Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
After such stormin’ success with radically different 8- and 16-bit versions of Castle Of Illusion, Sega are at it again with Donald Duck and this time the adventures really are completely different.
In both games Donald’s nephews have been kidnapped, only on 8-bit it’s not Big Bad Pete doing the ‘napping but Magica —a slinky brunette. Her avaricious heart is set on the Lucky Dimes given the nephews by Uncle Scrooge.
The scene’s set in a neat intro showing Donald getting in his plane to rescue the kidnappees. Press START and it turns out Huey, Louie and Dewey are being held in the USA, Mexico and South America. Thankfully the game allows you to attempt the levels in whichever order you prefer, with just four lives and three continue-plays to see you through.
The States is a good place to start, even if its cutesy forest landscape is packed with unfriendly fauna. One nice touch is the spiders which dangle on invisible threads, wallop them with your mallet and they go swinging off screen, apparently dead, then swing back meaner than ever!
The platform element of the game really comes into play in the second half of the level, with — another nice touch — gophers’ snores lifting leaves for Donald to jump off. Fast reactions are needed to avoid falling into bottomless chasms. Fortunately the end-level bear is a walk over so long as you’ve got a bit of energy left.
Onto the next stage — Mexico is semi-desert, with plenty of nasty oilers out to get our brave fowl. Piranha fish, coiled snakes and buzzards are a problem, but help is at hand in the form of kindly turtles who carry you across sections of river.
Fall into the river, and Donald’s in for a tricky section of underwater diving, with hungry fish and falling stalactites. A ferocious lion guards the second nephew here. He’s a pussy cat compared to Mexico’s finale — a fearsome Aztec god!
And that’s it!?
Erhh, no way. Utilizing my incredible games-playing skills while everyone else was whingeing, I completed all three levels, and there is more! Three whole new levels in fact, all of which must be completed before you confront Magica in her castle.
Amazingly, these levels are even better; Hawaii boasts volcanoes, angry natives and scorching temperatures that make Donald gasp for breath whenever he pauses. Antarctica features leaping swordfish, snowball-throwing yetis and a driving wind which pushes you around, randomly changing direction. Back in warmer climes, there’s Egypt with a pyramid to explore, disappearing platforms and a puzzle room!
Gameplay isn’t amazingly innovative, it’s just pure Mario Bros platforms action, but it is superbly executed, ensuring addictivity through clever design — and brill graphics. In fact this game is pure toon town, superb in its colour and crystal clear outlines. Donald is amazing; he waddles along blinking with his hat ribbon flying, he gets all steamed up if left alone and the way he swims is pure comedy. I also love that mallet, press fire and he bangs away at the villains with typically Donald meaness. Later on you can upgrade to a Frisbee, but the mallet’s most fun! It is difficult to play, but the locations are different enough to make sure you won’t get bored with one rescue. It’s also good how the game’s split, so getting through the first three levels is tough but when he you do it there are infinite continue-plays for the three new levels. Who needs some overweight plumbers trudging across a blurry, yellow screen when Donald’s around?
GG and MS games are usually so close we thought reviewing this late arrival would be a blast, but we were wrong! Those superb, crisp GG graphics too often look gaudy and blocky on a TV — this game seems designed for the GG’s LCD screen!
Gameplay, too, is seriously altered, there are infinite continues right from the start, but you’ve only got two ‘chances’ for surviving enemy hits. Collecting stars no longer restores ‘chances’ — they’re just a bonus, giving you brief invulnerability if you get five of them.
This makes the game a lot harder when the going gets tough; there’s no way to regain lost energy making death inevitable at times. Another added difficulty is when you get hit your current weapon is lost!
On the plus side levels are bigger and some neat new touches, like a fast-scrolling sharp slope with lethal boulders and swooping eagles, help.
MS Donald is reasonable fun, but after playing Donald on the GG, the MS version seems too tough and frustrating — I certainly know which one I’d rather play!
A classic which wipes the floor with the Mario Bros
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