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Duck Tales 2 (NES) artwork

Duck Tales 2 (NES) review

"A lot of the challenge this time around comes from bottomless pits. The first game generally placed you in a relatively safe environment where you would typically die only if you ventured too far off the beaten path in search of treasure, or if you let enemies knock you around a bit too much. There were occasional hazards that spelled instant death, certainly, but levels were designed in a manner that welcomed newcomers."

They say life is like a hurricane, deep in Duckberg. Race cars. Lasers. Airplanes. From my understanding, it’s a duck blur. That sort of thing seems like it would make for a good video game, doesn’t it? The folks at Capcom thought so, and the result of that belief and some capable design was one of the finest bits of 8-bit gaming that the world has ever seen. Just about everyone who plays Ducktales on NES seems to love it, and rightly so. What those people might not realize, though, is that Capcom also developed and released a sequel.

When you spend some time with Ducktales 2, it’s easy to see why the game hasn’t attracted the loyal following that its predecessor did, despite its generally high quality. On the face of things, the second game is just a repeat of the first one, only with different levels. However, there are a number of changes that make for a less accessible and slightly inferior outing.

One of the biggest changes is that you can now power up Scrooge’s cane. To do so, you’ll need to find Gyro in three of the five main stages. He’s usually hidden just slightly off the beaten path and Scrooge’s nephews will give clues that help you to find him, but you do have to search a bit. When you find Gyro, he’ll give you the power to break and pull certain blocks, which grants you access to special rooms in the stages. This means that if you travel to stages in a certain order, you will need to revisit them later once you possess additional abilities (if you want to explore them in their entirety, that is).

Like the first game did, DuckTales 2 has a selectable difficulty setting. The difficulty selector serves the same purpose as it did before, but the game is more difficult no matter how you approach it. Even on the “Easy” setting, you may be surprised by how often you lose all your lives and find yourself returning to the title screen. If you didn’t purchase a Continue Globe item with some of your growing fortune (the in-game shop is actually another change compared to what you may remember from the previous title), that means you’ll have to start fresh. There aren’t very many stages to complete, but younger gamers and the easily frustrated might be exasperated, especially if they’re familiar with the easier first game.

A lot of the challenge this time around comes from bottomless pits. The first game generally placed you in a relatively safe environment where you would typically die only if you ventured too far off the beaten path in search of treasure, or if you let enemies knock you around a bit too much. There were occasional hazards that spelled instant death, certainly, but levels were designed in a manner that welcomed newcomers. In DuckTales 2, there are quite a few more lethal hazards, whether you’re riding a raft platform and forget to duck a low-hanging ledge, or you’re leaping along a series of floating logs at Niagra Falls while dodging birds. Nothing is unfair, but actual skill is persistently a prerequisite in a way that it wasn’t the last time around.

Boss battles are more challenging, as well. The boss of the Mu Ruins in particular requires you to stop and think if you want to beat him. He appears to be impervious to your attacks, but occasionally he punches the ground and causes rubble to fall from the ceiling. You have to use that to your advantage while you avoid falling victim to it (and to flying fists). There are some other encounters that are similarly interesting, meaning that in the one regard, DuckTales 2 manages to top its predecessor.

Unfortunately, the locations you get to visit this time don’t feel nearly as exotic. Egypt, Mu, Niagra Falls, Scotland and Bermuda all resemble one another a bit too closely. They mostly consist of dank passages, with very little time spent outside. The first DuckTales game featured locations that were instantly distinguishable from one another, but that’s not the case here.

Perhaps in an effort to make up for the less interesting visual design, the developers focused on adding mystery to each location. Of course there are the usual trick walls that by now you might expect, but there also are a few puzzles placed throughout the game. As you hunt for the main treasure in each of the five locations, you also can search for four map pieces (a fifth must be purchased from the shop). The pieces of the map are hidden extremely well. In one case, for instance, you must look at carvings on a wall in one room and then apply the knowledge gained there in a subsequent room to drain a passage so that you can descend and find the map piece waiting in a treasure chest that otherwise would have been waterlogged and inaccessible. Only by solving that puzzle and others like it can you hope to discover every map piece and access the bonus stage where you can find the lost treasure of McDuck.

Such developments make DuckTales 2 an interesting game, certainly, but the lack of accessibility compared to the first title definitely does hurt. More vibrant and varied visuals would have gone a long way, even with the boosted difficulty, and it’s also hard not to feel let down by the soundtrack. The first game boasted some of the most memorable selections 8-bit gaming had to offer. The sequel doesn’t do badly (it still offers some of the best on the system, arguably), but it definitely fails to recapture the magic.

Taken as a whole, DuckTales 2 is a great game. It’s one of the best platformers on the system, even, but it does fall short of the bar that its predecessor so memorably set. If you’ve played the first game to death and you’re looking for a good follow-up, DuckTales 2 is well worth your time and should keep you entertained for several very enjoyable hours. If you’re just now looking to expose yourself to the series and the magic it has to offer, though, definitely start with the first game. It may offer a simpler and more limited experience, but it’s more memorable and also much less rare.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (August 05, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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