Harsh words for such a lovable character, wouldn’t you say?
The thing is that Mickey has basically lost all relevance in the modern world. Once the poster-child for all things Disney; Mickey has drifted into relative obscurity in many respects, not appearing in a truly meaningful, headline Disney film since 1999’s Fantasia 2000. Even then, you’d have to go right back to the 1940 prequel to find another significant piece featuring the helium-voiced wonder.
In some respects, it’s a testament to the strength of the character that he has endured – and a testament to Disney that they’ve managed to sustain this all these years whilst not milking him for all he’s worth (unlike, say, Nintendo and their dogged insistence on doing so with the similarly pre-pubescent sounding Mario).
One medium, however, simply reuses to let Mickey die with dignity: games.
Since the late 80’s, a steady string of games have featured Disney’s finest, with many being genuinely enthralling experiences. Sega’s Game Gear remains the only portable console that I have ever truly engaged with – with 1991’s Castle Of Illusion being one of the console’s many standout titles.
Remember: this was the era of pixel-perfect platforming and despite the game’s cute and cuddly façade, muscle-memory and trial-and-error remained king. I was never put off by this though, accepting it as ‘the norm’ for its time – but my teenage fists would still regularly beat down on the nearest surface to hand.
In today’s world, however, young gamers are used to a more gentle pace; more of a guiding hand in their games of choice. Some bemoan this transition but only the most sadistic of gamers would wish for a complete return to the days of old.
The thing is that the last few Mickey releases – all of which my children have pestered me for, given the character’s lingering charm – have all modeled themselves too closely on the ideology of these games of old. The almost-but-not-quite-great Epic Mickey series of games, developed by the UK-based Blitz Game Studios, start out well enough but soon peter out into a series of WTF-am-I-supposed-to-do-now scenarios. The boys usually call me in at this point, much as they do with their Lego games, but the amount of times when even I have failed to identify the next logical step has led to a number of tears and tantrums (the kids, not I) before the game is removed from the PS3 for another few months.
Sega’s re-make of the iconic game of my youth – Castle Of Illusion – is yet another mechanical letdown, one featuring horribly imprecise controls coupled with hard-as-nails platforming that’s simply guaranteed to bring any young gamer to the point of tears. Having completed his first week of ‘big-boy’ school, I bought the game for my eager 4-year-old son, only to delete it a few hours later at his request.
“It’s not very good is it Daddy? It makes me sad. I don’t want it anymore”.