DuckTales Remastered: I am tired of your shit, and it’s time to talk about it
- Wii U
Sometimes the right video games come at the right point of our lives. Those intersections of technology, art, and our personal development lead to magical, sometimes irrational devotions to games that may not deserve it.
It’s also important to look at games from the past within the context of the industry in which they were released. Both of these caveats need to be addressed when discussing DuckTales: Remastered, which has been available for a while on the PlayStation 3, and is now coming to the Xbox 360 tomorrow.
It’s not terrible, but it’s not good, and WayForward passed over the chance to create an update on the original title with the lessons we’ve learned about game design since its release. Instead we’re left with a game that not only loves its source material, but is straightjacketed to the past.
What went wrong?
WayForward had access to the official voice actors for all these characters, and extra dialog and story were sprinkled throughout the game to explain just what the hell is going on. Having a talking head pop up to explain something about the game is just about the worst way to interrupt flow, and it seemed to slow things down only to point to itself and be proud of the fact that Scrooge sounds like Scrooge. I just wanted to get to it, but the game wanted to talk.
The levels are large and filled with things to do and enemies to avoid or kill, but you lose all of your progress when you lose a life. There is no checkpoint system. So if you spent 10 minutes tracking down a collectible and die due to the inordinately large hit boxes on the enemies… Well then you’ll be spending 10 more minutes doing it all over. It’s fun to figure things out and track down the out of the way areas, but it’s fun exactly once. After that first time through it begins to feel like a trudge, and the game’s controls don’t help the situation.
Scrooge can walk through a level normally, as a duck would, but he also has the ability to pogo jump on his cane. This is a novel method of locomotion, and it feels great to pogo across the level, but sometimes Scrooge stops pogoing, no matter the button presses, even with the option of a simplified control scheme for jumping in this manner. You learn to be careful around the edges, and to be wary of spikes, but losing a life due to the game deciding for you that its time to jump the pogo is maddening.
The boss battles don’t help the situation, as they require an over-generous amount of hits to take down. The ol’ NES rule of memorizing the attack patterns and landing three good hits is thrown out the window, and instead you’ll have to hit the bosses again and again and again, as their patterns grow more intense and hard to dodge. It’s not that the bosses are hard as much as they feel punitive; the game feels like it was designed to break your spirit, not show you a good time.
How do you keep this from happening again?
The visuals are nice and detailed, but the beautiful characters and items in the foreground often clash with the bland and uninteresting background design. The game never comes together in a cohesive way, although the music remains quite good.
DuckTales: Remastered is everything that was limited and frustrating about NES games mixed with all the self-indulgent blather of modern games, and the resulting soup is a bitter meal. Check out the talent that created the original game, a title I put in the Masterpiece series back on Ars Technica. They were trying new things, figuring stuff out, and in the process came out with one of the best and most original platformers on 8-bit systems.
The problem is that we’ve solved the issues that were a struggle during the release of the original game, and WayForward ignored those solutions while adding new mistakes into the mix. If there were a few checkpoints, if the characters would only shut up, if the controls were tweaked and the boss battles made a bit more original and a bit less punishing this could have been a beautiful modern platformer that reminded us of our youth.
Instead we have this, and it’s a cautionary tale. This is what happens when a developer worships the past without learning from it, and falls in love with authenticity to the point where they can’t seem to edit the new story elements that destroy the pacing without adding much of worth.
DuckTales: Remastered isn’t worthless, but it’s also not fun. This is one of the biggest disappointments of the year.