DuckTales Remastered Review

  • First Released Aug 13, 2013
  • PS3

Life is like a hurricane...of sadness.

If we push aside our love of classic cartoon themes for just one second, we can see just how inane the lyrics to the DuckTales' theme are. There's little defense for lines such as "not pony tales or cotton tales but DuckTales," and there doesn't need to be. It's a catchy, silly jingle that gets us excited for some duck-related hijinks. And though the DuckTales song is able to remain enjoyable despite being nonsensical, the updated platformer proves that some things are better left in the past. DuckTales Remastered is a boring adventure that highlights the ravages of old age.

Scrooge McDuck is one inscrutable bird. The crotchety billionaire demands unwavering respect and kindness from his friends and family, helped in no small part by his willingness to get his wings dirty. Not content to swim all day in his vault filled with gold coins, he travels the globe in search of treasure. Such determination is a large part of why he's so lovable. Still, DuckTales Remastered spends way too much time examining the thoughts that rattle around in his head. Endless cutscenes explain in painful detail how farcical situations--such as how ducks can breathe on the moon--are possible. Not only do these plentiful scenes disrupt the pacing, but they lack any semblance of personality. They're a bland addition and completely unnecessary.

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Now Playing: Video Review - DuckTales Remastered

Moon aliens lead pretty boring lives.
Moon aliens lead pretty boring lives.

Not all of the updates to the original are as detrimental. The clean visuals do a fine job of bringing the pixilated look so common on the Nintendo Entertainment System to the modern era. Characters have a bevy of animations that make just watching them move around enjoyable. Scrooge angrily beats on a carnivorous plant to free him from its gaping maw, bunnies burrow through snow drifts and then burst skyward, and mice float stoically through the gravity-free environs of a space station. The backgrounds have just as many nice touches. From the exotic flowers bursting forth in the Amazon to the craggy mountains of Transylvania, DuckTales Remastered offers a pleasant backdrop to your excavating endeavors.

Five non-linear stages are open from the outset and can be completed in any order. This free-flowing structure gives DuckTales a unique feeling that separates it from similar platformers. Instead of moving doggedly along a specific path, you venture down branching routes in search of collectibles (which open the way to a boss) and treasures (that you use to unlock bonus content). Flashing white beacons on a map point you toward your next destination so you never have to feel lost in a strange world. This is a handy addition for those who want directions guiding their every movement, but it takes away from the sense of discovery. You always know exactly where to travel to, so you're just following along a preset route instead of uncovering the secrets through your own ingenuity.

Scrooge bounces through stages in a way that's unheard of for a wealthy duck. Using his cane as a pogo stick, he can leap to higher ground or bop wandering enemies on their heads. Such goofy locomotion is helplessly endearing and fits right in to the eccentricities of Mr. McDuck. Unfortunately, jumping around isn't nearly as satisfying as it was in the original game. The precision that let you deftly squeeze through openings has been replaced by an unpleasant floatiness. There's no longer immediacy to your actions. This disconnect does occasionally affect the action given that you're unable to move with exactitude, but the biggest issue is that it doesn't feel as good. With the tight controls gone, there's little pleasure in moving.

Who wants to listen to Scrooge prattle on? No one, that's who.
Who wants to listen to Scrooge prattle on? No one, that's who.

More troubling is the timid structure of the obstacles. Enemies attack with a tired predictability that makes them incredibly easy to avoid. Giant spiders hide along the ceiling ready to ambush myopic explorers. However, they're so eager to catch you off guard that they web down well before you're underneath them. Every enemy attacks in a similar manner that makes it seem as if they're trying to give you an opening to escape. The biggest danger is your dwindling lack of interest. As threat after threat is dispatched, it's inevitable that you're going to be lulled into a stupor, and only then will a galloping goat serve as your potential grim reaper.

Don't expect to find any real challenge in the platforming, either. Tricky jumps are unheard of in DuckTales Remastered. There are few places in which a bottomless pit could end your life if your landing is off, and even when these situations surface, platforms are so close together than you almost have to purposely land in the dark depths to fail. The dull jumping challenges are exemplified by one boring scene late in the game. Three boulders roll around in a pit of dangerous spikes. You might think that you have to pogo along them as they move ever closer to the rope waiting for you on the other side. Having to perform a series of perfect leaps could be satisfying; however, DuckTales removes such simple pleasures completely. You're immune to spikes if you jump off them with your cane, so what could have been a clever challenge is relegated to another ho-hum affair.

Unsurprisingly, the boss fights are just as docile as every other element. These pattern-based encounters test your attention span more than your dexterity. Attacks are blatantly telegraphed and easily avoided, so you just have to go through the motions to come out on top. Still, difficulty does exist in DuckTales, though for reasons that only show the dusty ground this game was unearthed from. Scrooge has a finite number of lives and, if you should die, you have to replay levels from the very beginning. Rather than add a satisfying challenge, such a punitive system only adds to the frustration. There's no joy in replaying 15 or more minutes because a gorilla knocked you into a pit. Of course, if you had infinite lives, you'd be able to blow through the whole game in less than 2 hours.

There aren't any racecars or lasers, but there sure are aeroplanes.
There aren't any racecars or lasers, but there sure are aeroplanes.

Wayforward Technologies focused on the wrong elements in their attempt to bring DuckTales to the modern era. Getting the cartoon voice actors to reprise their roles is kind of neat, but now there are way too many tedious story segments. Meanwhile, the action has been made worse because of the less responsive controls, and there haven't been any elements added to make the simple combat and jumping more interesting. DuckTales Remastered will make you doubt happy memories from your childhood, or leave you baffled as to why people were nostalgic for such dull platforming in the first place.

Editor's Note: The preceding review was originally published with a score of 4.0 in error. The actual score assigned by reviewer Tom McShea, as was correctly included in the accompanying video review, was 4.5.

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The Good

  • Pleasant visuals

The Bad

  • Lifeless platforming and combat
  • Predictable boss fights
  • Frustrating punishment system
  • Boring (though mercifully skipable) cutscenes

About the Author

Tom adores platformers of all varieties, and even spent hours exploring mines and caves in DuckTales on the NES.