Review by Retro

"Cream of the Disney"

Over a decade ago, millions of kids everywhere had a list of favorite cartoons that they loved watching every Saturday morning, or any other time they were on. In its heyday, Duck Tales was easily on at least 9 out of every 10 lists—it was that popular. The old, top hat-wearing Scrooge McDuck was already the richest duck in the world. However, he wasn't satisfied with just being a millionaire that has a vault of thousands of gold coins. He still had a quenchless thirst for hunting down luxurious treasures around the world to add to his ever-growing collection of riches.

In the early days of 1990, Duck Tales was made for the NES, and it follows the same storyline as the classic cartoon series. Scrooge McDuck will make his way through five huge levels in this quest that is beyond dangerous. He will rendezvous with muscular gorillas and stinging bees as he passes through underground tombs full of neighboring ancient statues in the jungles of the Amazon. Venture into the haunted living grounds of your most feared nemesis of all, Magica de Spell, as you whack running skeletons back to their grave. Ride mine carts and hop over deadly heights as ugly frog-like creatures jump out of the water, ready to take you under in the African mines. Put on your warmest clothes and bravely set on your path through the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas. Finally, who knew that ducks could breathe effortlessly on the moon? It's apparent that Scrooge can. He must explore the vast areas of its cratered surface while avoiding red aliens that look like squids, metal robots, and even the memorable Beagle Boys.

Scrooge may think he's invincible, but if he gets hit by a few enemies, falls into a pit, or scrapes his head on a spiky surface, he'll know that he's certainly not free from the ruthless grips of what every living creature eventually faces in their life, which is death. For this reason, Scrooge's family members are all here to lend a few helping feathers. Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby stand still as a statue in various parts of the game. When you find them, you can walk up to them and they'll give you a nice pointer or two about what you need to do next. Mrs. Beakly is here to drop you a few tasty treats just in case you're a little low on energy. The charming pilot, Launchpad, offers a free (good deal, even if you're a millionaire!) ride back to the control room from time to time. Bubba and Gizmo duck are eagerly waiting for your company somewhere along your path as well.

Along with the dangerous enemies that you'll encounter during your trek through planet earth, a mean ass boss such as the abominable snowman, a speedy rat, and maybe even a familiar face or two, awaits your presence at the very end of each level.

Duck Tales plays a good bit like most 2D platformers did back in the day. Instead of simply leaping off the top of all the enemies' heads, Scrooge bounces around on his walking cane. When you're in a jumpy mood and you want to reach a higher place, hopping around on your cane can is a must. It can also be used to defeat almost any adversary, to make it alive through penetrating spikes that are on the ground ahead of you, and to open items such as crates or treasure chests. When a piece of ice, a box, or other item is lying on or close to the ground, you can walk up to it and keep walking as if it wasn't in your way. The tip of Scrooge's tail will begin moving from side to side and he'll get in a golfing stance as a way to get ready to swing his cane like a golf club to hit whatever is in front of him.

Scrooge's sites are set mainly on the rare treasures that he will become the proud owner of upon defeating a boss, but he wouldn't mind collecting a few diamonds on his way. You can swing your cane and hit certain objects such as stumps in the Amazon or the tall R.I.P. markers in Transylvania. If you're lucky, a shiny diamond will pop out waiting to be collected, but if luck isn't on your side, something bad, such as a ghost, could come flying out instead. You can also find diamonds by busting open crates and defeating enemies. But my favorite way of searching for the hundreds of extra riches is by simply jumping around in corners and small places.

You're climbing a suspended rope and you're about halfway up it. On both sides of you is nothing but small ledges of rocks that you could barely fit through. Jump off the side of the rope onto these ledges and a diamond is liable to appear out of thin air. When you see places where you could bounce around on your cane and touch the ceiling, or other secluded places that you wouldn't normally go to, like corners that have nothing in them at all, just swallow your pride and go to them. You'll be surprised how many fortunes will appear out of thin air and fall into your hands. That's one of the things that keeps Duck Tales's replay value soaring high long after you complete the game. Another noteworthy attribute is the fact that there are other hidden treasures apart from the five that you'll get from completing the levels and conquering the bosses.

Graphics and sound effects aren't really strong points of Duck Tales, but they're certainly not what I'd call bad. You'll instantly recognize the nicely drawn characters as soon as you see them, and the well-designed levels and decent backgrounds of all the environments are good to see, even though none of them really stand out as being great. However, the music that you'll hear from start to finish makes playing Duck Tales an even more enjoyable experience. From the fast paced, twangy sound of the Himalayas, to the short, yet catchy tune of the land select screen, to the title screen that features the Duck Tales theme from the cartoon series, the music is, in one word, great. The biggest standout is the track you'll hear while you're on The Moon. It starts out slow and easy with high-pitched instruments before kicking in with a fast paced beat to accompany it. You just gotta hear it. If anyone ever makes a Best Of compilation of NES music, it would be a crime not to include at least one or two tracks from Duck Tales.

Whether you're trying to complete the game with at least a billion points or you're trying to beat it on all three difficulties, Duck Tales is always fun and you won't have any troubles controlling the wealthy duck in any way. For instance, right now, the ground is made of spikes and so is the ceiling. No problem! Making Scrooge jump continuously on his cane while keeping from scaling too high is easy to pull off, as is any other task you'll have to do.

It's even easier to have fun with Duck Tales anytime you play it. Disney has made a lot of fun platformers through the years, such as Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, The Jungle Book, and Aladdin. Of all the ones I've played, I like Duck Tales the best. It pains me to say that this one suffers from one of the same things that all the aforementioned ones do. All of the above are too short and too easy. Duck Tales doesn't suffer from being too easy (if it is, at least it includes a harder difficulty!), but it really is too short. With only four big levels and a short trek after them, there could've been more, to say the least. In my mind, even with the shortness, this is still one of the best games ever made, but if it were say…about twice as long as it is, it would be that to thousands more.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/06/01, Updated 10/29/04


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