PK: Out of the Shadows - Retro Reflection

Couldn't find a nice PS2 Cover for the article

When I was a kid I loved reading the adventures of quarrelsome Donald, his naughty nephews and greedy uncle Scrooge. They were funny and full of surprises and helped my mind travel away from my everyday life. Later I started reading Marvel stories but I always had fond memories of Disney’s comics. So, it was natural to buy a platformer that featured Donald Duck as its hero.

“Donald Duck PK” seems like a decent platform game at first. The hero becomes Phantom Duck and must stop an alien invasion, guided by a mysterious artificial intelligence and armed with a laser pistol and small jetpacks. The obstacles you face and your abilities are well balanced and the controls are responsive: “X” for jumping, “□” for shooting, R2 for locking onto a target. There are platforms that disappear after a while, anti-gravity fields that propel you upwards, moving giant machines, pools of toxic liquid, rotating electric beams and, of course, plenty of bottomless pits.

Upgrades include a grappling hook and a charged shot, for shattering enemy barriers. Aliens, who look like ducks, fire slow moving projectiles and you have to dodge their fire and shoot back. Donald hovers by tapping the jump button repeatedly and occasionally he encounters a sealed gate and needs to manoeuvre a tiny flying robot through a maze to open it.

Green spheres are scattered in each level and you must collect at least 15 to activate a checkpoint; thankfully, even if you miss a few you can still collect enough to activate all checkpoints, thus relieving you from the frustration of replaying large sections of the game. Moreover, every stage contains six captured scientists and you should save as many of them as possible to enter the alien mothership later. The fast action, colorful graphics (mainly purple and blue) and reasonable difficulty made the game fun to play until…

…I realized it had nothing to do with Donald Duck! There was not a single stage involving the places I knew and loved from the old comics, such as Donald’s house or Scrooge’s vault. As for Donald, his behavior and voice did not remind me of the comics or cartoons at all and his dialogues made me cringe. The action and level design also started to lose their initial entertainment value as the same obstacles and aliens were recycled. Thankfully, I completed the game soon (it took me about 4 hours in total).

“Donald Duck PK” showed to me that appearances alone do not make characters and high playability does not make a game exciting. You will find here many ingredients of good platform games but the lack of inspiration on behalf of the designers is disappointing. Even the hero is not called Phantom Duck, although he wears his distinctive black, red, yellow and blue uniform. It is as if the producers could not acquire a licence to use anything from the comics except for Donald’s appearance. And that’s what they did, they fooled their customers into thinking they were going to enter Donald’s magical world but offered them a generic, humorless platform game instead. “PK” is by no means bad, however, compared to platformers like “Ratchet and Clank” or “Kim Possible”, its lack of character is obvious.

Game Information

Sony PlayStation 2
Ubisoft Montreal
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Nintendo GameCube


Article by Dimitris


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