"Mouse" teaser image showing a collection of characters.

This ‘DOOM’-Style Game Takes Full Advantage of Disney Losing Its Mascot’s Copyright


The 2023 slasher take on Winnie The Pooh, Blood and Honey, seems like it created a boost in excitement for taking a unique spin on classic stories, even beyond the literary classics. However, a new trailer for Fumi Games’ Mouse shows this desire is also coming from the gaming industry, too.

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After years of extending (via lobbying) copyright laws by Disney, the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse if finally entering the public domain on January 1, 2024 (with some caveats). The seven-minute animated short wasn’t just significant for being the first animated introduction to Mickey, Minnie, and others. The story was also one of the first animated pictures with synchronized sound.

As a precursor to “talkies,” films with synchronized sound had music, sound effects, and dialogue. (Disney’s obsession with sound led to the precursor of surround sound with Fantasound and Fantasia.) Steamboat Willie came one year after the (racist-as-hell) The Jazz Singer—the first feature film with synchronized sound.

One of the first groups to take advantage of this copyright release is the up-and-coming indie studio Fumi Games. Seven months ago, Fumi shared a first look for Mouse. To the sounds of George Lewis and his New Orleans Stompers, viewers saw a very early teaser for a FPS in the works inspired by noir films. The story follows private detective John Mouston, “unravel[ling] a quest for justice in a noir city mired in chaos, corruption, and vibrant energy.”

Like Cuphead and Homeless, the game takes influence from the rubber hose animation 1930s cartoons. Now, the Polish studio has not only shared the anticipated release window (2025), but also new game footage!

Fumi Games shares more of Mouse

Shooting with finger guns at the dock in "Mouse" teaser, test footage.
(Fumi Games)

Gameplay-wise, it seems like Fumi artists took inspiration from previous beloved FPSes like Bioshock and the original DOOM. Weapons include things like revolvers, shotguns, bolt-action sniper rifles, and of course, Tommy guns. Also, there’s this cool moment that the character starts popping shots with finger-guns. The game seems to invite other cartoonish methods of murder, like dynamite and death-by-piano-flattening.

While marked with “actual early gameplay footage may not reflect the final game,” I still paused the trailer like 15 times for insight. For example, an in-game newspaper, the Mouseburg Herald, shows the year as 1935. Mouseburg Herald leads with a story local election shake-up by a tycoon-backed progressive candidate. Additionally, there’s a smaller story of a racist Chancellor in Germany named Adler condoning hate-crimes. These details show the love for these various genres dosn’t just extend to aesthetics, but political and historical context.

Overall I’m very excited to play this especially because it’s in a genre I’m more familiar with. However, I’m also worried about how the art will be handled. That is, Mouse might further contribute to the whitewashing of this style of cartoon and its history. From the Flieshman brothers to Walt Disney, early American cartoons were styled after, among things, antisemitic imagery and minstrel shows. (Yes, Canada and others had them too, but this, followed by Jazz, was America’s first major artistic contribution.)

Writers and critics started this complicated conversation when Cuphead got big, but I’m not sure if people took anything from that.

The answer isn’t to flatten and purify the past, whose lessons many clearly still need. Instead of stripping the burnt black cork from the minstrel and presenting a clean white face, while still singing like Calloway or Armstrong or Waller, modern media that seeks to borrow from America’s conflicted past should do so in a way that reckons with what that past tells us about ourselves.

Yussef Cole, 2017

This would be a concern for any studio regardless of where it’s based. However, with one of the biggest bits of art news coming out of Poland stemming from a popular competition show using Blackface and the n-word—and then expressing surprise this was met with international backlash … well, I’m keeping my expectations low as possible while still having the game wishlisted on Steam.

(via IGN, featured image: Fumi Games)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.