Releasing a game as late as 1993 was an odd choice. Think about it: the SNES and Mega Drive had been out for some time and the cartoon it was based on had its last episode in 1990. However, it is lovely to see Capcom giving more love to the grey brick, with even Megaman 6 appearing later the same year as Ducktales 2 came out. Just like with the original Ducktales, I also experienced its sequel on the Game Boy first, and was lucky enough to get a NES cartridge for about 50 euros. I don’t remember much good or bad about it, but at least that I was entertained, so I am curious to see how well it has held up.
I just want to go on a treasure-hunt!
You are Scrooge McDuck and off to get richer than you already are by collecting pieces of a treasure map scattered around known areas. This is the plot and it is simple and nice, right? Then why is there so much dialogue in this game? Certainly some flavor-text is okay, but everyone elaborates on elements about the areas that I would have known if they had just let me explore. For example, Launchpad tells me about each area before visiting them, without providing any interesting lore or useful hints.
They even tried at times to be mystical with some parts, such as when Louie told me an area was inaccessible right before a lightning-bolt opened the path. Trying to be cinematic when it all amounts to dialogue stating the obvious is just a pace-breaker. Your nephews are still scattered around in each area providing hints, but these range from good secrets the levels hold to obvious ways of dealing with the bosses. There are also some off issues, such as when Launchpad and Gyro call Scrooge uncle, despite not being related to him. It is not necessarily bad, but these small gripes combined with the odd attempt of providing a story without letting the visuals tell it themselves is odd, especially for a simple treasure-hunt game made for children. A skip-button would have been appreciated. At the very least, the characters from the show are charming and well represented, even if they do not serve any purpose.
Story Score: 6/10
Keeping to the original, but (unfortunately) adding more
Similar to the last game, you will have 5 areas to explore. All are semi-linear with treasures to find and one boss each you will have to defeat to end the stage. Throughout the areas, your cane will be your best friend once again, as it is used to fling boulders and other objects as projectiles, and as a pogostick to jump on hard surfaces, such as enemies and spikes. Both are well utilized in the game, but the cane has also gotten two upgrades. One is for hanging on hooks, which is a good idea and used well for creative platforming. However, you can also use it this time to drag barrels or switches, and these segments are just uninteresting, context sensitive moments, and while not time consuming, feel like an odd concept to add inn.
The stages are more nonlinear than last time and thanks to the ability to upgrade your cane. By finding Gyro in certain stages, you can upgrade the strength of the cane’s swing, pogo and pulling, which is used for exploring more hidden areas. This is a design-choice I am not a fan of, as it feels like a way of padding out the game, especially since you will have to beat the game in one go due to the lack of a save-feature. Revisiting old stages for the possibility of more treasures is not engaging when you can’t take a break or plan with a map for example.
That being said, the stages are great fun to traverse through. They don’t have many memorable parts to them due to focusing more on the context sensitive abilities Scrooge has acquired and having fewer gimmicks utilized for platforming, but there are still some great concepts such as intense minecart parts, using the hook for activating other platforms to jump on, and enemies that vary in patterns and behavior. The secret treasures are also fun to find thankfully, despite the unfortunate upgrading-requirements you might need.
After each stage, you will be presented with an item-store where you can purchase upgrades for your health, a safe, or health-pickups to use for later. I only found the upgrades for health useful, and I hate the concept of the safe. Whenever you die, despite having multiple lives left, you will lose all of your earned cash unless you buy a safe. This is a chore, as you will need the money for both purchasing upgrades for health and for acquiring the better ending. This is an unnecessary way of making the game harder when there are instant death pits.
The bosses are easy, but quite creative and enjoyable to fight against. Some will have you swing a block onto them to make their weak-spot appear, while another hides in the sand. While you will have to bounce on their heads to get a move-on and the difficulty-spike is uneven, none felt unfinished. Just easy, with predictable patterns. After the final boss was defeated, I could say that all 5 levels were fun to play through, but not very unique. Despite the general lack in quality and adding more content that unfortunately often was for the worse, the platforming is still fun and certainly something to revisit the game for. Ducktales 2 did not overstay its welcome and was enjoyable, despite being at times somewhat of a pace breaker.
Gameplay Score: 7.5/10
Looks over audio
The visuals have gotten a good upgrade, with environments sprawling with animations and more details in the backgrounds, such as moving waterfalls at the Niagara, or the flaming torches in the Scottish castle. Each area is bright and colorful, with enemies fitting to their respective locations. The pirate ships have pirates and crabs, while the island Mu has Easter-Island heads and also crabs. The variety of enemies could have been slightly expanded upon, but they complement the areas you visit acceptably. Both the inhabitants and Scrooge have gotten more animations to them, and it is quite impressive on a technical level.
The great cartoon artstyle also shines bright through the capabilities the NES could offer. Some areas can feel quite similar since 3 of them are set near the ocean, but they have designs to them that at least showcases differences between them. The soundtrack on the other hand, while still pleasant with some catchy tracks, is rather underwhelming. Most have basic and relaxed tones to them with little variations to their melodies, making them nice, but forgettable. Only one track really got stuck in my head, and that was of course the Ducktales-theme.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Scrooge is rich enough
Finding the hidden treasures as well as the map-pieces for the best ending could have been a fun way of expanding the replay value. They are well hidden for the most part, as you must look at clues in the environments and solve fun puzzles for acquiring them, but due to how much longer the game is padded out, it can be a bit of a drag to search out for everything in this game. It was at the very least fun to try to search out all of the treasures, until the upgrades and the concept of losing all the money without a safe became noticeable.
Extra Score: 6.5/10
Ducktales 2 was a fun time, but also showcased how providing more elements to a game can take away the enjoyment as well. Upgraded visuals and the ability to hang on hooks were great additions, but the shop, the dragging-mechanic for the cane, the dumb idea behind the safe, the amount of unnecessary dialogue, and a rather lackluster soundtrack made the game more forgettable. A decent follow-up, but the team should have focused more on why the original was so fun and rather iron out the few shortcomings. Though this installment is definitely worth a playthrough, it should not be chosen over the first.