For those of you keeping track, this is my second review for the JGR website. My first was Darkwing Duck and it brought back so many fond memories of Saturday morning cartoons that I opted to continue along these lines and tackle another game in Disney’s duck-related NES canon, DuckTales.
Once again, I’ll recap for those who were playing with their Commodore 64s when they should have been watching television: The premise of Duck Tales was that classic Disney character Donald Duck takes his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie over to the mansion of his rich uncle Scrooge McDuck. Basically, Donald tells Scrooge that he’s leaving for a while and the boys have got to stay with him. Scrooge, cantankerous coot that he is, resists, but eventually grows to love the boys as his own. So he allows them to live in the mansion along with his butler Duckworth, his pilot Launchpad, his housekeeper Mrs. Beakley, her daughter Webby, and an occasional cameo by Gyro the inventor, or Fenton Crackshell AKA the mighty Gizmoduck. Yup, except for the housekeeper’s name, that was ENTIRELY out of memory. I lead a sad life.
At any rate, upon loading up the game you’re treated to a snazzy version of the DuckTales theme complete with the bridge! (Da-da-da-danger lurks behind you! There’s a stranger out to find you!) If you watch carefully, Scrooge will even wink at you. Sexy. The player may choose from one of the three standard difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, and Hard. Sure, I could have handled Hard, but in the interest of a fair review I went with Normal.
Much like in Darkwing Duck, you are presented with a screen of Scrooge sitting at a giant computer. You must use the computer to decide which of the 5 areas you’d like to explore first; the Amazon, Transylvania, the African Mines, the Himalayas, or the Moon. Ya see, Scrooge is on a treasure hunt to collect the five most valuable items in the world. Of course you won’t know this unless you dig up the instruction manual like I did, because the game has no intro. But we will forgive this transgression and move on.
Each level plays basically the same. You play Scrooge and explore every nook and cranny of the stage, bonking bad guys as you go, in search of a different priceless treasure. However bad guy bonking, much like the plot, is difficult to figure out without the manual. Ya see, in order to use Scrooge’s pogo attack you have to jump, then hold the down arrow, then press B (well, whatever key your emulator has assigned B to). To whack objects, B is once again your button of choice, but for some reason you have to hold the direction in which you want to whack (you never need to hit anything backwards, up, or down, why specify?) So while this may never have been a problem with the original game, as you would have had the manual, it is a confusing downside for the ROM. Despite this stumbling block, the levels are generally fun and challenging enough to keep players interested. The music and sound is great, and despite mis-coloring a few characters, the graphics are nice as well.
Powerups in this game are thankfully less confusing than in Darkwing Duck, although just as silly. Ice cream can be collected to increase Uncle Scrooge’s health (he likes his sugar), while diamonds increase your money total, which as far as I can tell, does nothing. Both of these treats are abundant. Bouncing around with your pogo attack can cause even more hidden goodies to appear in many areas. Just like in Darkwing, a little doll of Scrooge acts as a 1up, but these are few and far between so be prepared to use that save state feature.
I hate to keep drawing parallels, but here’s another. In Darkwing I mentioned that if you like hanging on stuff, this was your game. Well, if you like climbing things, DuckTales is the one for you. Vines, ropes, and chains abound adding an extra level of difficulty. The stages play much less linearly thanks to this feature, and the time you spend trying to remember how many levels you have to climb down to get back to an area you saw before, pads an otherwise short game.
My only huge gripe about this game is Transylvania. Upon selecting this level, Scrooge finds himself in a haunted castle with all sorts of hidden tricks. Ooooooh. Spooky. That’s fine and dandy at first, but after a while you’ll notice that this stage is uncharacteristically difficult compared to the others. In fact I actually had to look up a walkthrough to beat it! Suffice it to say that while you are informed that there is ONE hidden passageway in the mansion, there are actually TWO. So I finally breathed a sigh of relief and left Transylvania for the African Mines. Immediately, one of the boys comes out to inform me that I’ll need a key to continue. Guess where it is? Yup. So they send me BACK to Transylvania after I think I’ve already explored the whole damn place top to bottom! So I look around for a while, but I’m already pissed at this level so I get the hint, find the key, and move on.
Whew! Finally, I’m free. So I complete all of the stages and suddenly all of my hard-earned treasures are gone!! I get a message on my computer screen: “Ha ha… If you want to get back the treasures, come to Dracula Duck Manor.” “Well, okay,” I think, “a final boss stage, neat.” Yeah, neat, but apparently the programmers were in a rush because they kinda decided to reuse one of the old stages for Dracula Duck Manor. Guess which one. That’s right, I’m reminded of Al Pacino’s immortal words in The Godfather: Part III, “Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.” Now once was acceptable, twice was taxing, but three times was just plain annoying. Transylvania is the only stage used not twice, but three times in DuckTales, and trust me, by the time you get to the third you may very well just quit.
If you’re a very brave little duckling, you’ll make it to Dracula Duck, the final boss. Upon pummeling him, the evil mastermind and TV villain Flintheart Glomgold appears. You’ve got to race him up a rope (yes, more climbing). Whoever makes it to the top first wins. According to my internet sources, his speed is based on the difficulty setting. Your speed is based on how much cash you collected during the game. I guess it was good for something after all.
“BILLIONAIRE CONTINUES TO OPPRESS LOWER CLASS TO INCREASE PERSONAL POWER, GETS PISSED WHEN REPORTER POINTS OUT THAT SINCE HE WAS ALREADY THE RICHEST DUCK IN THE WORLD, QUEST WAS COMPLETELY UNNECCESSARY”
Fun little flashback to lovers of the show, the gameplay’s pretty original, the music isn’t annoying, and you’ll have fun going “bouncy bouncy” on your crazy pogo-cane!
“Blah! I vant to suck your patience!” Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla was less annoying than this game’s Transylvania.