Gargoyles Remastered Review
When Limited Run first announced they were releasing Gargoyles Remastered, my first thought was “Why? I thought wasn’t a good game.” I collect original Sega Genesis games, and haven’t even really considered getting a copy of Gargoyles. 16-bit-era Disney games can be hit and miss, and every review I’d ever read or watched said Gargoyles was a definite miss. It didn’t even review well when it was originally released in 1995. Although I didn’t own a Sega Genesis as a child, I had rented and played Gargoyles at a friend’s house, and I remember we didn’t get very far at all in the first level even.
So I was very curious about this remaster. Did Limited Run know something about the game I didn’t? Has the retro community mislabeled Gargoyles as a bad game, and it’s really more of a flawed hidden gem? Could a bit of remastering and polish turn Gargoyles into a top level 16-bit platformer? I’m sorry to say that there are a lot of great aspects of this remaster, but the core Gargoyles Remastered game still sucks.
Everybody Loves Gargoyles
There is some good to be found in Gargoyles Remastered. The most obvious awesome aspect is that it’s a Gargoyles game. For those of you who don’t know, Gargoyles was a Disney cartoon from the mid-90s that blew away all expectations of how good a children’s cartoon could be. The writing and world building were exceptional. The story of Gargoyles Remastered is just a few paragraphs between each of the game’s 5 levels. It’s a brief, loose retelling of the series’ basic idea, with Goliath battling Vikings for the first two levels, turning to stone, then waking up in the 90s. He finds out someone possesses a relic called The Eye of Odin, and sets out to stop the havoc being created.
The narrative doesn’t matter at all in Gargoyles Remastered, but the setting does. Having The Eye of Odin featured was pretty cool, as it’s a reference to an amazing later storyline from the series. But it doesn’t factor into the game in any meaningful way. Getting to play as Goliath is a real treat though. He was the big, strong, cool-looking gargoyle leader. The original development team easily could have had players using the gargoyle children, and it just wouldn’t have been the same kind of power fantasy.
Very Sega Genesis
Gargoyles Remastered is a 2D platformer. What sets it apart from most other platformers of its day is that there’s a lot of verticality to its level design. There were a few games like this on the Super Nintendo, but the Sega Genesis had more platformers with seemingly open level design, like Gargoyles Remastered. The levels are actually quite linear, but there is a sense that one hail Mary leap in the wrong direction could put the player back far in the level.
Goliath has a regular attack button and a throw button. The throw does much more damage, but it can be difficult to implement. He has a jump button, can double jump, and can crawl up walls and under ceilings. These traversal skills really make use of Goliath’s design as a winged, clawed beast. Goliath runs after holding a direction for more than a second, and can break through walls if pressing attack while running. He can also break through floors by jumping and pressing throw.
The Spell is Broken
These controls are fine in theory, but Gargoyles Remastered implements them horribly. Platforming is incredibly slippery. The attack and movement animations are huge. So if Goliath is attacking an enemy, and the player wants to adjust their position, they’ll likely have to run away from the enemy completely and reposition, because if Goliath moves, his hits will likely be way off. If the player is too close to the enemy, and Goliath is hitting slightly too far past the enemy, a single directional button press will turn him around and likely have him hitting air on the other side of the enemy.
The biggest problem with Gargoyles Remastered is there are way too many “screw this game” moments. Right off the bat, the game doesn’t tell the player they can break through walls, and it’s not obvious how. Same with breaking through floors. There are lots of surfaces that look like they can be climbed on that can’t be, and vice versa. There were so many times I shouted to myself “How come I can’t do that there all of a sudden!?”. There’s an inconsistency to the game’s rules, that’s really unacceptable. Enemies also require an insane number of hits to destroy. Combat and platforming require extreme precision at times, and this is a major problem when the controls are imprecise.
A Moving Tapestry
Luckily Gargoyles Remastered is an excellent remaster. There’s remastered graphics and sound, with the ability to switch between original and remastered with the press of a button. The original game has gorgeous pixel graphics, and the new version looks just like the cartoon. I love both styles, and I wish more remasters included the choice to switch graphics on the fly. The new music sounds great too, and was a necessary improvement because Sega Genesis music hasn’t aged nearly as well as Super Nintendo music. It’s great hear a proper full-blown Gargoyles cartoon theme!
Gargoyles Remastered has four difficulty settings: enhanced easy, enhanced medium, enhanced hard, and original. Original allows players to see the game with completely unchanged controls, graphics, music, menus, etc. I loved that it was listed below the enhanced hard difficulty, implying that it’s the equivalent of “very hard” difficulty. The enhanced difficulties have much less slippery platforming, and the enemies don’t sponge nearly as much damage. All difficulties have the option to rewind by holding L1.
For the OGs
I was so bummed out to discover that Gargoyles Remastered is an excellent remaster of a bad game. The enhanced versions of the game lessen some problems, but couldn’t possibly fix all of them. Gargoyles Remastered is an incredibly difficult game, even on its easiest setting. And in a world of retro remaster collections, this is only one game. And it’s no Aladdin. Gargoyles Remastered is priced appropriately at $15 though. If this was just the original version of Gargoyles it would have a much lower score, but the care put into this remaster raises the final grade.
Limited Run is only selling physical copies of Gargoyles Remastered until October 22, so if you have any nostalgic love for this game, you have 3 days from the publication of this review to pick it up! And I really hope that you do. As much I can’t recommend Gargoyles Remastered to most players, I really appreciate Disney Games and Limited Run for creating quality remasters of retro games that aren’t in high demand. I have so much love and support for this project. I’d love to see this kind of treatment for more 16-bit Disney games like The Magical Quest trilogy, Mickey Mania, or Goof Troop.
***PS4 code provided by Disney Games***
- Original and enhanced version toggle
- Improved controls
- Remastered graphics and sound
- Slippery platforming
- Many frustrating moments
- Unfair difficulty