It can't be easy to adapt a 24-year-old NES game for today's world of polygons and HD consoles - and it must be even difficult when the game in question is based on a children's TV show that ended more than two decades ago.
This was the dilemma facing WayForward Technologies with DuckTales Remastered, a 'reimagining' of the 1989 NES platformer based on Disney's cartoon adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.
The result is a game that can't quite work out who it's supposed to appeal to. The irresistible aroma of nostalgia seduces 30-year-olds with a brilliantly authentic soundtrack and familiar, yet much improved visuals. But then in their very next breath these veterans of 8-bit gaming are knocked back by all manner of odd changes.
DuckTales Remastered's main accomplishment is how lovely it looks. WayForward was previously responsible for the likes of Mighty Switch Force, Aliens Infestation and A Boy And His Blob (another resurrection of a classic NES game) and as with those titles the studio has once again created a visually stunning 2D platformer with gorgeous hand-drawn sprites.
It's a shame your ears won't necessarily get the same love your eyes do, however. Granted, the music is sensational - the NES score has been modernised with clear care and respect, and the original 8-bit tracks can be unlocked - but the new voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
Fair play to WayForward and Capcom for doing things properly and getting the original voice actors from the TV series back to reprise their roles, but 20 years on their lines are delivered as effectively as mail during a postal strike, sucking the energy out of the cutscenes, which already feel unnecessary and too long as is.
As ever, the aural and visual side of things is still less important than the gameplay, and in this respect DuckTales is sadly unremarkable. The NES original was developed by the same Keiji Inafune-led team who had just finished work on Mega Man 2 and was a perfect mix of tight controls and infuriating one-more-time difficulty. Ultimately, while WayForward is undoubtedly a master of presentation, it hasn't quite nailed the gameplay.
Scrooge's pogo stick jump attack returns from the NES game (it's a little easier to perform too, with a simple button press mid-air activating it rather than the need to hold down on the D-pad too), and he can still thwack rocks with the best of them, but it's all a little basic and doesn't feel quite as satisfying as it used to.
It's also prone to being a little buggy, with Scrooge sometimes not bouncing or cancelling out of his pogo attack without warning, causing you to land on enemies and take damage. This happens rare enough to not be game-breaking, but often enough to be considered more than a one-off glitch.
It's also very annoying when you consider the game's harsh difficulty. Scrooge only has three lives, and when you lose them all you're thrown back to the start of the level. Considering each level is a lengthy half-hour affair, it can be frustrating when you lose your final life near the end of a stage and see all your hard work chucked away.
There's an easy difficulty level if this gets too much but it takes things to the opposite extreme with infinite lives and twice as much health.
It's difficult to figure out what WayForward is going for with DuckTales Remastered. If it's trying to give us a modern version of the NES classic then the addition of needless lengthy cut-scenes and clunky, temperamental controls ruin both the flow and feel of the vintage original.
If it's instead aiming for a brand new, modern platformer for younger gamers then the old-school difficulty and unfamiliar characters will be lost on a Pixar generation more willing to play the likes of Rayman Legends and the New Super Mario Bros games.
This puts the game in an awkward compromise where those hoping for a retro experience will feel alienated by the new bells and whistles, while those seeking something fresh will be frustrated by the unashamedly outdated mechanics.
DuckTales Remastered isn't a terrible game by any means - it looks and sounds fantastic (lifeless voice acting notwithstanding) and the platforming is decent enough.
Therein lies the problem, though. What was once considered one of the finest platform games of its generation has evolved into an unremarkable digital release that may look the part but, its graphical sheen aside, may as well be any generic platformer released in the 24 years since the game it pays tribute to came out.
Beautiful to look at but lacking in innovation or depth. A perfectly functional platformer but nothing more than that.
- Stunning to look at
- Brilliant soundtrack
- Original voice actors
- Scrooge sounds sedated
- Standard platforming fare
- Too hard or too easy, with no middle ground