Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Remastered, Remixed and Refined – 3 Platform games you should probably play


There’s a lot to be said for the humble platform game. In a world where the biggest selling titles are military based shooters and crime epics, it’s almost hard to believe that the most iconic games character of all time is a short, fat plumber with a porno-tache who jumps on turtles and guzzles magic mushrooms. Super Mario Bros laid down the template for just about every platform game that has followed in the last twenty-eight years.

Three of the most recent platformers to come out follow slightly different takes on that template.

Any child who had access to a NES system in the early 90s almost certainly would have played a certain Capcom title based on a popular Disney cartoon with a catchy theme tune.

1,2,3…. DuckTales AWOOHOO!

Colourful, well designed and punishing at the same time. DuckTales was one of the NES most iconic platformers. In development for the past two years DuckTales: Remastered is a very faithful remake of the original title, with only a handful of changes and concessions to modern players.

The most striking change of course is in the presentation. Replacing the originals sprites with the hand-drawn HD versions you see above makes the game look, and indeed move, like the cartoon did. Scrooge still runs, jumps and pogos his way around the five diverse areas, but this time a bit of storyline has been grafted onto the skeleton to give some context for visiting Transylvania and the Moon. Every character is fully voice-acted, often by the original actor from the show, lending the game a fantastic air of authenticity.

The levels themselves are mostly kept as they were. Each one remains a 2D plane, but now has some superb 3D backgrounds to give the environments a bit character and life of their own. There’s also some new areas added in the form of a tutorial and a new level leading up to the final boss.

For those who remember the original it’s a fine piece of nostalgia, but younger players may find that it’s not quite to their liking.

But DuckTales isn’t the only classic Disney platformer to be getting a revamp. While the NES had DuckTales, the Mega Drive would play host to Disney’s superstar mouse in one of the systems early big titles.

Is Minnie really worth all this effort. Really?

The team behind the remake of Castle Of Illusion have taken the fundamentals of the original classic and given them a wonderful polish. Mickey retains his floaty jump as he bounces through the many levels to reclaim the Rainbow Gems from the evil witch Mizrabel and rescue Minnie.

Where DuckTales: Remastered settled for a straight remake, with almost exact level layouts recreated, Castle Of Illusion instead remixes the whole thing. The Castle itself is now explorable, with it’s own secrets to discover as you journey from world to world. Each level, follows the themes, enemies and basic style of the original but are otherwise completely new takes on the established areas.

There are new sections where Mickey can move freely in any direction and the transition from strict 2D movement to 3D is achieved almost seamlessly. The 3D movement is most obvious outwith the main levels, as you explore the Castle itself, bringing to mind some favourable comparisons with the seminal Super Mario 64.

All in all it’s a good fun game, with a healthy dose of that feel good Disney magic in it.

If there’s one other series of platform games, besides Mario, that has it’s own special magic to it, then it would have the Rayman games.

Whoever is playing this sucks. Either that or he was getting some really weird slowdown. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

The only all new game of the three, Rayman Legends is the follow up to 2011s Rayman Origins. Tasked with rescuing as many Teenies as possible, Rayman has to make his way through several themed worlds fighting Toadmen, Undead Mexican Skeletons and other weird creatures.

Rayman has always been a series I’ve admired from a distance but never really spent any proper time with. But Legends has certainly gotten my attention over the past few weeks. Everything about it oozes polish. The artwork is gorgeous, the animation smooth and the music just has to be heard.

Each world consists of eight levels or so, with a Boss level and a Musical “escape” level at the end. The basic levels are all well designed with sneakily hidden secret areas to find, most of which lead to captured Teenies. But the stars of the game for me are the Musical levels found at the end of each world. While none of them quite reach the level of awesome set by the very first one, each and every one is a delight to play. I’ve replayed several of them multiple times simply because they’re such good fun. Rayman must run, jump, kick and punch his way to the end, all in time with the music. Watch the video above for an idea of what I’m talking about.

Rayman himself handles perfectly. The controls are nice and tight, making it very easy to put him where you want when you want him. Of the many times I’ve died I’ve not once been able to blame the controls.

Being a Ubisoft game it also features a very european sense of humour and it’s often left me smirking at it’s wit and charm.

I don’t want to go on much more, but I’m more than confident to put Rayman Legends right up there with the best 2D platform games of all time.

So there you go. Three great games, each with a different take on the classic genre done in a modern way. All three are out now on all the major systems, although Rayman is the only retail release of the three.

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