nature, both to gain experience and stay alive. Supernatural elements familiar to the Pirates of the Caribbean world will also affect their character’s story and influence their choices.
“Armada of the Damned is a dynamic action role-playing game that captures all of the franchise’s excitement, unpredictability and action while delving into narrative elements never before explored within this unique universe,” said Dan Tudge, vice president and general manager, Propaganda Games. “Our team’s collective experience with industry-leading RPGs and action titles provides a strong foundation for us to create and build a compelling action role-playing title.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned will be available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC and is now available for pre-order from Amazon.com.
Disney Interactive Studios today announced Disney Sing It: Party Hits, the latest title in the company’s popular video-based karaoke series. The game is expected to be available in summer 2010 for the Wii™ and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment systems. Living up to its name, Disney Sing It: Party Hits is packed with current chart-busting party-starting anthems from the biggest names in pop music.
“The Disney Sing It franchise built its immense following by consistently providing the songs teens and tweens want to sing, and Disney Sing It: Party Hits continues that trend,” said Craig Relyea, senior vice president of global marketing, Disney Interactive Studios. “With the addition of Demi Lovato as an in-game vocal coach, fans will also get the real-world benefit of improving their skills by learning proper vocal training from a pro.”
Disney Sing It: Party Hits will feature songs and music videos from today’s top artists including Justin Bieber, Black Eyed Peas, Jonas Brothers, Jordin Sparks, Owl City, Paramore, Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale, Kelly Clarkson, One Republic and many more. In addition, Demi Lovato who has released chart-topping solo albums, will assist players by providing various ways to be a better performer. This will include basic exercises from breathing and pitch, to more advanced exercises such as learning how to harmonize in a duet.
Disney Sing It: Party Hits from Disney Interactive Studios is expected to be rated E by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
Developed by Zoë Mode, Disney Sing It: Party Hits will be available this fall for Wii™ and PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system. The game will be sold as a standalone or bundled with one Logitech® microphone for all systems.
Also announced today is that Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales is revving its engine for an exclusive Wii™ release this fall. A follow up to last year’s hit, Toy Story Mania! also on Wii, Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales is part of the Mania! line of games, featuring fast-paced, multiplayer, family fun. This captivating game is as fun to watch as it is to play and will engage up to four players of all ages.
Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales will feature a large collection of pick-up-and-play games inspired by Disney•Pixar’s popular Mater’s Tall Tales animated short series. The game will bring Mater together with Lightning McQueen and the “Cars” gang for a new set of adventures, capturing the endearing sense of humor of everyone’s favorite tow truck. Players will join Mater and his pals as they relive the wild stories he conjures up about hilariously unpredictable events that may or may not have taken place.
“Fans of Mater’s Tall Tales and families everywhere who enjoy in-home multiplayer gaming will love this latest entry in the ’Cars’ entertainment franchise and Mania! brand,” said Craig Relyea, senior vice president of global marketing, Disney Interactive Studios. “With Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales, we want to convey the outrageous personality and vivid imagination of Mater and his tall tales set within the Mania! style gameplay of engaging, fast-paced, family fun.”
Designed to keep family and friends entertained for hours, Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales will feature more than 30 levels of play involving a variety of cooperative and competitive mini-games, designed to fully utilize the Wii controls. Offering a large collection of games that will get everyone in the living room off of the couch, players can experience death-defying stunts in “Mater the Greater,” run with the bulls in “El Materdor” or appreciate the heroism of a fire truck in “Rescue Squad Mater.”
Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales for Wii will allow family and friends to experience Mater’s Tall Tales with a Mania! twist. The Mania! franchise, hosted by beloved characters, provides accessible and frenzied pick-up-and-play experiences to be enjoyed by everyone in the living room. With up to four players at once, Mania! video games reward competitiveness and cooperative play among players and features immersive storytelling experiences that are appropriate for all ages.
Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales will be available exclusively for Wii this fall and is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.
The game features 30 songs from Disney and Pixar animated classics, allowing up to eight players to compete in karaoke in family mode. The game also features performance tips from Anika Noni Rose from The Princess and the Frog.
For more information, see the original announcement here. There are also additional screenshots from the game, such as the one featured here, on Amazon.com.
Nothing brings together families like the magic and music of Disney’s films, and today Disney Interactive Studios announced a new interactive way for families to come together and enjoy their favorite songs from their favorites films. Disney Sing It: Family Hits is a karaoke game featuring the most beloved songs and videos from 20 all-time favorite Disney films, alongside vocal tips from the Princess and the Frog’s Anika Noni Rose. Disney Sing It: Family Hits will be available for the PlayStation®3 system and the Wii™ console in summer 2010.
Tapping into both the past and the present, Disney Sing It: Family Hits features favorite songs from all-time classic Disney films, including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book, as well as contemporary favorites from films like Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story and Cars, The Lion King, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and The Frog, and more. Further immersing players in the moment, the easy to follow karaoke gameplay is accompanied by full screen HD videos featuring montages, as well as original footage from each of the Disney movies.
“The Disney Sing It franchise has produced a passionate fan base, and they’ve expressed a big demand for songs from Disney’s timeless movies,” said Craig Relyea, senior vice president of global marketing, Disney Interactive Studios. “Now, music fans of all ages will be able to enjoy Disney Sing It: Family Hits, both as an engaging karaoke performance game as well as perfect entertainment for family fun.”
In Disney Sing It: Family Hits, players will use the pitch bar to assist in hitting the right notes and can sing solo, partner up for a duet, compete head-to-head, or pass the microphone around to up to 8 players in the Family Mode. To relive key moments, the Sing It Encore Mode enables players to play back their performances and add fun effects to customize their tunes.
To assist players in improving their performances and unlocking awards and Disney themes, the Tony award winning singer/actress Anika Noni Rose, who also voiced Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, provides vocal exercises and techniques. Anika takes players through a series of basic voice instructions, game tutorials and singing games that are designed to help all players become better singers and performers. Lessons include proper microphone technique, how to hit high and low, long and short, and fast and slow notes, among other tips, providing a valuable learning tool for players of all ages.
Disney Sing It: Family Hits from Disney Interactive Studios is Rated E for everyone by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
Disney Interactive Studios today announced that Toy Story 3: The Video Game for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, releasing on June 15, 2010, will exclusively feature content and gameplay available only on the PlayStation 3 system (PS3™). Emperor Zurg, one of the most beloved villains of the Disney•Pixar “Toy Story” franchise, will be a playable character exclusively on the PS3™ system. In addition, Toy Story 3: The Video Game will be one of the first games to market featuring the PlayStation®Move’s motion controller compatible gameplay.
As the sworn enemy of the Galactic Alliance, Emperor Zurg enters the video game’s Toy Box mode complete with his sphere-shooting cannon and speed on wheels to unleash mayhem on Woody’s Western Town.
“What we love about the evil Emperor is that he may be only six-inches tall, but he never comes to grips with his ‘toyhood’ – Zurg is forever out to conquer the universe,” said John Blackburn, vice president and general manager of Avalanche Software, the developer of the game. “We worked closely with Pixar to ensure the game’s animated toys behave true to their physical counterparts. Zurg is mischievous and fast, and with his arm cannon, he’s great at blasting things—he’ll earn you a lot of gold. But don’t ask him to climb any ledges – we’ve respected the fact that he’s got wheels, not legs.”
The game’s developer, Avalanche Software in Salt Lake City, UT and Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) have also worked together to build PlayStation®Move compatible gameplay into the game. Following the game’s launch, PS3™ players will be able to download mini-games that will be playable with the PlayStation Move when the new motion controller is available to consumers this fall.
“Disney is bringing PlayStation fans a unique and compelling experience through Toy Story 3: The Video Game’s exclusive PS3™ content and PlayStation Move mini-games. PS3™ is the only platform where players can become the beloved Zurg and hop in his specialized car, or take aim in the shooting gallery with PlayStation Move and experience an unmatched level of precision and realism,” said Rob Dyer, senior vice president of publisher relations, SCEA.
Toy Story 3: The Video Game is now available for pre-order through Amazon.com
What happens when a half a dozen cars taking part in an illegal street race find themselves rolling through an exploding power plant at full speed? Such is the common-place, ordinary, humdrum scenario explored in the following new video featuring gameplay footage from Split/Second from Disney Interactive Studios and Block Rock Studio.
Available to own on Xbox, PS3 and Windows platforms on May 18, Split/Second is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.
In the Toy Story 3: The Video Game, help Buzz, Woody and the rest of the toys ensure no toy gets left behind. Dive into all new heroic adventures in Story Mode or let your imagination run wild in the exiting new open world of Toy Box Mode! Available to own June 15, 2010.
Pre-order from DisneyStore.com today and save $5! To pre-order, click on the link below and search for the product number for the gaming platform you’re interested in: Nintendo Wii (712725016418P), Microsoft Xbox 360 (712725016456P), Sony PlayStation 3 (712725016432P), Windows (044702010288P), Nintendo DS (712725016371P) or Sony PSP (712725016470P)