Scrooge McDuck was truly an icon of my eighties youth. He embraced most of the cultural memes (before anyone really knew what memes were) of the era that we were looking to instil in our children: cash-grabbing, getting into things unprepared, and hiring incompetent people to do the most dangerous of tasks for you only to have to do them yourself as a last option. The only thing missing were hookers, blow, and RoboCop.
I was overjoyed to hear that Duck Tales would be getting a touch up and re-release, and I’ve been waiting for this for some time. And, I’m happy to say, it’s been worth the wait.
For those of you familiar with the 1989 Capcom release, take heart – this game is a mostly true-to-the-original title. The gameplay elements are more or less as you remember them, with minimal departures from the original levels. Additionally, the game is narrated by the full surviving cast of the original series (Alan Young, age 93, reprised his role as Scrooge McDuck!). Hearing all of the original cast does much to put you back into your youth playing the original game.
The plot is similar to the original – Scrooge McDuck has discovered the existence of five rare treasures that will amass even more wealth for Scrooge’s money bin. Things are never easy however, and the treasures are scattered between five separate locations. The game covers Scrooge’s (and Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webigail and Launchpad’s) adventures to acquire the stones while fighting the likes of the Beagle Boys, Magica DeSpell, and Scrooge’s archnemesis, Flintheart Glomgold.
It’s goddamned Duck Tales! Do you need more than that? Okay, fine. I’ll elaborate.
While some organizations have slammed it for being too ‘old school’ (I’m looking at you, GameSpot) those folks are failing to miss the point (again, it’s goddamned DUCK TALES!). This is simply just good stuff that has stood the test of time. Yes – it’s the same game in essence as it’s eighties predecessor. And you know what? That’s an awesome thing. It’s like a comfortable pair of shoes. You just step into the game and you get to relive your childhood. They even kept the level music and most of the maps for you! Nostalgia bonus! Of course, if you’ve no nostalgia for this and/or your childhood didn’t feature Duck Tales I can only assume you were abused. If you’re too young to have got it the first time around, you should play this game if for any other reason to build character (it’ll be the only time you get to build character that doesn’t suck apart from RP games).
The gameplay, despite being over twenty years old at time of writing, is still immensely satisfying, and requires a veteran’s platformer finesse even on the medium difficulty level. The old frustrations are there as well. While enemies stick to routine patterns, some of those patterns are tricky and still pose a challenge all these years later.
They also switch up a couple of things as well. I remember there being hidden treasures, but there seem to be more of them in this version. Likewise, there are two additional levels: one at the intro as the obligatory tutorial level, and another leading up to the climactic showdown between Scrooge and the ultimate big bad. The last level is a challenge as well – so a little derivation injects a little bit of new adversity so it’s not just all recollection from the eighties.
There’s also an option to look at all your treasure in the money bin, and yes, it does involve actually swimming in Scrooge’s millions. I could probably do that for a good couple hours every day just to forget my own financial situation.
Even in Duckburg, a little rain must fall. Fortunately, this is a light drizzle as opposed to some of the epic shitstorms we’ve seen with even the AAA titles in recent months.
The game does have cut scenes. A lot of them. And while I love hearing the voice actors, I don’t need to hear them over and over again every time I die. fortunately you can skip a bit ahead, though it doesn’t use the standard ‘hit the action button’ design ethos one expects. You instead have to pause the game, then select the option to skip. It’s a small gripe, but I suppose it bears mentioning.
And then there’s the dying – though one could (and I will!) make an argument for the punishment for failure. So many games today come without the inherent sense of risk for their protagonists. The punishment for dying is typically getting right back up from death to wail on the opponent with no real downside from a convenient save point (a la Dead Island). Not so with Duck Tales, in which we are going to ride old school. You die in Duck Tales, you use up a life. When you’re out of those lives, tough shit – it’s back to the Money Bin to try again and you lose your progress on whatever level you were at. Yeah, it’s kind of annoying, but it can also be viewed as a return to roots. When I was a kid, you played Super Mario Bros. for hours on end because this was the dominant paradigm then, and it took skill and practice to earn your bragging rights (and the chance to make sweet, sweet love to the Princess). It should be hard, or there’s no sense of accomplishment. If you’re not of the bent to like that kind of thing though, I can see where you’d not like that mechanic. And I’d also call you a wuss.
The Sum Up
I’m willing to concede that this game is not pure gold. Not for everybody at least. For me, the game is a blast from the past. It’s still fun, and it’s still relevant despite what the naysayer at GameSpot had to say. It’s a piece of revived history in true Scrooge McDuck expedition fashion, and well worth the $15 you’ll spend on it at PSN (or 1200 MS points at XBL Arcade). Final word: if you love retro, this is a must. If you spurn the past, I pity you.