The morale system or "playstyle matters" is an important gameplay mechanic in Epic Mickey.
The morale system is the way the residents of the Cartoon Wasteland perceive you. You can either be praised as a hero by using paint to make life better in Wasteland, helping people with their problems, or you can be selfish, using thinner to destroy and be feared as a scrapper. Of course, you can also be in the middle. Your choices not only affect what people think of you, but it changes Mickey's appearance too. One of the most notable examples of the morale system in the final game is the end cutscene in both Epic Mickey and the sequel, where the decisions Mickey makes can affect the scenes that play.
The Playstyle Matters concept was toned down slightly for the final release of Epic Mickey, moving further from the overt visual differences to Mickey's design but retaining more subtle differences such as music changes and varying character interactions and opinions based on Mickey's actions.
Scrapped Hero/Scrapper Mechanic
Originally, The Hero route was one of the paths Mickey Mouse could choose on his adventure. Mickey could become a Hero when he rescues a Gremlin, doesn't fight Beetleworx, befriends Blotlings, and helps Oswald the Lucky Rabbit redeem his throne and become king again. Mickey also almost always use Paint to solve his problems. When the hero, you gain more friends but are not as powerful. When Mickey is the hero, his design is based after the old Mickey Mouse theater posters. His black fur and eyes are replaced with a very dark blue, his gloves become golden, and he gains tone in his face. This idea was removed after negative screening results, and has been replaced by a mechanic where less and less ink floats off Mickey as he becomes more of a hero.
Wastelander is a path Mickey Mouse could originally choose in his adventures in Wasteland. Mickey helps sometimes, but other times he will not, and he will occasionally fight Beetleworx. He might also use both Paint and Thinner to reach his goals. His appearance is based upon Mickey's old design. This is the only Mickey form "partly" passed on to the final version. This is the form Mickey starts out as. You will need a balance of good and devious to reach this form of Mickey again if you've taken another path. In the final game, all of Mickey's forms resemble this form, the only appearance change being the 'solidity' of Mickey's ink.
The Scrapper route is one of the paths Mickey Mouse would have been able to choose during his adventure in Wasteland.
To become the scrapper, Mickey must make bad and generally destructive choices, such as selling Small Pete's Log for a Special Pin, or destroying enemies rather than befriending/avoiding them or almost always use Thinner to solve his problems. Scrapper Mickey gains a more malicious appearance with an evil smile on his face. In fact, Warren even claims that the revealed shots like the one on the right are actually subtle compared to the full Scrapper effect (later revealed;see Thinner Mickey)! According to rumors, Warren wanted to make Mickey mischievous, but not uncomfortable. The idea was eventually scrapped due to the Disney company not wanting to tarnish his good, heroic qualities. In the final game, Mickey becomes more "smudged" when acting bad, meaning that more paint would rise or fly off of him, in addition, bad behavior attracted beings made out of thinner called Turps and more of the Blot's ink became visible on Mickey (although this could still technically be counted as the "scrapper" form).
NOTE: These forms aren't confirmed to have ever been in serious development or implemented in the game engine, and may have simply been concept ideas.
Thinner Mickey was supposed to be a form where Mickey would turn into if he uses way too much Thinner or makes evil choices like, killing his enemies with Thinner, thinning the environment and townsfolk, or defeating bosses with Thinner.
If the player were to do 'evil' things Mickey's Paint would melt off his body, leaving his outline, he also gets claws and sharp teeth. This idea was later scrapped and changed to the Scrapper Mickey but was later scrapped entirely.
Unnamed Evil Mickey
Another form that Mickey would turn into for making bad choices had him turn into somewhat of a hybrid of himself and the Blot (possibly related to the concept of Mickey absorbing some of the Blot). He would turn completely black and dripping with ink, just like the Blot. He would also gain claws and sharp teeth and his eyes would glow yellow. This form was scrapped for not meeting the team's "ultimate goals", according to Warren Specter.
- The name "playstyle matters" originates from Warren Spector and the Epic Mickey instruction manual.
- The mechanic is similiar to morality systems in games like BioShock, Infamous, and Shadow the Hedgehog.