It's not the most popular game from the turn of the 1990's, but it's fondly remembered by those of us who grew up with it. Disney, in general, have always been a big thing, and DuckTales was no exception back then, although the TV show only lasted for 3 seasons. It was rare to have a good game to be based on our favourite cartoon characters, so when DuckTales was released, it was huge for a while. Now that the remastered version of the NES game has been recently released, I thought it might be nice to have a look at the other DuckTales game, that most of us who didn't have a Nintendo back then, know better.
While this review was written, as small a number as 29 of Lemon64 members have voted it 7.3, and Lemon Amiga has a rating of 7.41 from a total of 71 votes. Abandonia users rate the PC version 3.1 out of 5, while the editor has rated it 4.0. Atarimania has a rating of 7.0 from only one voter, but then the game is a bit harder to find for the ST. Wikipedia says a version for Apple ][ was also released, but I haven't been able to find one, so it's left off from here.
DESCRIPTION & REVIEW
Anyone who lived in the early 1990's, couldn't escape from DuckTales. It was everywhere in some form. Of course, Disney has been all around since the turn of the 20th Century, so a more adventurous series to focus on Donald Duck's rich uncle was an idiot-proof hit idea.
Most of the gaming world knows of the DuckTales games on Nintendo consoles, but us computing folks had a different kind of experience in the world of DuckTales. While the NES game and its sequel were rather straightforward platformers, The Quest For Gold was a very different experience altogether: you would take a gamble at finding the lucky coin in your money bin, you would take a gamble with the stock markets, and then you could go around the world, finding treasure chests in cave labyrinths, swampy platforming stages and mountain ledges where you would have to climb, and then you could go shooting photos of rare and endangered animals. While the target audience were children and early teenagers in both occasions, Nintendo hit the spot better. Perhaps because most people's attention span at that age isn't usually considered long enough.
The game starts with your arch enemy Flintheart Glomgold walking in your (Scrooge's) office, challenging him to a contest to collect treasure around the world for a month, and see who wins. The whole game is controlled by joystick. You have three difficulty levels, and a bunch of strategies to go by. Whenever you feel you've gathered enough treasure, you can go to the Isle of Macaroon to store them, and compare your collected treasure to Flintheart's. After the month is over, your treasures will be measured one last time. Whichever wins, will be declared Duck of the Year.
DuckTales: The Quest For Gold was the game I played first, and I played it a lot. I still do occasionally, which can't be said about the NES games, because they get repetitive too quickly, and I've only bothered to complete each of them twice. I might even bet that so is the case with most of the others, who have played The Quest For Gold first.
Just for the heck of it, I decided to put in a weird comparison section here, which will not affect the final results. It's a comparison on the character names, what they are called originally in English, what they are called in Finnish, and how they would sort of translate back to English from their Finnish versions. It's silly and useless, but here we go.
The good guys in DuckTales, at least present in this game:
Scrooge McDuck - Roope Ankka - etymologically translated back: Robert Duck
Huey - Hupu
Dewey - Tupu
Louie - Lupu
Webbigail "Webby" Vanderquack - Tepa - semi-phonetically translated back: Debbie Duck
Launchpad McQuack - Heimo Huima - literally translated back: Tribe Wild
Duckworth - Ankenström - sort of translated back: Duckenstrom
Gyro Gearloose - Pelle Peloton - literally translated back: Clown Fearless
The baddies, also featured in this game:
Flintheart Glomgold - Kulta-Into Pii - sort of literally translated back: Gold-Gush Pi or Silicon
The Beagle Boys - Karhukopla - literally translated back: The Bear Gang
Magica DeSpell - Milla Magia - phonetically translated back: Millie Magic
Other Duckburgians not featured in this game:
Donald Duck - Aku Ankka - etymologically translated back: August Duck
Mickey Mouse - Mikki Hiiri - surprise: Mickey Mouse
Goofy Goof/Dippy Dawg - Hessu Hopo - phonetically translated back: Herbie Hope or Hobo
Pluto - Pluto.
And here's an incomplete comparison of some characters that appear in the game. I couldn't get Gyro Gearloose appear on the C64 and PC, but you'll get the idea.
Since the game was only released in disk format, and because of the massive amount of loading, we'll only scratch the surface with the loading times.
C64 - Just to get to the intro screen, it takes 1 minute and 45 seconds to load. It'll take another minute and a few seconds to start the game. Regardless of whether you play a cracked version or an original one, you will die from boredom before you get to the first actual action scene. Since a cracked version only had two disk sides (nice squeezing!), I decided to use that one to review the game. Even that was painfully slow, so I decided to use the emulator's speed features to get anywhere in the game.
AMIGA - About 30 seconds from boot, about 30-40 seconds from difficulty selection to office. Of course, the loading times differ in other models of Amiga, and I've taken the times from Amiga 600HD with 1 MB of RAM. Also, the original disks can be HD-installed, so it'll take some time off, but an Amiga with a hard drive wasn't all that common back then, nor is it now.
ATARI ST - About 50 seconds from boot to language selection, and about a minute or so until the intro starts. The loading times, in general, are closer to what they are on the C64, which are horrible, but apparently, you only have one disk. At least in the version I was able to find from the net. Because of the loading times, it somehow gets even more boring than on the C64 version, because you have nothing to do in between.
PC - Install it to HD and you have no mentionable loading times.
So, here goes:
3. C64 / ATARI ST
I have chosen to share the last place between C64 and ST, because they both suck equally in a different way. While the Atari version loads for eternity, you don't have to change disks all the time, since you only have one of them. C64 doesn't load quite as much, but you have 4 disk sides in the original version, so you're still in deep trouble, unless you've got a squeezed crack version of it.
--UPDATE! 22nd of September, 2014--
Earlier this year, a stupendously rare cartridge version for the Commodore 64 surfaced on the Lemon64 forum, and we have been waiting for a working .crt dump ever since. Today, a user by the name of SAM55 posted a somewhat successfully compiled .crt file for us to enjoy at the Lemon64 forum, and although it still crashes in some places, the game is now much more enjoyable due to having virtually no loading times whatsoever. Indeed, it almost beats the PC version in speed. So, I will update the rest of the entry accordingly.
This is the one I've played the most, so it's the most familiar to me. Graphics play a big part in this game, specifically the animation part of it, so you have to have some processing power in your chosen machine to play this game at a comfortable speed.
The Amiga version has two disks, and the loading times aren't too bad, so it's rather comfortable. Of course, installing it on a hard drive makes it all the better, but not all Amigas have it, so...
You begin by choosing a difficulty level, which mostly just increases the amount of enemies in flight
stages and mountain climbing stages, but also makes your competitor harder to beat.
I usually start the game by taking a dip into the money bin. It's really 70% precision, 30% luck thing to find the lucky coin, so it's pretty easy to get it the first time when you know what you're doing. The jump will have to be performed with full speed when the platform is at the high point, and usually, waggling the joystick in a round motion helps. I'm not sure if this is the correct way to perform the jump, but that's the way I get the wanted result most of the time.
Once you've gotten the lucky coin, you already have $1000, so you might as well head for the investments computer. I've learned that there's a certain stock (Lake Doughbegone) that will always make you some nice profit, but I'm not sure if it works on all difficulty levels, because I've only recently found out about it, and didn't have the energy to thoroughly test the theory. Note that the trick only works on Amiga.
Getting around the world is easy enough with the biplane. It flies around as logically as you would need it to - acceleration looks natural enough, and while cartoony in pretty much every sense, the plane handles just well enough for you to be able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. It's silly, but fun.
Let's start the action parts with the one I have grown to love the most: cave exploration. It's a surprisingly scary experience, with all the scary sound effects in different parts of the labyrinth, sudden traps, dead ends and the mummy that follows your every step in the darkness. You have a map, which is a bit difficult to read because of the high resolution, but you should be able to see every passageway and dead end, and of course the rooms with green slime that indicate that the next room could be a trap. You will learn to count the probabilities for these occurences by the placings of the green rooms. The yellow room in the map is the one with the big treasure, and the two other coloured bits are you and the mummy. The treasures in the cave levels are usually the biggest, so they're definitely worth the time and trouble.
Mountain climbing comes a very close second to me. It's a hook rope fueled platformer, where you have to get to the big treasure chest at the top, avoiding enemies and obstacles such as the Beagle Boys, Magica DeSpell, goats, bears in caves and falling boulders. The Amiga version plays the nicest, since you have, by default, the exact amount of time you need to time your every move, and learn the mountains by heart before your every nephew is down. Your movement goes sort of tile-by-tile, so it's easy to count your steps. The hook rope handles kind of weird, going along with the edges of the screen, but it actually helps your progress. It's not exactly realistic, but then again you're playing with a duck.
Taking photos of weird endangered animals gets you some easy money, a photo being worth $500 if it has a rare one, and $50 for a non-endangered animal. It should be a relatively unstressful event, but you have a finite amount of time to fill your roll, and the animals appear with a pace that keeps your finger very alert on the trigger. Too bad the Amiga version feels a bit unresponsive here, when it really should have a good whack-a-mole feel to it.
Jungle survival sections are the most platformey of all in the game. Weirdly enough, it's not exactly the most comfortable, since it really has a lot to do with the quality of graphics. Amiga gets the top points here, although you're still pretty ducked when the screen scrolls forwards in mid-vine and a bird flies at you or a monkey aims a coconut at your head. Other dangers you will encounter are the black panthers, which you must walk by when they're snoozing, and snakes which will strangle you if you walk below them. The bad scrolling is really what kills this part, but with good luck, you'll be able to handle them quite nicely.
You'll be able to find some technology that will allow Gyro Gearloose to build you a matter transfer machine, so you can travel the world with no time consumed. That's not quite as fun as letting Launchpad fly his biplane, though.
The PC version is the most fluent one here. Depending on your machine, of course, which nowadays should be WAY too powerful for this game, you'll experience no loading times or lag in gameplay. And that's really the trouble here: you have to have a computer that's exactly right for this game, which basically means some speed adjustment in DOSbox. Regardless of it, it's the least stressful to play.
Mostly, it plays exactly like the Amiga version, so you're in good hands. Except for two or three things.
If you don't have a joystick, which you usually don't when using a PC, you're stuck with keyboard, which in itself shouldn't be much of a problem, when you're used to playing with a keyboard. But when you're in the cave exploration bits, you'll notice that the regular 4-way cursor only gives you wrong directions when combining two buttons, so you'll have to use the numpad buttons (7, 9, 1 and 3).
Then, if your computer is a bit too powerful (or DOSbox's speed is set too high), you're going to have an infernal time trying to get through the mountain climbing levels, because everything acts so fast you won't be able to maneuver your duck.
Another minor thing you could complain about is with the stock market, but it's really a moot point, since it actually plays like it's supposed to.
What's actually a bit better in the PC version is the photography section. Webbigail controls admirably well here, and the pacing is just right for it to be considered a reaction test, which it's supposed to be, really.
I haven't tried this version with a joystick, but if it's based on the numpad controls, it should be quite nice. Unless you only have an analog joystick.
The big differences in the Atari version start by your ability to use mouse as another controller. It doesn't really help the horrible loading times, but it sure makes navigating the map a bit easier.
The big problem in the Atari version is that the joystick controls are utterly horrible. Particularly, Launchpad's biplane is nearly impossible to fly, so you're in deep trouble already at the go. If you're not the most familiar with this version of the game, you'll be ending up losing hundreds of dollars in plane repairs and lost treasure. With a lot of practice, though, you'll be able to cope with it, but you'll still curse your tongue out when the plane crashes into anything and bumps into a completely unexpected direction and eventually, you're out.
The photoshoot section is as unresponsive as in the Amiga version, if not more so. To balance this problem, they've put two rare species to appear in same areas so you can get some easier money there.
Jungle bits on the Atari act a bit as if it was a Spectrum game - the scrolling happens only after you've cleared one screen, so it's a flick screen platformer in a way. Your duck seems to have his own mind as to whether he jumps down from a platform when changing screens or not, and jumping has no clear sense of direction at any point. Also, it's the only version that lets you walk by pixel precision. Overall, it's really a pain in the rear feathers.
When I got to try out the cave section, I was losing my hope of the Atari version ever having some sense of dignity with this game. Well, the cave bits are played with the mouse cursor, which is really a matter of opinion, but it really isn't all that nice to be called great, especially when your ducks change the screen so slowly, you'll be able to make some coffee in the meantime. Well, maybe not that slowly, but it's still painful.
Last, I got to the mountain climbing bit, which, surprisingly, was very playable. Not that I could get too far in it, because the game somehow crashed in the middle of it, but it seemed pretty good.
Apart from the mountain bits, I can safely say, this is easily the most unplayable version around.
NOTE: all the 22/09/2014 updates are written in italics.
The original boxed release had two floppy disks, with both sides of both disks in use. The hassle that caused forced me to find a cracked version to play instead, not that it helped too much.
I played only on the easy setting, because the loading times were infernal, so I couldn't bother for another round. Also, having another disk drive connected didn't help at all, I still had to change disk side when requested.
The differences begin at the beginning. You'll get no real intro, and instead you're presented with Uncle Scrooge sitting in his office, and Glomgold standing across from him, making you choose the difficulty level, which on the other versions happens after the intro, presented by your butler. On the rare cartridge version, you do get the intro before you are presented with the difficulty options.
The controls feel very different from the other versions. Sometimes they're a bit more responsive, but others, you can't tell whether your controlling has to do anything with what's happening on screen.
During the flight scenes, Launchpad's biplane is somewhat easier to handle, but only because it doesn't really turn as fast. The biplane here seems to have a more sensitive speed handling - it speeds up AND slows down way more quickly than on the other versions. At least the clouds and obstacles don't seem to have as drastic an effect as elsewhere. The biggest problem is the length of these stages, which can become a burden, since the only thing you can do is to dodge stuff. The hidden bonus buildings are gone. The cartridge version seems to have a lot more obstacles, though.
In the photoshoot levels, it seems that the occurences of rare species are more seldom than on the other versions, and the animals appear for a longer time and thus, your timer at least feels to go more quickly, if it truly doesn't. I noticed, while playing the cartridge version, that the game has a bug of sorts that allow you to sometimes score full $500 for taking pictures of regular animals, as if they were supposed to come out as the special rare species, but instead due to some coding error, the game randomized it to come out looking like a normal zoo animal.
The jungle levels are horrible. You really have to focus to see where you are going and sometimes, the duck in your charge will not even land on a clear platform, just falls right through. So, in other words, the game has some deadly bugs, but with LOTS of practice, you'll be able to handle it.
Cave exploration is not radically different, but the mummy seems to be a bit quicker, which makes you plan your route very carefully. Which is a bit of a bummer, since you have to get to know the maps really well, and it takes a lot of time, not only because the loading times suck. The map, at least, is a bit easier to read than on the 16-bits, because the graphics are worse and so they had to make some sacrifices in detail. Not a bad choice, since everything else is so much more difficult.
Even the tiniest bit of actual controllable playing, in the money bin diving section, has a difference: Scrooge's jump results are more based on luck than controlling the jump.
Gambling with the stocks is pretty much exactly as in the other versions, but it's a heck of a lot slower, so use it only if you REALLY know what you're doing, and want to have the whole experience. Again, the cartridge version works much quicker here.
Two more things: there's only 30 locations, counting your office and Isle of Macaroon, compared to the 37 in the other versions. Also, the treasures are of smaller value here, so I guess they made an economy version of the game. I mean really, while it's certainly the same game, it feels more like a prototype of the 16-bits. Maybe it was, I don't know.
1. PC (depending on the setup)
It's really about how close to the original Disney art you can get the graphics to look like, most of all. Second, it's about getting the stuff on the screen look clear and manouverable. So, in a game based on a very graphical concept, needs to be accurate in presentation.
Thus, it's not very big surprise that the 16-bits with the best graphical capabilities take the lead here. I'll just throw the comparison pictures here to let you see the differences, and leave my usually wordy commentary to a minimum this time. All the pictures are compiled in left to right order as: C64, PC, ST, Amiga.
From the word go, you'll see how superior the Amiga version is compared to the others, regarding graphics. The colour scheme is not only closer to nature, but closer to the comics as well. Strangely, the Atari and PC versions look peculiarly alike. C64 has the least resolution and the least colours, so naturally it's not very pretty compared to the others, but being the only 8-bit version, it's understandable.
Stepping into Scrooge's office, we see more clearly that the PC version was downgraded from the Amiga, and the ST was somehow worked to fit in between the two. The C64 version doesn't look too bad, all things considered. In detail, it's very different, but pretty enough to be considered decorated.
Taking a dip in the money bin, the differences are becoming very clear indeed. Somehow, the C64 graphicians are the only ones to have noticed to copy the diagonal shade from the Amiga version. Or maybe it was copied to the Amiga from the C64, if the 8-bit version was indeed the prototype?
Okay, this doesn't really have much to do with graphics, but even looking at your investments, you'll see some differences in details, specifically around the edges. Somehow, for the C64, this still seems too much, since browsing through the stocks is amazingly slow.
Neither does the map have much to do with the importance of graphics, but it is nicer to look at if it's clearer, more detailed and more colourful. Every version works as well, but naturally, the Amiga version looks the best.
The flight stages have no real sense of detail as such, and so they all scroll very nicely. The only critical thing here is the way the plane handles, which has been explained earlier.
This is easily the best example of C64's inferiority in graphics, but it's also an interesting example of how the quality of graphics sometimes, even in 2D games, affect the gameplay. But still, the Atari version beats the C64 in the worst playability here. Amiga, on the other hand, has the most jungle on screen, and plays as well as the PC version.
The ST version somehow looks the most like what I imagine would look like in a jungle. It's darker than on the other versions, which is nice and atmospheric, and also makes spotting the animals easier. The C64 version would otherwise be surprisingly good, but the animals are too small, and thus more difficult to notice.
This comparison of one screen per platform doesn't really give enough information, but I'll tell you what's what. The C64 has a very different presentation from the rest, and we can see a bit of that from the picture above - specifically, Scrooge is alone. The map is somehow a bit easier to navigate, and even a bit faster to walk around. When a cave is coloured different, it really is coloured in a different shade than in the other versions. However, it's debatable whether it's a good or a bad thing, because I can't imagine a pot of gold or green slime gleaming so many meters off in a dark place. On the other versions, the green slime makes the screen somehow flicker with a green shade, and you can only see the effect of the treasure chest in the room it's located in. And of course, you have your nephews and niece along, which makes your duckventures all the more ducky.
The C64 version looks surprisingly good, due to the amount of colours needed on screen. Your duck is drawn in hi-res, and everything else is lo-res. Everything looks recognizable, so it's not bad at all. The ST version looks a bit blue, I'm not sure why. Could be the graphics editor. Otherwise, it's all good and samey, but I prefer the Amiga version, simply because it's not as grey as the others.
These are always fun, because they're different every time for a good while. Though I like the font on the ST version, the picture isn't animated as it is in the other versions. The Amiga version even has a nice little detail of Scrooge's sausage catching fire.
I only got to the good ending twice, on the PC and on the Amiga. On the ST and the C64 I lost, but
only got the ending pictures on the ST (probably due to a bad crack on the C64), so this time I'll only give you the two different endings to compare on two of the best looking platforms.
You really have to play it yourself to get a clear idea of how the graphics affect the gameplay, because the screenshots are so useless in a game like this. However, it's a clear order here, so there's nothing to do but to line 'em up.
It might've had something to do with the emulator settings, but the Atari version somehow takes the cake for being the worst of the bunch, since it only offers you two or three tunes in two-channel beeps, and the speech bits in the Junior Woodchucks Guide screens. I guess it's the default Atari setting.
Even the PC version is more comfortable with it's single channel beeper sounds, because you don't have to listen to the music all the time. Instead, you're presented with surprisingly fitting array of sound effects in every action sequence. Granted, getting this from a PC speaker isn't exactly ear-pleasing, but using DOSbox, you'll get to adjust the volume.
The mighty 8-bit warrior in the midst takes a very respectable second place in the sound contest. All the tunes and effects are very fitting in their own way, even though they don't exactly try to imitate the sounds from its big brother (or sister).
Nor could they, because a lot of the sounds in the Amiga version are digital samples. Also, what's pretty unusual, the Amiga has a very lifelike and personal overall sound this time. The Atari version does have a tune or two more, but they don't really add much to the whole, considering they only take away from the atmosphere created by the effects, which are really an important matter in this game. So, the Amiga is the way to go here.
4. ATARI ST
I have to say, I didn't know much about the C64 and Atari versions before this test. Of course, I still have the Apple ][ version to check out, but I'd rather not waste my energy on finding it. If someone is willing to send me a disk image of it to my e-mail, please do. Anyway, I was rather surprised with the results. Usually, the Atari ST has been a close rival to the Amiga, but this was something completely unexpected. Also, how much better the only 8-bit version fared to the ST version is a true wonder. This is the traditional mathematical conclusion:
1. AMIGA - Playability 3, Graphics 4, Sounds 4, Loading 2 = TOTAL 13
2. PC - Playability 4, Graphics 2, Sounds 2, Loading 3 = TOTAL 11
3. C64 - Playability 2, Graphics 1, Sounds 3, Loading 1 = TOTAL 7
4. ATARI ST - Playability 1, Graphics 3, Sounds 1, Loading 1 = TOTAL 6
With modern technology, the C64 version could become a rather playable game, if someone would release it on EasyFlash or something. Well, the hither-to unknown cartridge version is about to have a fully working .crt dump any time soon, so that's something to wait for. The Atari version can only be played if you're a masochist. Despite the fact that the Amiga version looks and sounds the best, I'd rather play the PC version because it's the quickest.
Wikipedia says that there was a version for the Spectrum on the making, but was dropped. Considering how it turned out on the C64, is it any wonder? Even though I prefer this game to the ones on Nintendo, I'd rather have had a conversion of the Nintendo DuckTales for the 8-bits if at all possible. Now there's an idea...
Thanks for reading, see you next time!
Comments and suggestions are always welcome!