Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Duck Tales Review

While I generally consider myself to know my classic games pretty well, I have to admit that I tend to dismiss licensed games offhand. Thus, Duck Tales wasn't on my radar until rather recently. In fact, I wasn't aware of this game's classic status until I started noticing how frequently its music was featured on video game music podcasts and name-that-tune events.

Duck Tales is a 2D platformer based on the animated series of the same name. In the game, Scrooge McDuck must explore six sprawling levels to recover his stolen valuables. Scrooge's unique ability is to use his cane as a pogo stick to traverse the environment. He can also use his cane like a golf club to whack small objects across the screen. This game was originally released for the NES. I streamed the PC version via the Disney Afternoon Collection on my Twitch channel.

  • While this game only has six levels, it gets a lot of mileage out of them due to their massive size and intricate designs. Exploring the various pathways of each level looking for secrets is easily this game's standout feature.
  • Scrooge's cane mechanics are pretty novel for a game of this age. Bouncing on enemies and across spikes using the pogo cane is a fun form of traversal once you get the hang of it. I also appreciated the way you could use the cane to dispatch enemies from a distance by hitting rocks at them like golf balls.
  • Duck Tales features some very cute sprite work the manages to exude personality despite the limited rendering capabilities of the NES. For example, when Scrooge is about to whack something with his cane, you can see his tail wagging back and forth. This animation is only a single pixel moving back and forth but it still manages to make a big difference in terms of making the character feel alive.
  • The music in this game is a real treat. Thanks to video game music podcasts, I already knew this game had some catchy tunes and I can now say from experience that it features catchy chiptune bops from start to finish.

  • Duck Tales does not offer any way to save your progress in the game; there are no save points or passwords. In fact, there are not even continues. Thus, if playing this on the original hardware, losing all three lives completely resets the game to the beginning. This sounds like a very frustrating way to experience this game. Thankfully, the Disney Afternoon Collection version adds the ability to use save states. Using save a state at the start of each level made it much more enjoyable.
  • To initiate a pogo jump, you must first hit the A-button to jump and then while in midair hit the B-button while pressing down on the D-pad. I found this to be a little cumbersome for an action you have to execute so frequently and quickly. Messing up the coordination on this set of inputs lead to many accidental deaths before I got used to it. Since the B-button serves no other purpose while airborne, I think it would have made far more sense to have the B-button alone initiate a pogo jump whenever Scrooge's feet are off the ground. 

Playing through the original version of Duck Tales was a pretty cool experience; I can definitely see why it's considered a classic. Given that the few minor issues I had were mostly the product of NES-era game design, I'm very curious to try Wayforward's remastered version of Duck Tales to see what kind of tweaks they may have made. Either way, I definitely recommend trying out Duck Tales via the Disney Afternoon Collection to anyone interested in 8-bit classics or Disney cartoons.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: About 2 hours and 30 minutes

Note: This post is part of the Chic-Pixel community's #CapcoMonth event. For more info and their full list of events, check out this page: Community Game-Along Master List 2020

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