DuckTales Woo hoo! Just the title conjures up the iconic theme tune of my youth. It’s a wonderful Disney show which originally came from a 1952 comic book series. Uncle Scrooge has become one of Disney’s most beloved anti-heroes. Debuting in a Donald Duck story and becoming so popular over decades that he finally warranted his own animated series. Duck Tales was a big enough title that in 1989 Capcom brought it over to the NES. Licensed games, especially in the 8-bit era were titles most people avoided. They were garbage games, with a few exceptions, which made money off a known brand. Happily, Duck Tales on the NES was an excellent exception, gained many positive reviews and was ported to the Game Boy.
When you boot up the game, there’s a baffling lack of story detail, no intro scene, and no explanation. Just a menu featuring a choice of an exotic destination. All the narrative is contained within the game manual. For those fans of the DuckTales series it’s a familiar story. Scrooge McDuck, the wealthiest duck in Duckburg, is out to make himself even richer by tracking down ancient treasures both hidden on Earth and the stars. Essentially it’s a great excuse for having Scrooge and his pilot Launchpad McQuack travel from the top of the Himalayas to the Moon.
This is a non-linear game where you can plot your path through the campaign however you wish. This setup gives newcomers, an opportunity to get a feel for each of the stages before deciding which order of level suits them best. For me, I often saved the moon level for last, just because of its excellent level music, completing the levels featuring hidden lives bonus first to get a better opportunity to complete tougher, later levels. Each level also features an incredible amount of secrets to discover, these levels are never so big that they cause the player to get lost but they reward explorative gameplay with extra lives and higher scores.
There are five levels that makeup DuckTales. The Jungles of the Amazon; A haunted castle in Transylvania; A deep mine in Africa; A frozen Himalayan mountain top and a spaceship on the moon. This injects fantastic variety into the game, the levels are incredibly different from one another. It’s this diversity that makes playing through DuckTales so much fun. Not only do you get different environments but each stage presents itself with unique hooks for the few moves that you have. In the Himalayas for example, you’ll get stuck in soft snow if you try and pogo so you have to make sure to hit your targets dead center. In Transylvania to defeat the mummy enemies, you must hit the ball and chain attached to their legs when they crowd around areas with low ceilings. These are a few examples of how Capcom took a simple concept and expertly crafted levels. This is also true of the bosses that you will meet at the end of each section. They are not impossible but they present different and unique challenges to test your skills.
Capcom games in the 8-16 bit era were well known for their exceptional soundtracks. This title is one of the examples of this. The theme song is perfectly created for the title, as alluded to at the start of this review, once you hear the tune, its difficult to forget it. Similarly, each of the levels contains memorable soundtracks and everyone who plays this game will have their own particular favorites. There’s honestly not a bad level theme tune in this game, and it becomes second nature to hum along.
This is a classic game with tight controls, beautiful and varied level design and one of the best soundtracks of any game across all generations. It can be experienced through a remastered version on the PS4 on the Disney Afternoons collection. Whichever port you decide to play, I’m sure you will have a blast while pogoing around collecting huge diamonds.
A great license title which is both easy to pick up and play and challenging. The levels are full of character and the platforming is solid. One of the best titles on the Gameboy.
Chris McAuley is a Northern Irish born author, comic book and gaming columnist who has now branched out from talking about comics to helping create them. An acclaimed colourist for 2000 AD and Marvel he has worked on flagship titles such as Judge Dredd, Roy of the Rovers and Hulkverines. Chris also has a commitment to the Indie scene being an inker and colourist for ‘The Lang Way Hame’ a Scottish comic which is tipped for an award later this year. With close ties to heroes of the industry such as the ‘Godfather of British comics’ Pat Mills and Spawn creator Todd McFarlene,