DuckTales was a phenomenon that I never experienced. The show ended six years before I was born so I never really had any exposure to Scrooge McDuck and his great-nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. Obviously this means I had never played the cult classic NES game, but in 2013 WayForward released DuckTales: Remastered, allowing me to experience it for the first time. Unfortunately, DuckTales falls well short of the hype that many nostalgic fans have placed upon it.
WayForward have visually brought DuckTales into the modern era, rendering levels beautifully in 3D while keeping characters in 2D as if they had been plucked straight from the show. Environments are beautifully vibrant and give a constant sense of depth to levels, even though in reality you are just travelling along a 2D plane. The contrasting 2D and 3D styles never clash or become jarring either, save for the tutorial level where things do look a little strange.
Another new addition is the option to choose between an easier version of Scrooge’s cane pogo hop and the original controls, which is welcome for first time players of DuckTales like myself as it helps ease you into both the combat and the platforming. Although the ability for Scrooge to run would’ve been handy as the pogo hop is your only choice for travelling around levels quickly, but it also takes away a lot of the precision in your movements. Occasionally button inputs for the pogo attack are unresponsive, which becomes extremely frustrating, as you’ll be using the pogo about 90 per cent of the time in your playthrough.
A grander story compared to the original is also present in Remastered, but it actually hampers your enjoyment of the game rather than making it a richer experience. At first the story seems nice as cut scenes will give you the odd chuckle here and there, until you start the first level and it feels like you’re being stopped by a cut scene every 30 seconds. It becomes unbearable when you start getting game overs and have to pause the game and select “skip cinematic” constantly when you’re just trying to get back to the part of the level you were stuck on. The tedious skipping of cut scenes actually caused me to have a number of ridiculously easy deaths as they put you into a dull state where you aren’t focused as much as you should be.
This leads to my biggest gripe with the game; there’s absolutely no checkpoint system. The cut scenes would be much more bearable if the game checkpointed at the halfway point or before boss battles, allowing you to go straight to those points rather than having to play an entire level again. It just makes the entire game tedious to play if you’re having trouble with a boss battle, as you have to sit through a 5-10 minute level that you’ve already played through multiple times when all you want to do is have another attempt at defeating the boss. This becomes completely unacceptable in longer levels such as The Himalayas or the final level, which are not only long, but also feature multiple boss battles. Stocking up on lives before a boss battle so this situation doesn’t occur is impossible, because you are only handed a single 1-UP at specific points in a level. You earn money by collecting gems, so it would’ve been nice if there were a way to earn 1-UPs in a similar fashion to the Mario games. Ultimately it feels like this is a way to artificially extend the game’s length, as without it the game could be breezed through in two or three hours.
It’s extremely annoying that there’s so much repeating of levels in between boss battles, because they’re actually one of the most enjoyable parts of DuckTales. Almost every boss battle essentially boils down to just hitting them on the head with the pogo hop, but each boss is unique enough that each of the seven battles feels fresh and adds a new twist to such a simple goal. Some of the attacks used by certain bosses feel a little cheap, but they’re nothing too disruptive and can be avoided easily enough once you’ve fallen pray to them a few times.
DuckTales suffers heavily in providing players with replayability. Due to no checkpoints being used, players will go through each level at least three or four times each making them easier and easier each time, so replaying the game on a harder difficulty will probably be even shorter than your initial playthrough. The only other reasons present to continue playing is to see the two other endings, which isn’t very enticing considering the tedious story, or to grind money to buy various bonuses such as character art, concept art and various other pieces of art from the creation of the game.
DuckTales: Remastered has not aged well. The visuals and pogo mechanics have been brought up to par with current games, but so much else is stuck in 1989. The absence of a checkpoint system and an annoyingly disruptive story severely hampers the enjoyment that comes from the games platforming.