Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Also on: Steam, Xbox X/S, PS4, PS5
I watched the Disney Afternoon cartoons as I grew up, starting in 1987 with Ducktails - I was eleven then. I felt like I was the target age for these cartoons. As they added new shows, it felt like I was growing up during a second golden age of animation. Over the years, they added some of my favorite series: Rescue Rangers, Tale Spin, Darkwing Duck, and Aladdin.
And as I grew up, so did the Disney cartoons. In 1994, Gargoyles was added to the mix - I was seventeen then. This cartoon meant a lot to me - not only was the animation darker and different than any previous series, but the show was rich with myths and lore, and the story instantly pulled me in. The story deals with betrayal, love, loss, and being an outsider, which resonates with an angsty teenager. But it’s more than just the writing and the animation; the voice talent on the show was incredible - Keith David, Salli Richardson, Jeff Bennett, Ed Asner, Frank Welker, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, and countless special guests.
While most people are familiar with Aladdin, Ducktales, and Lion King games, the Gargoyles game, released in 1995, seemed to enter the scene and sink into the shadows. I didn’t even know about it. In part, since it only appeared on the Sega Genesis, and I owned an SNES. So I was ecstatic to see a remaster, and I had the opportunity to relive my childhood.
And the game is gorgeous - the animation and the artwork are spot on. And the music is straight from the TV show. I had a big smile when the game opened up, and I was ready to play as Goliath, the leader of the Gargoyles and my favorite character of the bunch.
“One thousand years ago, superstition and the sword ruled. It was a time of darkness. It was a world of fear. It was the age of gargoyles.” That is just a tiny bit of the opening scene that started every episode of Gargoyles, and I was disappointed that the game didn’t start with it. In fact, the game's story is much different than the cartoon. The game’s story revolves around an ancient artifact called The Eye of Odin that Vikings used to raid the Scottish castle that Goliath protects. Goliath defeats the raiders but is blamed for the castle's damage and cursed to sleep for a thousand years.
Gargoyles doesn’t hold your hand. There is no tutorial, so you learn your attacks quickly through trial by combat - you have a basic swipe, a throw, and a shoulder tackle. The animation for these is fantastic, but the hit detection and collision feel a bit off. Sometimes, I thought I landed a hit, but it didn’t register with the enemy. Another time, when I was fighting a boss, I just stood in the same spot he was located on, and I didn’t take any damage - but I was able to harm him, and it made an epic boss battle into a pretty straightforward win.
Some moments were frustratingly difficult - the platforming jumping from one point to another requires perfect timing, as enemies, fireballs, or spikes get in your way, knocking you down and making you try the section all over again. Sometimes, I needed to scale upwards, and it was a blind leap of faith (eventually muscle memory) to get through these sections.
A few items can help - chalices give Goliath health, a shield provides him invincibility for a short time, and a gargoyle head grants an extra life. The absolute best aspect of the game is the rewind functionality - it’s great when I make a foolish mistake and want to rewind to undo my folly. But I found it didn’t work so great with the tight platforming sections. I found it easier to get through those sections with momentum, as timing is everything in those parts of the game. I also like the fact that I can save the game at any point. The was particularly helpful right before a boss or a challenging section. Another neat feature is seamlessly switching between the Genesis and the remastered version, even during gameplay - although I preferred the remastered images.
Final Grade: B
Gargoyles is perfect for those looking for a challenging game to speed run. It’s a tricky platformer but not a long one. The animation is beautiful, but this might have come at a cost with the hit detection and collision issues I encountered. I would have liked to have seen the opening theme play when the game opened up, but realizing that the game’s story and the show’s narrative are much different, it probably wouldn’t have made much sense to include it. If you played the original and are a fan of the show, this is a solid pick-up for you. If you’ve never seen the cartoon, do yourself a favor and watch it.
Review code provided by Disney Games