A quick history of Disney and broadcast cartoons. Sensing money, Disney bounced into the Saturday morning cartoon craze with the excellent Gummi Bears. Then, when cable hit the scene and there were more channels than ever, after-school cartoons became popular. Sensing money again, they created the outstanding DuckTales cartoon starring the greedy, yet lovable Scrooge McDuck and his rascally nephews. This was also a hit and spawned several spin-offs. Sensing money yet again, Disney got in on the video game craze, and the DuckTales video game was born.
Back then, just like today, video games based on cartoons or movies were generally pretty awful. Most were quick cash-ins on popular properites, but DuckTales was the exception to the rule and has become almost a legend in many gamers' eyes. I think I played it for a weekend at my cousin's house, but my memory is pretty hazy. I can only tell you how it plays now—difficult, but rewarding!
In the game, you play as Scrooge McDuck and travel to five different levels to track down stolen treasures. You'll be braving the snake-infested jungles of the Amazon, exploring haunted castles in Transylvania, riding carts in the African Mines, climbing the frozen mountians of the Himalayas, and even taking a trip to the moon! Each level is gorgeous. The backgrounds are 3D, while the characters are 2D. The characters look great, and the animation is as smooth as the cartoon. On the whole, the game is crisp, colorful, and a visual treat.
Scrooge has one attack, a cane he can use like a pogo stick to bounce on enemies' heads. He can also use it to knock objects around or into enemies. The pogo stick mechanic is really fun when it works, but there are times when it "poops out" for lack of a better term, and you think you're going to pogo and you don't. Also, any tiny mistake in judgement and you'll take damage from enemies instead of damaging them. And the game forces you into a lot of tight areas that require an almost inhuman amount of timing and dexterity to pogo and not take damage. Especially in the second level, the Amazon, there is an underground chamber with spiders that drop from the ceiling, surrounded by vines that damage you if you bounce into them. It's a pretty brutal test of skill, considering it's only the second level. Luckily, you'll get more hearts as you complete more levels.
Another trying part of the game is the boss battles. If the regular enemies in the level don't pare down your lives, the boss battles will. You'll have to repeat the same pattern to kill them over and over, quickly draining your hearts if you mess up. And when you run out of lives, you'll have to do the entire level again.
The voice of Scrooge McDuck is done by Alan Young, the same guy from the original cartoon. It's nice to hear his voice again, but unfortunately it sounds like they woke him up at 3:00 A.M. to do most of his voice acting. Still it's a nice touch they got the same voice actor. Plus, he's over 90 years old, so he may not have the same zest he did 30 years ago.
As I mentioned above, the game is pretty tough. However, once I lowered the difficulty level to easy, something I hate to do because it makes me feel like less of a man, the game was a lot of fun. I played through the game, learned the levels, sharpened my skills then went back and did them on regular difficulty. Still hard, but not impossible.
This is a fun, although rather brief, platformer. The levels and characters look great, the pogo stick mechanic is neat, the music memorable, and it will bring back lots of warm fuzzy memories of the cartoon.
Hint: Explore every cranny! The special items that give you more hearts, are fairly well hid, so take a good look around!
by Urian Brown