Review: DuckTales: Remastered (Wii U eShop)

Tales of derring-do

It’s difficult to determine exactly who video game remakes are geared towards. On one hand you have generations worth of gamers who played the original and would love to experience it again on a modern console with updated graphics. It’s possible, however, that these people are no longer playing video games or don’t own current generation consoles. On the other hand you have young people who are playing games now who never had the chance to experience a game when it was first released - especially when it’s more than 20 years old. In this case you’re running the risk that they might not be interested in a reboot of something to which they have no nostalgic attachment. Finding the right audience is a challenge that any company remaking a classic is bound to face, but the most it can do is use everything in its power to make the best new version of the game that it possibly can.

When it comes to DuckTales: Remastered, it’s immediately obvious how invested the team at WayForward is in its product. The heart of gameplay in this Metroidvania-style platformer remains mostly unchanged from the original, but it has a new coat of paint tactfully brushed over in all the right ways. Fans of the original will immediately recognize the spruced up settings, and new players will get to experience them for the first time in all of their HD beauty. This game is a labour of love that takes a classic franchise and breaths new life into it, and it shows.

After an attempted robbery by the nefarious Beagle Boys, Scrooge McDuck stumbles upon a map hidden among his various treasures. Always eager to increase his fortunes, Scrooge decides to venture off to exotic locations around the globe to uncover hidden rarities to further secure his title as “the richest duck in the world.” Limited to jumping, climbing, and bouncing on his trusty cane, it’s your goal to guide the aging billionaire safely through the enemy and trap filled stages.

All of the levels are mostly linear with a bit of backtracking involved, but some routes are littered with hidden hallways and rooms full of treasure just waiting to be found. Not only does DuckTales allow for exploration, but it actually encourages and rewards it. Diamonds that you collect in each stage will go towards filling Scrooge’s vault, and all of the money that you find can be spent on assets such as character profiles, production art, and music from the soundtrack. If you have any intention of purchasing all of the additional gallery items, then you’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for translucent walls and hidden ropes to climb.

There are five main stages, which can be played in any order, each lasting about 30 minutes or so — depending on how much time you spend exploring — book-ended with a massive boss fight. While some of these fights tend to be more taxing than others, they all bring unique elements to an otherwise standard formula. Like every other in-game enemy, bosses take damage by a simple pogo jump, but uncovering their weak spot takes more than a little effort. The undeniably short campaign can be completed in around three hours, but finding treasure and completing the game on higher difficulty settings will have most players coming back for more.

While this may look like a light-hearted romp from the outside with its cartoony character designs and vibrant backdrops, the fact is that DuckTales is not an easy game. The “easy” difficulty setting is obviously the most forgiving with its infinite life count and reduced damage from enemies, but you’re still going to die. A lot. With each higher difficulty, it becomes much more intense, but it just means that you’ll have to take care of what you’re doing rather than simply rushing in and hoping for the best. It can be a frustrating game, but working your way through the stages is both fun and satisfying.

In a move that’s bound to send older fans into a frenzy of reminiscence, the surviving cast members from the late 80s cartoon series return to lend their voices to the story. The extra effort is appreciated, but it comes off as an afterthought, with the characters standing mostly motionless as their voiceovers play. It’s almost as though the voices were shoehorned in after the rest of the game was completed. While the voice acting may be imperfect, it still helps to bring the story and situations to life, and all of the cinematic scenes can be skipped if you’re so inclined.

Unlike the voice acting, the soundtrack is absolutely flawless. Mixing the old with the new, each stage’s accompanying track fits perfectly into the reimagined DuckTales universe. Whether the tracks are playing on nostalgic chords or if it’s your first time hearing them, tapping your foot and humming their tunes is inevitable.

DuckTales is a natural fit on the Wii U, making use of both the television and GamePad to fully flesh-out the experience. While off-screen play is available by default on the GamePad, the small screen is at its best when displaying a mini-map of your current stage. The map is only available on easy and medium difficulty settings, but having it on hand enhances the experience for those who desire to spend more time in stages seeking diamonds rather than just cruising through to the end. Having your location readily available helps the most dedicated of treasure hunters leave no stone unturned.

Conclusion

Don’t let the cartoony graphics and Disney branding fool you. DuckTales: Remastered is a challenging platformer that’s absolutely brimming with charm. The campaign may be short and indicative of its source material, but it has been updated in a way that makes the experience feel fresh and guarantee that you’ll be back for more.

Are you a fan of the original DuckTales game or the animated series? Download this game immediately. Have you never played, watched, or even heard of DuckTales? Download this game immediately, and then tell all of your friends to do the same. They’ll thank you for it later.

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