Early in the 90s, Batman: The Animated Series found success by telling gritty stories with a dark hero aimed at kids. The popularity and quality of this show were legendary, so much so that it caught Disney’s covetous eyes and sought to try to capture that magic in its own bottle. The problem is that Disney never had any property of its own that lent itself to be gritty fun for boys… until Gargoyles, that is.
Gargoyles was a stark contrast to anything produced by Disney at the time. It bore a striking resemblance to Batman: The Animated Series and had similar writing quality… probably because Disney executives headhunted Michael Reaves, one of its main writers. Naturally, like all cool grimdark entertainment for boys, it got a game adaptation on the Sega Genesis.
Decades later, Gargoyles has faded into memory. The show is still fondly remembered, but most people don’t remember it had a game. Why would they? It came out in 1995, which was very late in the console’s lifecycle. Like its protagonist who was sealed in stone for ages, the game has returned… but was the game worth reviving? What about the new graphics? Find out in this review of Gargoyles Remastered!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Empty Clip Studios, Beuna Vista Interactive
Publisher: Disney Games, The Walt Disney Company, Disney Interactive Studios, Disney, Limited Run Games, Empty Clip Studios, Buena Vista Interactive
Platforms: Windows PC, Sega Genesis (as Gargoyles), Xbox One, Xbox SeriesX|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: October 19, 2023
Price: $14.99 USD
In 1994, Capcom released Demon’s Crest, an action platformer where gamers assumed the role of a monstrous gargoyle-like demon. It’s since become a highly valued collector’s item in the second-hand market, often reaching the $200 range because of its solid gameplay and beautifully gothic and macabre pixel art.
This was a great and polished game that still feels great to play. As Red Arremer/Firebrand, players could scale up walls, spit fireballs, smash stones, fly, swim, and even cast magic spells. It truly felt like you were playing as some kind of sacrilegious monster. To this day, you couldn’t do better if you wanted to play an action platformer as a winged abomination.
Then there was Disney’s Gargoyles on Sega Genesis in 1995. Full disclosure; I was never a fan of the show, but have second-hand knowledge of some aspects of the story. The premise is Goliath is a big magical monster man with wings and his clan of gargoyles from the medieval ages have to adapt to living in a place more vile: modern-day New York City.
That is about as much of the show that is represented in Gargoyles Remastered. All of Goliath’s gargoyle brethren are nowhere to be seen and aren’t mentioned. The only other character from the show that is present is Demona, Goliath’s ex who has the likeability of a Karen.
The story in Gargoyles Remastered is irrelevant. The real reason why anyone would play this is because they lost a bet. The gameplay, mutilated though it may be, is utterly simple and barebones. Goliath can sluggishly hop, double-jump, climb surfaces very awkwardly, and spam the limpest thrashings that never feel like they connect. His wings are purely for show and never gets to use them to fly.
Controls are laggy and prioritize animation, which is admittedly very good-looking if you’re playing with classic 16-bit graphics. The new HD redrawn art looks cheap and characters don’t feel like they’re grounded in the environment.
The original visuals look much better and have a dark grittiness that is enhanced by the pixel art. Goliath also looks cooler gray than when he’s purple. The high contrast of black shadows and moody color pallet make the old graphics very readable and hold up. There are also instances of prerendered sprites that look cool. Sadly these are replaced with inferior art in the HD version.
Nothing was done to Gargoyles Remastered to make it enjoyable. The fact is, this was a shoddy game for its time; just another Disney tie-in product to dupe kids. The hit detection is nonsensical and the feedback to attacking foes or getting hit is extremely vague. Most encounters become an incoherent gauntlet of spamming attacks and stun-locking the enemy.
If you are lucky, something interesting might happen, like a game-ending bug. One glitch was a boss’ life bar got totally depleted and instead of dying and letting Goliath on to the next stage, the boss persisted infinitely. Even if Goliath throws the fight to retry, the boss’ life bar was permanently empty and the battle continued until I either quit or lost all my lives having an ultimate showdown.
The playability of this turkey feels like running with a ball and chain on each leg while on crutches. Some heinous sequences are made more fair with the help of the added rewind button, and even then, it still isn’t a guarantee. When you are at the point of relying on a rewind feature to equalize the game design, then it’s admission to the failure of the core game.
Gargoyles Remastered not only is one of the weaker 16-bit Disney games, but it is also grossly overpriced. This package is barebones and has no extras in it. There should have at least been a few episodes of the show included.
Instead of wasting resources on new graphics, there should have been efforts made to make this into a compilation of several Sega Genesis Disney games. Titles like Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow, Toy Story, QuackShot, or even Pocohantas would have justified its price tag.
Gargoyles Remastered is not recommended for retro enthusiasts or fans of the cartoon show. There is nothing here to appreciate except the original 16-bit pixel art and animation. Go play Demon’s Crest instead.
Gargoyles Remastered was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Disney Games. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Gargoyles Remastered is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.