There was something extraordinary about DuckTales back in the day. How they made a miserable old miser the hero, and it worked, will never truly make sense to me. But it did, and there’s a certain generation of people who loved DuckTales and all the spin offs it inspired (Darkwing Duck anyone?). DuckTales plays on that nostalgia, but is less than effective.
The original DuckTales game was unique at the time because of the non-linear nature of the game – you could choose the order in which you approached the levels, as well as how you explored the levels themselves. It was pretty close to open-world back then. While some of those elements were retained when remastered, the game just doesn’t feel the same.
The game now begins with a tutorial level in Scrooge’s vault. This is helpful in explaining the mechanics of the game, as well as introducing some of the characters for those who are less than familiar, or for whom time has made things blurry. It’s a nice, quick level that finishes off with Scrooge finding a secret treasure map, revealing the five stages from the original game: the Amazon, Transylvania, the African mines, the Himalayas and the moon. These can be played in whatever order the player sees fit.
New elements have been added, including a new final, lava-filled stage, as well as an awesome aerial battle against Scrooge’s nemesis Flintheart Glomgold. The aerial battle requires timing and a small amount of platforming, but is simply fun. I love lobbing back bombs and hearing the screams from Flintheart, it is the most immersive moment of the entire game for me.
Accompanying Scrooge, who is beautifully re-imagined and voiced, are Huey, Louie and Dewey, who have also regained some new life through impressive voice acting and improved characterization. I particularly like that they are more differentiated in the remaster than they ever were in the original cartoons or game. Even Webby, Launchpad and Fenton are updated and revamped.
Despite the impressive voice acting, I was also irritated by the approach to cut scenes and plot exposition. All the dialogue is done through voice acting. While it sounds great and adds character, no amount of button bashing will speed it up. Either you sit and listen to the jokes as they get increasingly lame, or you skip the cut scene all together and miss out on what’s actually happening in the plot. If all you’re after are the platforming elements, that’s fine, but it can make things quite frustrating, and even confusing at times. While bringing the game into the modern era, at least let the modern gamer move things along if they can read the text faster than the voice actors.
The controls have been simplified from the original, and I confess that I spent most of my time bouncing along on the pogo stick for relatively invulnerability. It’s not that all the jumps were that difficult, but it was just so much easier on the pogo stick. In line with the non-linear nature of the game, there were also a variety of ways to kill or avoid enemies. Pounce with the pogo stick, or use Scrooge’s cane to throw rocks, or simply run through and avoid danger where possible. It’s nice to see a platformer that isn’t so rigid in its expectations of how a player will maneuver through the level. That said, the remaster adds some ‘lock and key’ aspects to the levels, requiring you to approach certain parts in a particular order.
DuckTales: Remastered adds some nice extras to the game – multiple difficulty levels, unlockable music, sketches and concept art. The game is still tricky and certainly takes a few failures to get eventually achieve success. If you’re looking for a modern twist on a classic platformer, this is definitely it. DuckTales takes all its cues from the NES game, while dragging it into a modern age. In many ways, it feels like it maintained a lot of the original design and features of the game – playing it feels like playing a faster, smoother version of an NES platformer.
Unfortunately, it ended up feeling like it was trying too hard. Begging me to laugh at jokes, to remember references to old characters, and to find that Scottish accent charming. While the game has its moments, it just isn’t the retro gold that I was hoping it would be. Perhaps it has simply become dated, or maybe the appeal was limited to a particular time in my life or a certain age. Whatever the reason, unlike my recent foray into retro gaming which including an joyous revisiting of Super Mario World, DuckTales: Remastered failed to ignite that nostalgic joy some games have retained.
DuckTales remastered is currently available on Steam, PS3 and Wii U, and will be available on Xbox Live Arcade in September.