Reviewed: November 30, 2002
Reviewed by: Mat Houghton
Donald Duck hits the PS2 in PK: Out of the Shadows looking something like Darkwing Duck (for those of you paying attention you know what Iím talking about) in his superhero get up, but the important thing is that they kept the sailorís cap, and hey, at least heís wearing pants. Anyway, we have a pretty much standard platform game here. Run around, collect pickups, shoot Daffy--oops! I mean the bad guys, and rescue scientists. Donít let that dissuade you though, this game has teeth in a few places, impossible as that is for a duck.
The story is pretty basic; Donald is working night shift security and dreams of proving that heís more than just a lazy duck with a nasty temper. Well, his dreams come true when a super computer that is within the building hears him and decides to grant his wish. A floating head in a green ball isnít quite a star, but anything in a pinch right? Anyway, equipped with a new outfit and ďcool superhero voiceĒ olí Don is sent off for some basic training when what should happen but aliens attack (all of whom look mysteriously like some other companyís little black duck on steroids in a purple jumper) and practice quickly becomes on the job training.
Shoot first, jump the pits, and rescue scientists wrapped up like inchworms in space helmets before time runs out. Oh, and did I mention why it was called PK? No. Well they do in the game and itís a pretty good pay off, though they donít milk your curiosity nearly enough.
The levels are creative yet very linear...I mean straightjacket, tight and restrictive. While this does help make things a little more challenging, because otherwise youíd finish the game in a little under three hours, and I mean finish, not just get to the end, youíd have everything. The down side to this is that there is almost no camera control, because whereís it going to go, and because they occasionally do something almost normal it not only throws you off, but you canít usually get a good camera angle on it. Dead ends seem to abound and itís easy to miss some of the pick-ups and such. The constant activity does make up for this a little though. Having to constantly watch out for things popping out of the woodwork keeps you on your toes.
Otherwise, the game plays very well. It allows you to lock on enemies, circle strafe, jump, etc. Also, as the game progresses you gain other abilities; double jumps, floating, and smashing through barriers and floors. The frustration is that when you get better ammo for your gun you use it as soon as you get it. No switching, so use sparingly when you find it. You canít really though because thereís too much you need to use your blaster for besides beating bad guys. They usually give you enough for your purposes though.
Donald has rarely had it this good (no wonder he hates being second string). Everything is not quite cel shaded, but it still has a very cartoon look. Colors are everywhere, vibrant alive and even sometimes clashing but nonetheless making you feel like youíre in the middle of a Disney Saturday morning rather than playing on your PS2.
Thereís also great depth to the canvas, with many of the best effects buried deep in the background. Be sure to look out the portals in stage two and notice the fishes, they may look a little PS1 on levelís of refinement, but itís better than nothing. The foreground isnít ignored either with a snowstorm to rival those of Hoth youíre lucky to see anything let alone where youíre going, which sounds like a bad thing but they give you just enough to get by on and it is a really good effect. The best however is definitely the water, itís well lit, so much so it looks phosphorescent, but not so it looks fake, more like a swimming pool lit at night. Just be careful when it turns colors, there are few things that look more toxic than hot pink glowing liquid.
While the levels are rather linear (What are these fences? Where are we going? Whatís that horrible chopping noise?) there are a few places where the rooms open up and actually get creative. Look for the big spaces, often circular. The designers do an excellent job of hiding things despite this though. There are lots of hidden spaces to look for and explore, and what makes them so well hidden are not only that they often blend so well in with the background but also the fact that you are so herded in the game, you often overlook things in favor of following the ďscriptĒ so to speak. Youíll even look for obvious answers when no such thing exists.
Well good, bad, whatís next? Thatís right the levels move too, not only the typical moving platforms which are everywhere, or even the moving laser, electric, or what have you beams, what I mean is the floor drops out from beneath you, rocks tumble from the ceiling to break the platform youíre standing on, cryo tanks burst freeing enemies, even walls blow up to keep you on your toes.
They have a game starring Donald Duck and they DONĒT USE DONALDíS VOICE! I completely understand whyóI mean would you want to listen to that for an entire game? I still canít quite get over it though, and the voice they gave him instead just isnít that good, especially if itís supposed to be a ďcool, superhero voiceĒ. The rest of the characters all sound good, so I guess they blew the budget on everybody else. Sorry Don, even in your own game you get the short straw.
Music and effects are prototypical of the genre. Corny little bloops and bleeps for weapon fire, pickups, etc., and a synthesized soundtrack. Nothing bad, but far from outstanding in any way. Good news is that they get a little retro and bring back the ďbiff!Ē and the ďwham!Ē every once and a while. Itís always good to see that in a cartoon.
The game really isnít that difficult. They give you plenty of checkpoints, enough health to get through most obstacles and the enemies arenít the most creative creatures to ever be pixilated. So donít be too worried about dying anywhere. That having been said the levels are huge. They go on and on and on and maybe thatís just because the game play is so repetitive; strafe, shoot, jump, shoot, repeat as necessary. Remember that this is a kidsí game, so donít be expecting anything in the way of hours and hours of gaming, but thereís enough to keep a younger gaming for a while and an older interested so long as they know what to expect.
There are the scientists to rescue as well. Youíll have to do each level at least once unless you like going over every inch of the level, and even then you might not get them all because of the timer that starts ticking down once you get near them. If time runs out all you get are robes empty as Benís after that unfortunate lightsaber (please donít sue me George) incident. So thereís at least some replay involved here.
You do get all this for $19.95, so if youíre spending that for a new game then you know not to expect filet mignon, but you do get a good steak out of the deal nonetheless and probably a better one than you might expect.
As a gift for a younger relative or sibling this would suit nicely. If you really like Donald Duck or Disney this is perfect. If youíre looking for a cheap thrill or a nice low impact workout you could do a lot worse than this. This game has beautiful graphics, decent game play, and enough variety to keep you at the console if youíve got nothing better going or are just looking to relax from all those other worlds youíre trying to crush within your grip.