Rumours of a Disney project headed by Warren Spector, starring Mickey Mouse first arose way back in March of last year in the pages of Electronic Gaming Monthly. EGM’s rumour section claimed that Spector’s Disney-owned Junction Point Studios were working on “A platformer looking to compete with a certain pesky plumber. And who’s big enough to take on Nintendo’s star? Only the mouse himself!”
While it didn’t attract more than the usual attention at the time, this single vague rumour went on to kickstart a chain of events that were nearly as interesting as the premise of what eventually turned out to be the Junction Point project itself.
Gamasutra was the first site to make any actual headway in peeling away the layers that surrounded this mysterious game. Toward the end of the year, being privy to a gallery of leaked concept art, Gamasutra confirmed that such a project was, at the very least, in pre-production at Junction Point. It was codenamed “Epic Mickey” and — judging by the concepts they had seen — it involved a surreal, steampunk-esque reinterpretation of the Disney universe.
Some of these concepts eventually made their way onto the Internet. Pictures are far more effective than words in this case, so here’s a small gallery to give you an idea of what Junction Point were aiming for with the environments:
Then, earlier this year, Epic Mickey was all but confirmed to be in development for the Wii and even more concepts were discovered online via artist resumés, depicting some pretty haunting and bizarre makeovers for the Disney cast you watched growing up.
The premise was revealed to be a forgotten world where old Disney characters are sent once popularity stops being kind to them. These characters are plotting to overthrow Mickey Mouse and the newer Disney cast, and it’s up to you — as Mickey — to prevent them from doing so.
Weeks of heated speculation and debate followed. It was suggested that the game was on the Wii because it involved some sort of control over a brush, similar to Okami. Finally, Game Informer got the first official scoop on the Epic Mickey project and teased a few details about it, with Disney’s official unveiling of the game set to take place on October 28.
In line with the leaks earlier, it was confirmed that the game would involve a radical Disney universe makeover and that Mickey would be the brush-wielding protagonist in an Okami-like experience taken a step further. Warren Spector himself finally had a chance to comment on the game’s development, although no major details were given away.
Shortly thereafter, yet another leak resulted in even more information being released to the Internet via Eurogamer. This time, the info that got out was actually quite meaty. The forgotten world was run by Oswald the Rabbit — Walt Disney’s very first creation. Jealous of Mickey’s success, Oswald had unleashed the Phantom Blot, who was spreading a “sticky black ink” throughout the Disney universe, which was fading its colour.
Mickey has to draw and scribble his way through levels, mending broken bridges by applying the right colour paint or peering through walls after applying thinner. He can even clear rubble from his path by erasing parts of the world.
Our source told us Epic Mickey is a game about thinking and artwork – laterally considering your environment in order to overcome puzzles.
Eurogamer’s source went on to tell them that the reason Mickey’s face hadn’t been revealed yet was because he was receiving his first major makeover in a while and would be “far more retro” than we’d seen him in years. It’s an interesting comment because the last time we saw a retro-esque Mickey in videogame form was in Kingdom Hearts 2 — presumably, Eurogamer’s contact was aware of this. This was further supported by a comment from Warren Spector earlier in the week that stated they were taking the mouse back to his roots.
Spector, the creative mind behind Deus Ex, is somewhat of a Disney expert — well-versed in Disney’s fictional lore as well as the company’s creative history and impact on culture. Judging from Game Informer’s steady stream of features on this project, you’d have a tough time arguing for someone else to have creative control of Epic Mickey.
No doubt Disney are frustrated with all the leaks surrounding what sounds like their biggest videogame project in years (or were these “leaks” intentional?). Still, despite the numerous outings of artwork and design details, we still haven’t seen the one thing that actually matters: an ingame screenshot or video. To date, no one knows what Epic Mickey looks like, and to just what extent Junction Point have managed to translate the bizarre-o concept art style into ingame assets.
Come October 28, we’ll probably, finally catch our first real glimpse of the game. While I doubt the end product will be as unique as the concepts, personally, I do feel a mild tinge of excitement. We’re talking territory Kingdom Hearts never dared to venture into.