The games industry seems to be in an era of remakes, reboots and remasters right now – so let’s go back to a time when people weren’t so confused as to what constitutes each of these things with DuckTales Remastered. This little Disney bundle of joy was developed by WayForward, who aside from being my favourite games company in the world are also responsible for the Shantae series and The Mummy Demastered among other such games, and it was published by Capcom (who incidentally also published the first Shantae) and of course Disney. It’s based off the cartoon of the same name (which I haven’t seen), and though it calls itself a “remaster”, it’s pretty much a from-the-ground-up, level-for-level remake of Capcom’s 1989 DuckTales game for the NES (which I haven’t played) with a few extra levels added. It was released in 2013 on PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, Windows and later on Android and iOS, though those two versions are unfortunately no longer available.
The plot sees Scrooge McDuck, after fending off an attack from the Beagle Boys on his Money Bin, discovering a treasure map hidden in one of his paintings and embarking on a journey across the world to locate the five treasures detailed on the map. Generally speaking it’s quite a thin plot and serves little purpose other than to explain what Scrooge is doing in all these unusual places, and at times it tends to be a little irritating with such little things as finding a collectable initiating a cutscene for each individual collectible. At times though, it does elicit chuckles and the fact that the original voice actors lent their talents is something that’s sure to please original fans (although they now all sound a bit old for the characters they’re portraying in fact at least one has since died if I remember rightly). That said, it also sort of assumes that the player is already a fan and plays off their nostalgia a lot, not stopping to explain exactly who the characters are or establish their personalities, which saves the original fans some minor annoyances but leaves the newcomers a tad confused.
Whether or not you’re an original fan though, where this game’s enjoyability is to be found is in its gameplay. It’s sort of a Metroidvania-lite, in the sense that it has levels but for the most part they’re only semi-linear, encouraging exploration in order to progress. Other than that it’s actually quite odd – aside from moving, jumping and climbing all that Scrooge can do is do a downward stomp with his cane – the famous “pogo” attack – and hit things that he’s standing still next to. This very simplistic gameplay style at first seems restrictive, but its simplicity also makes it rather easy to learn whilst at the same time being original, and it’s actually put to pretty good use throughout the levels, with multiple ways of overcoming tricky situations. On the other hand it does suffer from a bit of dubious design, from some slightly awkwardly designed levels demanding some overly tricky maneuvers and the fact that there aren’t any checkpoints to speak of, so if you die, no matter how far into a level you are, you have to start from the beginning, and that combined with the frequent story-pauses has a tendency to grate.
The music, by WayForward mainstay Jake Kaufman, consists of some original tracks and some remixes of the NES original’s tracks and all of it is, as per WayForward’s usual performance, fantastic. Each track has an upbeat feel to it, in keeping with the theming of the game, and they’re all incredibly catchy too. I dare you to try and get the first level’s theme song out of your head for more than one week after playing it.
In summary, the experience you get from Ducktales Remastered depends, as it often does with both remakes and games based on existing properties, on your background. If you’re a fan of DuckTales it’s right up your street, but if you’re a newcomer like myself the nostalgia value is lost and a lot of references go right over your head, but what’s left is still a fun and unique little platformer in its own right. At £11.99 on consoles it’s also not the most expensive of games, but if you aren’t an existing fan then I’d probably wait for a sale before picking it up.