If there is a
place in the cartoon pantheon for loveable hotheads, surely it belongs
to Donald Duck. Surly, stubborn, obnoxious, and none to bright, he
nonetheless has one of the most endearing personalities going. It is his
frustration over the little things in life that we relate to the most.
When Donald sets out to do something as simple as pick apples from his
tree, and over the course of a few minutes events escalate to the point
where he is flying around in a helicopter trying to annihilate two
chipmunks with nuclear explosives, I watch and think: "yeah, I can see
It is too bad, then, that when Disney and Ubi Soft decided to give
Donald his own superhero title, they removed all traces of his
personality from the game. Its not that I resisted the idea of Donald
sporting tights and a cape. I have seen him as a farmer, a zookeeper, a
construction worker, a ghost buster, you name it. Why not a superhero?
However, the people behind the PK license have rendered Donald all but
unrecognizable. His suit covers any distinguishing features. They did
away with his temper tantrums. Then they did the unthinkable: they
changed his voice. Can you even for a second imagine hearing Donald Duck
speak in a clear, snobbish, English accent? There is no gag here, no
punch line, just a duck doing a lame Niles Crane impersonation.
So why would
they bother? Well, rumor has it that the PK character (PK stands for
Platyrhynchos Kineticus, or "Duck of Energy," the game tells us) is a
popular comic book icon in Europe, although that sounds suspiciously
like the Matt Dillon character in Singles claiming that his struggling
band was "really big in Belgium."
Of course, a better reason might have been to create a really good
action game. Unfortunately, PK: Out of the Shadows manages only to be a
well-meaning, occasionally fun, derivative platformer at a time when
games like Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper are blowing the doors off of
Essentially, the set-up goes like this: a sentient holographic
computer duck has chosen Donald to suit up and do battle against an evil
race of alien ducks that have captured Earths most brilliant scientists
in order to take over our world. As PK, the superhero, you must run
around, fighting the aliens with your wrist-mounted arsenal, and save
On the plus
side, the controls are pretty tight. This is a fairly precise 3D
platformer with a lot of jumping and shooting, so anything less would
have been terrible. The target lock on and strafe is a nice touch,
allowing you to navigate the levels and do battle at the same time.
Pretty much all of your game time will be spent shooting and jumping,
shooting and running, or just shooting and shooting some more, so
learning a little finesse with the lock on is necessary. The game also
has a nice progression of difficulty. This is the kind of game that
young gamers can pick up fairly quickly without the worry of being
The graphics are pretty solid. This is not the most imaginative use
of cell shading that I have seen, but it does its job of conveying a
classic cartoon look. The design work on the alien ducks, their ships,
and gadgets is humorous. The cinematics use animation within changing
comic book panels. The opening movie was great, showing the alien
invasion and the transformation of Donald into PK. Then Donald opened
his mouth, or bill I suppose, and things went down hill from there.
The sound is on the whole average, aside from that voice which is
utterly terrible. The sound effects are generic, the music forgettable,
and none of it takes full advantage of the PS2s capabilities.
system is horrid. You know you are in trouble when you are trying to
walk through a hallway and the camera cant figure out which way to
point. Forward would sufficejust a plain old over-the-shoulder shot so
I can see where I am going, nothing fancy. And changing the camera angle
is at times a Herculean task rather than a function of your controller.
However, the true underlying fault of the game is that it doesnt
even attempt to do anything new. You shoot down endless alien clones,
jump across gaps, open doors, flip some switches. There isnt a single
puzzle or challenge in this game that you havent seen a million times
before. And the level design is uninspired at bestjust another hallway,
another crate, another pool of acid with stuff floating in it so you can
make your way across.
Disneys PK: Out of the Shadows is yet another title that proves the
paradigm that videogames licensed from popular cartoons are destined to
suck. The thought behind these games seems to be that there is money to
be made by tacking a proven license onto crappy games. However, as this
game features PK rather than a traditional Donald Duck, the license
isnt exactly recognizable around the world. To add insult to injury
they messed with a classic and beloved character, one that I have loved
since childhood. If you are jonesing for a little Donald Duck in your
game playing I have two words for you: Kingdom Hearts.