Monday, January 17, 2011

DuckTales: The Quest for Gold

I can’t properly summarize DuckTales on this blog for people who’ve never seen it. If that’s you, buy the DVDs and come back when you’ve enriched your life after watching a few episodes. For the rest of us, when you think “DuckTales videogame” chances are you think of the one on the NES where Scrooge is bopping around five levels using his cane as a pogo stick. While there's no canes as pogo sticks in this game, there's an actual reason to be rounding up all those treasures.

Flintheart Glomgold, Scrooge’s number one rival, has convinced Dime magazine to have a contest to see who should be Duck of the Year. Whoever raises the most money in a month will be the winner.

Now, there are a couple of ways to go about getting the money, like diving into Scrooge’s money bin to look for rare coins or investing in stocks. Or you could do what you’re supposed to do and get your feathery butt out of the office to go treasure hunting.

There are a couple different modes of gameplay, the first of which being the flying minigame required to get from place to place. You have to watch out for clouds that spin you around, balloons that drop cartoonishly heavy objects on you, power lines that slingshot you back and lightning bolts that guarantee you’ll crash. And if you crash, you’ll lose valuable time while Glomgold’s free to snatch treasures before you can. Unless you find the Bombastium that Gyro can use to make a teleporter, letting you skip this sequence while opening up the risk of ending up somewhere you didn't intend.

The easiest of the minigames is nature photography, where you play as Webigail taking pictures of exotic animals like pink elephants or tigers with flowers instead of stripes. You have to be careful not to take pictures of regular animals or run out of time before you run out of film, because unlike the other areas you only get one try at these. Whereas if you fail at any other type of location, you get to try again while only losing a day of game time.

Then there’s mountain climbing, which involves watching out for boulders, bears, and Beanie Beagle as you climb ledges, picking up diamonds for a little spare cash but trying to get to the big money at the top. You’ve even got three “lives” in the form of Huey, Dewey and Louie in case one goes falling off a precipice. I found the experience of playing these platform levels with a keyboard a little twitchy, and it to be a tad too easy to accidentally walk off a cliff when I was trying to walk to the edge and turn around to jump to a higher ledge. Or not just turn around but take a step past the area where I can jump to that higher ledge.

There’s cave exploring which is a bit on the boring side. You’re going around, trying to avoid entering rooms with pits and constantly avoiding an oddly human mummy while trying to find the treasure chest. There are pools of slime that are (somehow) supposed to be a clue that a pit is in a nearby room, but they tend to be chained together, and sometimes contain pits themselves, so they’re really not that much help in locating pits. Or maybe I was just doing it wrong.

My least favorite mode was always the jungle exploring one. You can make your way to the treasure through tree branches, but it’s hard to get the hang of jumping from one tree to the next when playing with a keyboard. You can ride hippos like boats along the bottom of the screen, but they can sink into the water at any time and you’re leaving yourself wide open if a bird happens to fly by and knock you off because you could well have no handy branches to escape onto. And despite using the same sprites as the mountain levels, the boys don’t actually have grappling hooks.

Gameplay aside, the game designers obviously did their homework when coming up with locations, companies to invest in, and treasures to find, as quite a few were featured in episodes of the cartoon. Like the crystal donut from “Superdoo,” the Duck a la Orange from “Duckman of Aquatraz,” and the swamp from “Sweet Duck of Youth.” And before every treasure hunting experience, Huey, Dewey and Louie break out the all-knowing Junior Woodchuck Guidebook for a hint on the upcoming sequence.

While it’s by no means a deep game, for its time Quest For Gold offers a surprising number of options when it comes to modes of play. While they can get repetitive after a while, for fans of the show it can be fun amassing treasures from their favorite episodes and discovering new ones the writers never included. Not to mention seeing your pile of treasure dwarf Flintheart’s and prove Scrooge got to be the world’s richest duck for a reason.

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