Thursday, January 20, 2022

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Sore Thumbs




Disney Interactive Studios 

Xbox 360 

The Disney Corporation is a massive entity, owning the intellectual property rights of Pixar’s CG characters, Marvel’s comic book superheroes and, most recently, Lucas film’s Jedi Knights. Yet the face of the company still resides on the head of papa Walt’s resident rodent. It must’ve been quite a pain securing permission to use Disney’s pre-eminent icon as the central character in a video game—so much so that a sequel was guaranteed regardless of the performance of the original title. That’s the only reasonable explanation for why a generic 3D platformer as lackluster as “Disney Epic Mickey” would warrant an equally lackluster follow-up.


Mickey Mouse is back in the Wasteland — a hodgepodge of almost-forgotten cartoons and half-broken theme park animatronics. At Mickey’s side is Oswald the lucky rabbit — last seen in the original “Epic Mickey” (and 1930s cartoons before that) — a frustrating A.I.-controlled partner at best and a sporadically helpful avatar of your frustrated human partner at worst. “Epic Mickey 2” gameplay still revolves around the concept of repairing your cel-shaded surroundings with paint or destroying them with paint thinner, which forms the basis of the most obvious morality system ever showcased in a video game: Is it better to create or destroy? You’ll have plenty of time to ponder that question while solving repetitive puzzles and fighting endless boss battles that might be over in an instant were it not for the uncooperative camera. Disney nostalgia alone can go a surprisingly long way, but after a multitude of so-so “Kingdom Hearts” spin-offs and a disappointing “Epic Mickey,” it’s beginning to feel like Disney doesn’t think Mickey fans have much going on beneath their mouse-ear hats.




Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Xbox 360

LEGO’s take on “The Lord of the Rings” may very well be the best in all of interactive entertainment. That’s not so much praise of LEGO as it is a rebuke of all other licensers of Tolkien’s beloved trilogy. LEGO assembles the pieces of its game to closely match Peter Jackson’s films, employing the traditional LEGO formula of single-button combat, simplistic puzzles and humorous cut-scenes. Samples of dialogue from the actors and snippets of Howard Shore’s original score go a long way towards heightening the production value, but this is still essentially the same experience as “LEGO Batman,” “LEGO Star Wars,” “LEGO Indiana Jones,” et al.





Nintendo 3DS

The “Harvest Moon games’ rural adventures and decidedly deliberate pacing aren’t for everyone, but even hardcore fans of the series may grow restless with the franchise’s first 3D offering. The farm customization, the exploration of nearby towns and the seeking of an appropriate mate (all features taken for granted in recent entries in the series), are locked behind hours of monotonous plant watering and animal tending. The initial slog of an overextended tutorial may be worth it to those experiencing the titular “beginning,” but series veterans are liable to grow impatient waiting for the best crop of features to bloom. CV

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