The original DuckTales is something of a cult classic — a 2D platformer that captured a lot of the spirit of the Disney TV show and delighted kids and adults alike. Gamers hold a certain fondness for the game, and so it was with good reason that they were excited when DuckTales Remastered was announced.
However, although DuckTales Remastered carries a lot of the spirit and key signifiers of that 8-bit game, it also proves that sometimes nostalgia can override functionality. Yes, there is a lot to like about the game, but most of that has to do with the fuzzy feelings the experience elicits more so than the immediate entertainment of playing the game.
Where the game gets things right is in the design. DuckTales Remastered features delightfully well realized 2D sprites of all your favorite DuckTales characters, from Uncle Scrooge all the way down to Launchpad. What’s more impressive is that developer WayForward was able to secure the voices of all the remaining DuckTales cast members for the in-game cutscenes. There’s something particularly magical about hearing those iconic voices come out of a DuckTales game, even if the line delivery is a bit stilted.
On a similar note, the level design and music in this game perfectly capture of the spirit of the original. Players will explore the same five levels in any order (The Amazon, Transylvania, The Moon, The Himalayas, and African Mines), each of which contains a special treasure. Each level stands out from the next, and most of the enemy designs, which are unique to each level, are more intricate versions of the old school sprites.
Across the board, the design of DuckTales Remastered is exactly what fans would expect — the game fully lives up to the “remastered” title. From a purely surface perspective, the game succeeds at mimicking, while also updating, the set-up from the original. Unfortunately, the gameplay in DuckTales is where things go completely off the rails.
In the most overt sense, DuckTales Remastered is a game where preserving the “feel” of a game doesn’t always equate to an enjoyable experience. The mechanics from the ’90s game are relatively unchanged for this entry, right down to Uncle Scrooge’s pogo attack move. In the original game, and here, players must jump above an enemy and activate a pogo attack in order to take them down. Basically, it’s a more complex version of the standard Mario bounce, and one that felt unique back then.
Where that becomes a problem is anytime an enemy requires a precise hit, either because other harmful obstacles surround them or because their movement patterns are erratic. Either way, taking out some enemies is a task that’s easier said than done, and typically results in Scrooge losing at least one of his very few previous heart pieces. Lose all of your heart pieces and you lose a life, and lose all three lives and you have to start from the very beginning of the level. Getting to the level’s boss, dying, and then having to start all over again is a very tough pill to swallow. Yes, it’s how games were back then, but the unforgiving death system is still a complete momentum killer.
On its face the platforming is simple enough, and the non-linear level design — which has players exploring the terrain for collectibles — is enjoyable, but when the moment-to-moment gameplay is so punishing it’s hardly worth the trouble. In a way, it almost feels like players will need to memorize the levels before they ever have a chance of completing them. Some levels are more forgiving than others, mind you, but on the whole the idea of taking the ’90s game’s mechanics whole cloth comes across as clunky.
For as much as DuckTales Remastered was an absolute delight to load up that first time, and listen to that iconic, chiptunes theme song, the rose-colored sheen wore off relatively quickly. Seeing these characters brought to life in stunning 2D hand drawn art (think Rayman Legends) is great, but when the simple act of playing the game leads to frustration, delight soon gives way to disappointment. An unforgiving difficulty curve and somewhat unmanageable, or at least finicky, controls ultimately drag DuckTales Remastered down to the point it’s hard to recommend to more than the most die-hard of fans. While many gamers pine for the classic games of yesteryear to be remade with today’s technology and visuals, here is proof that idea might not always be a good thing.
Have you had a chance to check out DuckTales Remastered? What do you think of the game? Let us know in the comments below.
DuckTales Remastered is out now for the PC and PS3. Game Rant was provided a PC code for this review.