I think at this point, the game is more familiar to me than the TV-series it is based off. In fact, while I enjoyed the cartoon as a kid (and still do as an adult), I have much more fond memories of playing Ducktales on my Game Boy. It is a an excellent port, but with the release of the Disney Afternoon Collection, its remake already been made, and not to mention the recent reimagining of the series, it felt like good enough excuse to find my copy of Ducktales for the NES, and play it again.
Tougher than the toughies with only a cane
Playing as Scrooge McDuck, your goal is to travel all over the world to become even richer than you already are. You will have 5 areas to travel to, each being a sidescrolling platforming stage which can be tackled in any order you wish to. All are balanced in difficulty, while still providing something unique, so there is no right or wrong answers on which stage to start out with. For example, the Haunted Castle in Transylvania will have mirrors to venture through, and the Himalayas will have slippery ice caves, and snowy parts that you can’t pogo on. Speaking of which, the main mechanic in this platformer is Scrooge’s cane. You can use it to swing it at objects, such as chests to open them, or rocks and other similar objects to use them as projectiles. However what you will use the cane the most for, is as a pogo-stick which can bounce off any solid surfaces, including enemies and spikes.
The cane becomes your best friend as it is greatly utilized in every stage for jumping over different hazards or making tight jumps. The platforming is fast paced, varied, and challenging, making it a fantastic concept. Adding to this are a bunch of diverse enemies, which are both used for platforming and as fun obstacles. All of them have different patterns to make them memorable and enjoyable to deal with, while still being quick obstacles so you will never be halted. Despite each stage having a bossfight you will have to beat to finish the stage, each are semi-linear in design due to the different paths you can take.
This is because there are tons of hidden treasures that pop out when you jump on specific areas or venture off the obvious path, ranging from diamonds to make you richer, health upgrades, ice cream and cakes for refilling health, extra lives, and temporary invincibility. There is even the possibility to meet familiar characters that either give support items or helpful hints, which is a neat way of representing the show. This might sound like the game can be overwhelming with secrets and be confusing to navigate, but you will easily find the right path to the boss due to well designed levels. The stages will show you clearly the direction towards the boss, but give you the option to search for more. Since the levels are short enough, yet packed with plenty of creative enemies, secrets, and platforming-areas, it became a good driving force to search for every hidden item. Overall, each stage is a blast and fantastic to venture through.
The only odd addition, is the concept of going back to the Haunted Castle. You will have to visit it one time before the African Mines, but it will be for less than 10 seconds. The second time, will be as the last level, but without any new additions added except the very last boss. It is not necessarily bad as the stage is very enjoyable, just an odd design-choice. What is unfortunate, are the bosses. Your main-goal in each stage is to find and defeat a boss, and get the treasure after they disappeared. The bosses themselves are fun fights, but quite easy with all requiring a couple of pogo jumps on the head. They have some unique patterns to them, such as the boss in the Amazon that makes earthquakes as it jumps and Magica de Spell turns into a crow and shoots lasers, but none became a particularly hard challenge and were quite similar.
Ducktales is not a long game, but knows what to expand upon within each stage. It keeps focus on being an enjoyable platformer utilizing the cane, while still providing something unique to each stage and add fun treasure hunts. It knows how long it needs to last, and since you will have to play it in one go, between an hour and 30 minutes is a good run. Especially when it all is so creative and enjoyable.
Gameplay Score: 8.5/10
Representing the cartoon in Capcom-style!
You will really feel like you are traveling all over the world as the 5 stages you will visit feel unique with their own enemies in them. Alaska is snowy with icy caves, inhabited by snow-bunnies and hockey-players, while the Amazon has apes, bees and thorns as obstacles. Everything is colorful and imaginative, with a cartoon artstyle that fits the world of Ducktales. Each area is nicely designed with different stages changing in visuals, like the aforementioned Alaska level, making it feel like you are traveling everywhere. Some backgrounds can be a bit stationary, but it is a minor nitpick. The same can be said for the enemies and characters. While their animations are a bit stiff, their designs are lovely and intriguing, with all being memorable. There are some coloring-mistakes however, such as the Beagle Boys having white shirts instead of red, but these are few. Some flicker also occurred, but it was rare and never a bother.
The music is phenomenal. If you somehow are not familiar with the Moon Theme, it is said to be one of the greatest melodies ever made, and I wholeheartedly agree. The rest of the tracks are certainly fantastic as well and each feels appropriately used for their levels, with Alaska having a playful theme and Transylvania being more ominous. There are only a few melodies, but they are long, varied and catchy. The Ducktales-theme has also gotten a good chiptune remake, that I will always sing along to.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
“What are you gonna do with all those treasures?”
There are a bunch of hidden treasures throughout the game, including ginormous treasures that are worth a ton of cash. Grabbing as much treasure as possible might get you the best ending, giving the points actually some value. I also love how they made points into actually money, which makes a lot of sense considering our main character. The 3 difficulty modes are also a good extra, as it becomes more challenging without being unbalanced. Due to the game’s short length, it is easy to revisit. Especially when the main-game is so enjoyable in its own right.
Extra Score: 9.5/10
Ducktales knows how far it needs to go to be enjoyable. It has a short length, with each stage making good use of McDuck’s skills with the cane, and fun treasure hunts. It is certainly a bit rough around the edges, but it does not neglect what a fantastic game Ducktales is and why it stands as one of the best licensed games ever. A certain classic no one should ever miss and worth any treasures in the world.
The Game Boy-version is also an impressive port, being smart with the limited view the Game Boy Screen had, while including just about everything from the NES original. The Remake ain’t bad and has a lot of clear work put into it, including an extra stage exclusive to that version, but feels padded due to removing hidden treasures in favor of fetch quests, unneeded story that was added in, and unlockables that require replaying stages plenty of times. Go 8-bit.