DuckTales: Remastered

DuckTales: Remastered is a game about two billionaires squabbling over five million dollars worth of junk. Seriously. That’s what the game is about. After beating the five main stages of the game and collecting ancient treasures, Scrooge McDuck’s rival, Flintheart Glomgold (couldn’t have sounded more evil if his name was Adolf Stalin Jong Pot III), steals them from you and declares himself the richest duck in the world.  Now, since Scrooge McDuck is established as a billionaire, that means Glomgold is likely one too. One whose net-worth is no more than $4,999,999.99 less than Scrooge’s. This is what happens when old people with too much money end up with too much free time. The worst part is during the end credits when, spoiler alert, Scrooge offers to buy the boys an ice cream cone. Each.  And fill it with ice cream this time. And I thought I was frugal. What a dick.

That’s why I don’t get DuckTales. Scrooge McDuck is an utterly unlikable tightwad. A cross between Gordon Gekko and Mr. Burns that practically has an orgasm with every new gem you pick up. He talks down to his loyal employees, calling them countless variations of “stupid” and occasionally making fun of his maid’s girth. He lives in a mansion that has a giant silo filled with money that he swims in. In the game, you even get an achievement for partaking in this selfish, narcissistic pastime. And yet, Scrooge is somehow portrayed as the good guy in this thing. This thing that gamers have been salivating over for months now. Hey wait a second.  Wasn’t picketing rich assholes who treated their employees with disdain and kept all the wealth to themselves a thing not too long ago?

I don't get it.  If some evil corporation wanted to bulldoze the rainforest and make gorillas go extinct, there would be worldwide outrage. But a game where you play as a multi-billionaire duck who caves in the skulls of gorillas to earn an extra couple bucks to throw onto the pile (literally) is acceptable children's entertainment.

I don’t get it. If some evil corporation wanted to bulldoze the rainforest and make gorillas go extinct, there would be worldwide outrage. But a game where you play as a multi-billionaire who caves in the skulls of gorillas to earn an extra couple bucks to throw onto the pile (literally) is acceptable children’s entertainment.

Glomgold is the villain because he has an evil beard, I guess. Never mind that it’s Scrooge that’s running around the world like a grave robber, stealing priceless artifacts from primitives and bludgeoning the local wildlife (many of which are endangered species) to death with his cane. By comparison, Glomgold just stealing a few gold trinkets from Scrooge seems positively tame. Though I don’t understand why he would kidnap Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby. Presumably to murder them. What else is he going to do with them? Hold them for ransom? I think the courts would frown on that. Scrooge is established as being older than Glomgold. I’m sure there’s probably an in-joke about how he’s only five minutes older or something, but whatever. Here’s a thought, Flinty: just wait for the old fuck to die. They’ll split his inheritance and you’ll then be the richest duck in the world. A little patience goes a long ways.

Okay, fine. Game review.

DuckTales: Remastered isn’t an indie, but as someone who barely watched the show (which started airing two years before I was born) and just played the NES game for the first time last month, I feel my perspective might be unique. Going into the NES game, I’ll be honest: I thought it was going to suck. Nostalgia taints everything. I’ve had children of the 80s tell me with a straight face that episodes of He-Man or movies starring Corey Haim hold up. That’s only the case if you watched them as a child and they remind you of a more innocent time before work, bills, relationships, politics, and children of your own turned you into your parents. Meanwhile, with only a few exceptions, games based on licensed properties tend to suck. So you’ll forgive me for thinking that DuckTales would be shit, just like 90% of the NES games you thirty-somethings tell me rock.

I admit, I was wrong. DuckTales on the NES was a fine game. But the remake, DuckTales: Remastered, is even better. First off, it looks fantastic. Animation and character models are beautiful. And that soundtrack? Wow. The old 8-bit chip tune stuff is alright if you’re into that sort of thing. But the symphonic remakes are stunning. Unfortunately, Remastered has a giant-sized hard-on for endless dialog. You can skip it easily by pausing the game and pushing a button, but I actively question why they bothered in the first place. Fans of the series won’t like it because the voices are all wrong. Well, except for the kids. But Scrooge sounds way off, probably on account of the voice actor being 93 years old now. I mean, yea, it’s cool that he’s not dead (Update: he is now). But when you have the entire force of Disney behind you, perhaps tracking down a sound-alike would have been preferable. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if all the recorded quips were just for gameplay actions, but oh no. Slow cut scenes showing Scrooge being verbally abusive to his staff or being a miserable old bastard to his family. DuckTales: Remastered, a remake of a game from the late 80s, is now one of the poster children for modern gaming’s excesses.

The new opening tutorial stage. You will scream "SHUT THE FUCK UP!!" at least four times this level.

The new opening tutorial stage. You will scream “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!” at least four times this level.

I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I like how the levels aren’t simply about finding a boss anymore. Each stage requires a full exploration to track down hidden trinkets that open up the boss. And the bosses aren’t just about jumping on their heads, but rather play out as an event. Okay, sometimes those go a little long, but never to the point of crossing the line. There’s a new opening stage, and the final boss isn’t found by replaying the Transylvania level, but in an entirely new stage. Using the pogo stick move is easier. Some of the cheap jumps have been eliminated. The last boss doesn’t use random patterns where you could presumably go forever without having him open himself up to attack, like in the original. I mean, really, they took a pretty decent NES game and made it better. You retro nerds that won’t stop bitching about “why couldn’t they just give us the NES game?” really need to ask yourselves why you play games to begin with. Skip those cut scenes and Remastered is clearly the better game.

It’s not perfect. I don’t understand why invincible coins only last like four seconds, long enough to kill maybe two enemies at best. I don’t get why the physics for the climbing ropes weren’t improved along with everything else. I’m really not sure why unlocking the music, which is really all anyone would want to unlock, is buried beneath so much other shit you have to get through first. But that’s all nit picky. DuckTales: Remastered is a jolly good time and one of the best remakes I’ve ever played, so much so that I’m just about ready to tell Virtual Console and it’s endlessly re-released moldy oldies to choke on a duck’s dick and die. Improve the original or don’t bother at all. I’m looking at you, Earthbound, you overrated sleeping pill with antiquated play mechanics that’s about as fun to play today as soccer using cannonballs.

DuckTalesDuckTales: Remastered was developed by WayForward Technologies

Seal of Approval Large$14.99 (I paid $11.99 with PS+ discount) will never get that fucking theme song out of her head now in the making of this review.

DuckTales: Remastered is Chick Approved, but not eligible for the Leaderboard (non-indie)

Cloudberry Kingdom

I hated Cloudberry Kingdom.  “Surprise, surprise” longtime readers of mine might say.  Hold on there, people, because I didn’t hate it for the reasons you might think.  Cloudberry Kingdom is clearly a punisher.  I have the same reactions to those that I have to poison ivy.  But, I can occasionally indulge in them and come away happier for the experience.  I can’t really do that here.  Not because the game is difficult, even though it is.  No, I don’t like Cloudberry Kingdom because, and I hate to say this about any game, it has no soul.

The big hyped hook for Cloudberry Kingdom is that the levels are done through procedural generation.  That’s a fancy-schmancy way of saying enemy and platform placement is randomly done by the AI.  Hey, that sounds like it could be cool!  I mean, no one game will be the same from person to person.  Except, having such a setup pretty much guarantees extreme limitations on what can be placed in each stage.  The shallow variety grows old fast, to the point that Cloudberry Kingdom was one of those rare titles I walked away from after several hours just because I couldn’t take the mind-numbing boredom anymore.  It’s one of the dullest XBLA/PSN/eShop games of the year.

Good luck following the action on some of the stages. It's like Satan's version of an eye exam.

Good luck following the action on some of the stages. It’s like Satan’s version of an eye exam.

I’ve always been a stickler for creativity in level design.  The randomly generated nature of Cloudberry assures none of that shit will be happening.  It lacks that human touch.  Often, you’re left with stages that just don’t make any logical sense.  How can you be forty to fifty stages into a game and have the computer randomly spit out a level that gives you a clear straight-shot to the goal with nothing remotely threatening in your immediate path?  Well, that happens quite a lot actually.

On the flip side, sometimes the game will spit out a stage that I would swear is impossible to beat.  I mean, yea, you use the game’s currency to buy a short demo of the AI finishing the stage to prove otherwise.  The first time I did it, I was using the hobby-horse character, which bounces continuously.  In order to reach the first platform of the stage, I had to line up my character on what I’m guessing was the absolute closest pixel to the cliff, with no margin for error.  I burned 22 lives trying to do it and couldn’t even come close to the damned platform.  The control is loose enough that positioning myself to that one pixel where the correct jump could be made (assuming I then angled the jump exactly right too, which might have been another problem) would have been close to impossible by itself.  If the level had been designed by a person, I could complain about the developer being an unreasonable dickhead.  But because this is the level layout the game’s invisible lottery commissioner decided for me, I have to just shrug and chalk it up to a failed experiment.  For some reason, that just makes me angrier.

I can’t completely chalk up the badness of the Cloudberry Kingdom to random levels.  There’s a story mode with stages that were human designed.  I didn’t realize that was the case at first.  Hell, I don’t even know if I totally buy it as I write this.  The truth is, those levels are so lifeless and bland that I honestly can’t tell them apart from the random ones fired at me in arcade mode.   And despite the fact that there are multiple different hero-types that add different abilities or game styles, the levels are so samey and the set pieces repeat so much with the same small handful of obstacles that the novelty of each new hero wears off in exceedingly faster times.  And some of those different play styles just plain fucking suck.  The spaceship is the one I loathed the most.  Often, the game starts you right in front of a barrier that you can’t reasonably expect to dodge the first time you encounter it.  It’s so cheap.

Hope you enjoy spiky balls on chains, fire chains, the lasers shown above. That's the majority of the stuff you face right there. Really, these screens aren't leaving too much out.

Hope you enjoy spiky balls on chains, fire chains, and the lasers shown above. That’s the majority of the stuff you face right there. Really, these screens aren’t leaving too much out.

And no, bringing friends along for the ride doesn’t take the edge off.  Not in the bungee mode, or any other multiplayer mode.  Because nothing Cloudberry Kingdom does feels like a tightly designed game.  I’ve heard people are enjoying the free-mode, where you can select any game type you want and toggle various attributes like gravity, character size, difficulty, etc.  I don’t get it myself.  I’m not one of those people who can enjoy an empty sandbox.  I need a goal, and that mode doesn’t really offer that.  It’s just a time waster.  Better games have those in them.  Cloudberry Kingdom has no joy about it.  I never had a sliver of fun playing it.  Not even for a teeny-tiny second.  It’s boring.  One flavorless stage after another with no incentives to continue except the promise of more blandness to come.  Maybe earn a spot on the game’s leaderboard, which isn’t exactly something to strive for.  It would be like winning an award for the most quiet person at a mute convention.

imageCloudberry Kingdom was developed by Pwnee Studios

$9.99 (I paid $7.99 with PS+ discount) heard this is Garry Kasparov’s least favorite game in the making of this review.

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