The last video game I played starring Mickey Mouse was Mickey's Magical Quest for the SNES. It is also the only game I ever sold because I'd played it too many times (no, I don't know what I was thinking either.) Since that time, Mickey as video game hero has fallen by the wayside, though I understand he played a role in some obscure adventure series, Kingdom something-or-other. Warren Spector hopes to bring the world's most famous rodent back into the video game spotlight in a massive action adventure.

You might even call it a game of epic proportions. Okay, I'll stop.

Epic Mickey was demoed at both the Nintendo booth, where I played it, and at the Disney booth where Matt played it with me observing. The game is broken up into three general areas. The first is a quest area where Mickey can interact with a large variety of characters from the Disney archives, who will send the mouse off on missions. When Mickey heads off on a quest, he passes through a film reel into a travel zone that offers some 2D platforming action based on a classic cartoon. In the demo, we saw a beautiful rendition of Steamboat Willie.

Finally, there's the action zone, where the actual quest takes place. Mickey is armed with a paint brush capable of spewing out either blue paint or green paint thinner. Just aim with the pointer and fire with B or Z. With this, Mickey has the power to draw in parts of the environment as well as befriend some enemies or erase them completely. How much of either power is used is tracked, and this affects how other characters perceive him.

In the demo, I traversed a gloomy interpretation of Peter Pan's Skull Island. My primary objective was to find the anchors holding down Smee's boat and erase them with paint thinner. Optionally, I could also save pirates being turned into robots by filling machines with either paint or thinner. Thinner would destroy the machines permanently but doom the transformed pirates. Paint would save them, but leave the machine still operational.

That's it for the basics, so how does it play? Well, first the bad news—or at least, the less than great news. The platforming action and how the paint and thinner element played into it was pretty average. I ran up cliff-side trails and bounced from platform to platform in what I'd call pretty standard design for the genre, complete with a surrounding ocean that caused damage if touched. Even the 2D area, despite looking great, didn't exactly wow me as far as the gameplay was concerned. The option to befriend various enemies or destroy them didn't feel like it had much impact on the larger issue of choice (aside from Mickey's companion, Gus the Gremlin, reacting to Mickey's approach.) I wasn't blown away, but I was still intrigued.

The promise of Epic Mickey's choice system, of shaping the world and characters' perceptions of Mickey himself is likely something that builds over the long term. Every time one course of action is picked over another, that choice is tallied, and because the payoff comes from long term accumulation, a short-term demo isn't really going to capture the effect. Immediate results of Mickey's actions are apparent, but it's how the meta-game pans out that most interests me.

I walked away from the demo having experienced a glimpse of a nice looking, highly polished adventure game; a game loaded to the brim with snapshots of Disney history that's likely to be a treat in itself for Disney buffs. I was disappointed that the action itself felt like standard fare, but I am still very interested in seeing how the big picture reveals itself when the game is a finally released into the wild in all its intricate glory.