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SummaryOne of the weirdest sidescrollers I have ever seen
The GoodI should probably mention that this is a tie-in product, based on the similarly named TV show that aired somewhere in the 80's and has been re-released countless times since. It's probably worth checking out just because it's the only game based on a show/movie that's actually pretty good. I never watched the show myself though, I caught my little sister watching it a few days ago, but I did read the Donald Duck comics back when I was younger and I really enjoyed seeing some of the characters back (like that Witch).
The levels were really well designed with alternate routes leading to the same locations and lots of interesting secrets to find. At one point I noticed that part of the ceiling behind a support character was gone, so I talked with him and then walked through him, to my surprise the ceiling was actually gone and you could jump up there and walk to a secret room (Super Mario Bros. style). The non-linear nature of the game makes it a very welcome addition to my collection because most other sidescrollers are rather linear.
The levels have enough variation to keep you interested, the stage at the top of the list is in the Amazon and it's filled with all kinds of dangerous animals and native-Americans, but the stage after that is in Transylvania and looks a lot like Castlevania. There are also quite a lot of interesting events in the stages, such as riding around in mine-carts and hanging onto a flying helicopter in order to get over a gap. Each level also has it's own final boss which guards the treasure and these are interesting as well, although each of them can be defeated by jumping on them with the stick.
The most efficient way to get around is by jumping on your cane which looks absolutely retarded. The idea is that you jump and then press down + B which makes Scrooge jump around on his cane. Not only is this faster, but you can also reach high places by using this tactic and you can kill enemies that walk underneath you. I remember when a friend came over and we started playing this game, the look on his face when he saw me bouncing around the map was priceless.
The music is pretty damn good and very memorable, it's not overly cheerful like in Super Mario Bros., but at the same time not too dark and fast like in Castlevania. Just like in the stages, it comes with a lot of variety. To be honest, the music is the only reason that I even bough this game. I saw it appear on some top 10 list a while ago and the channel belonged to a pretty big website, so when they talked about it an quoted somebody from their forums I became intrigued.
The BadThe controls are absolutely the biggest problem in this game, the earlier mentioned jumping around on the cane only works if you lad precisely on land, a few pixels too far and you are going to stop and get hit by one of the enemies. There is also another attack which you pull off by repeatedly tapping the B-button, I can't for the love of god imagine why you couldn't just tap it once. This attack is also needed very early on to hit blocks with your cane (some blocks can't be destroyed by jumping on them) and since I don't have the manual that proved to be much harder to figure out then it should have been.
The game is really big on putting you in situations where you can't dodge an enemy. The earlier mentioned helicopter flight ends with a collision involving your elderly face and a bee and I tried everything to jump off before the bee would hit me, but there is no way you are going to dodge that. There was also one time when I died and the game spawned me next to an enemy. Of course there are also the instant death pits which I despise in every single game they are in.
The game has a life system and a timer, both of which are terrible gameplay ideas and should never have been used in videogames. The lives system is the one that confuses me the most, why would you want to use something like that? It was used to make sure that little children would keep coming back to arcade machines if they ever wanted to finish a game, surely the home console concept was intended to make sure that even normal people can finish a game and not just the ones who have insanely rich parents.
The fact that you can go game-over is also worsened by the fact that some levels require you to find items in other levels, take for example a door in Africa that can only be unlocked by using a key found in Transylvania. Not only do these situations make no sense, but they also suck when you die and have to get those items again before you can play another stage. It also makes it pretty useless to allow the player to choose the order in which they want to play the levels, seeing as it still forces them to follow a certain pattern.
The Bottom LineDuck Tales is one of the most popular games on the NES and I can see why, it's a non-linear sidescroller based on a very good Disney show that's very unique in it's design. There are a lot of sidescrollers on the NES and even more on the Super Nintendo, but you won't find a single one that is like Duck Tales (not counter Duck Tales 2). If you are a collector, then you are simply obligated to have this NES game in your collection because you won't find any other game that can possibly fill it's place.
Duck Tales recently aired on television again, but I am not sure if that was just a short nostalgia hour or if they are starting the show again. One way or another, kids will probably need a little adult help when playing this tie-in, but they will almost certainly be entertained by it. Adults who don't have never watched the show are still going to have a very good and unique NES game, but they are going to miss out on the best experience, seeing as they don't know the characters.