In the mid-to-late 1990s, Disney produced a cartoon called Gargoyles Which stood out a bit from other shows in the animated scene. Featuring a serialized storytelling format, rich lore, and somewhat dark tone, it quickly gained a cult following throughout its run, though it never gained a large enough fanbase that would allow it to become a massive franchise for the House of Mouse.
At the height of the show’s popularity, a video game adaptation was produced for the Sega Genesis at the end of the fourth generation of game consoles, although it was met with mediocre reviews and sales. Now that Gargoyles is looking to return with a recently announced Disney+ show on the way, Disney has seen fit to re-release this game as Gargoyles Remastered from Empty Clip Studios. Featuring some new additions like a rewind feature and updated art and music, this revival of the half-forgotten cult classic is a good outing, but like a lot of other 16-bit Disney titles, it hasn’t aged well.
The narrative in Gargoyles Remastered is loosely based on the plot of the show, but as one would expect from a game associated with the ’90s, it doesn’t feature anywhere near as much depth of storytelling as the show. The plot here is handled entirely through a series of still images before and after levels, featuring a few sentences that roughly explain the premise. The basic gist is that you play as Goliath, the leader of an ancient magical clan of gargoyles from Scotland who fought evil Vikings, and you find yourself transported to modern-day Manhattan after spending over a millennium as a stone statue. Once Goliath awakens, he finds that he must once again battle his ancient enemies in a new era, as they attempt to use a relic called the Eye of Odin for their own nefarious purposes. It’s a good enough story considering the scope of the game in which it unfolds, although it seems a bit shallow if one knows the deeper lore it relies on.
The gameplay follows the basic template of a no-frills side-scrolling action platformer. Goliath has a few quick attacks, a close-range grappling move, and a double jump, while he can blast weak walls with a charging move if he can build up speed. There are five (technically six) levels to make your way through, each designed in a relatively linear and somewhat random fashion. The whole thing should take about an hour to complete at most, assuming you don’t run out of lives and have to start over.
While it may be fun to experience this somewhat obscure part of gaming history, it’s pretty clear that Gargoyles came out during the height of an era in which developers made games unfairly difficult so kids couldn’t rent them and beat them on holiday weekend. Enemies take away huge chunks of health while hidden and scattered health pickups restore almost nothing. There are frequent instances where enemies on screen will attack you with ranged attacks during difficult platforming sections. Detecting hits on your attacks is weird, it doesn’t quite show if you’ve actually hit an enemy even if the attack appears to connect.
To its credit, there’s something charming and strange about an old game that looks bad that way, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Fortunately, the Gargoyles experience is much easier this time around due to the introduction of a rewind feature that allows you to rewind things for a few seconds to retry difficult sections as many times as you want. This certainly makes things more bearable, but it also has the effect of removing the difficulty that originally made this game so much “longer”. Roll the credits after an hour and you’ll find there’s not much you can do but play it again from the beginning.
As for its presentation, Gargoyles Remastered has the cool feature of being able to seamlessly switch between the original Genesis version and the remastered version with the click of a button, unlike the excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. The gameplay and physics remain exactly the same between the two versions, so which version you go with is really just a matter of personal taste. Admittedly, we preferred the moodier visuals and crunchy sound bites of the 16-bit original; New art and remastered soundtrack are finebut it seems a little devoid of personality and loses a lot of the original atmosphere.
It’s also disappointing that Gargoyles doesn’t have the kind of gallery content found in the Disney Classic Games Collection. This isn’t entirely unexpected given the TV show’s status as the unloved stepchild of Disney’s ’90s cartoon catalog, but it’s still great to see concept art, marketing materials and perhaps some interviews with the developers about the making of the original game or show. Additionally, since Disney has already shown a willingness to feature this type of content in their recent releases of other games from the same era, one can’t help but wonder why it was omitted here.
In this regard, it seems strange that Gargoyles Remastered is a standalone release and has not simply been added as downloadable content to the Disney Classic Games Collection, as happened with The jungle book And the SNES version of Aladdin Two years after the initial release of that game. Maybe it’s not “classic” enough? At launch, Gargoyles Remastered will cost you $15, but unless… huge As a Gargoyles fan, the value proposition is decidedly lower for this version.
Gargoyles Remastered is a remaster of a good game. Its moody 16-bit visuals and challenging difficulty will no doubt appeal to some, especially fans of the show, but its short length and often unfair design certainly hold it back from greatness. We’d say this product might be worth snapping up if you can find it at a deeply discounted price in the future — it’s entertaining enough despite its flaws — but you won’t really be missing out on much if you choose to pass on it.
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