Say what you will about Disney, but one thing's for certain - they don't make 'em like they used to, both in terms of games and TV shows! With most of the Disney Channel's output now being rubbish teenybob drama, nothing can quite come close to the good old days of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, DuckTales, and TaleSpin, even if we have always wondered how Baloo learnt to fly a plane in the first place.
With the slightly awkward moniker "The Disney Afternoon" in America, or more plainly "Disney Club" over here, the Disney Club/Afternoon aired on CITV/GMTV, and was a collection of Disney's finest cartoons. Based on the TV show of the same name, this collection bundles together six old Capcom developed Disney games - mostly platformers - each based on some of the cartoons that featured on the program way back when: DuckTales 1 and 2, TaleSpin, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers 1 and 2, and Darkwing Duck.
Each of the games here is effectively an emulated version of the NES original, retaining the original graphics, sound, and glitches - rather than being full HD remasters, these are games that come warts and all. That's not to say that there haven't been a few tweaks and upgrades along the way, though - in fact, the two biggest, universal additions actually make a huge difference to how the games play out.
If you haven't played any of the games before, and you've come expecting a user-friendly collection of kid's games, you'd better guess again. Sticking true to their retro roots, almost every game featured here is a punishing, tricky, reflex driven platformer that you'll be hard pushed to complete. Luckily, the developers have realised that - and that's why they've included two brand new features. First up is the ability to save your game at any time, something which is taken for granted in modern games, yet that the originals were all sadly lacking. Perhaps the most useful addition, though, is the rewind function - here, at the touch of a button, you can rewind your gameplay for up to 15-20 seconds, letting you undo any terrible mistakes you've made - which in turn means most of the games in here are now actually finishable. At least, if you rewind as much as we do.
In terms of gameplay, though, each game follows a fairly similar setup (bar TaleSpin, which we'll come to later). Whether you're playing as Darkwing Duck, Scrooge McDuck, or Chip/Dale, you'll be taking part in a 2D platforming adventure where enemies are plentiful, your health is pitiful, and, as this is long before the days of tutorials, you'll have to rely on your brain and reflexes to figure things out for yourself.
In DuckTales 1 and 2, you'll get to play as the crotchety Scrooge, as you set off on a round the world trip in search of either some treasures to add to your already insane fortune, or parts of a treasure map so you can find yet more gold to add to your money bin. While he may seem a bit of an old codger in the show, Scrooge is surprisingly nimble here, and uses his cane as a makeshift pogo stick, letting him jump to higher ledges, hang off brass rings - and most importantly, attack enemies.
Of course, attacks are easier said than done when you consider that a) Scrooge isn't the slimmest of birds, and b) his walking stick is but a tiny line on screen - meaning if you want to do any damage to the enemies, you'll need to be sure you hit them with the outstretched stick alone, rather than clipping them with your feet. Finding Launchpad McQuack in the levels will nab you a temporary checkpoint you can restart from if you die, but for the most part, it's the platforming (and countless enemies) that's the challenging part here.
In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 1 and 2, you'll face off against the sinister Fat Cat in the only two games in the collection that let you play in co-op. The catch here is that, unlike Scrooge, Chip 'n Dale can't actually attack enemies directly - instead, you'll need to rely on picking up the crates and balls you find scattered around, chucking them at any baddies that get in your way.
As with DuckTales, there's a heavy reliance on pixel perfect platforming here, not to mention some incredibly tricky bosses, with a nasty tendency for the entire screen to end up filled with projectiles, as you and your co-op partner only end up getting in each other's way. It's also worth noting that, unlike modern games, once your co-op partner's used all their lives, that's it: they're gone, and they can't come back - so you'll want to make good use of the rewind feature.
Perhaps most disappointing, though, is the amount of slowdown here. When playing in co-op especially, the game simply doesn't seem to be able to handle processing two character's movements at once, as the action tends to all but grind to a halt. It wouldn't be an issue were it infrequent, and if it didn't get in the way of the gameplay, but sadly this ticks both boxes, with slowdown tending to crop up at the worst of times (like in boss fights). While we totally get wanting to stay faithful to the source material, surely the power of current hardware could have been used to smooth things over at least a little bit - like getting rid of slow down, or stopping sprites from flickering when the screen gets crowded?
Darkwing Duck follows a similar pattern to Rescue Rangers and DuckTales, with tricky enemies, a reliance on tough, pixel perfect platforming, and Launchpad McQuack once again getting his beak in the picture. The big difference this time is that Darkwing comes readily equipped with his very own gas gun, which you'd hope might at least slightly level the playing field. The only problem is, almost every creepy enemy you come across seems to have come fully prepared to face you, with either some sort of armour, or at least a protective hat that makes it tricky to do any damage to them, unless you get your timing absolutely right. With tricky boss fights, awkward enemies, and a gun you'll have to work hard to use, this is another tricky, if rewarding game.
TaleSpin, meanwhile, is actually a shoot 'em up, as Baloo takes to the skies to make his deliveries whilst blasting away at Shere Khan's goons, including a giant, flying baseball airship. One of the trickiest games on here, at least partially as the level constantly scrolls, this verges into bullet hell territory at times, as the screen rapidly starts to fill up with projectiles, often at the same time as the game forces you to fly down narrow tunnels and passages that you'll only just have enough time to clear.
Perhaps unusually, you can press X at any point to flip upside down, which will reverse the game's scroll and start you flying back the way you came. If nothing else, it comes in handy in the game's boss fights, which are (as per tradition) hard as nails.
Outside of the games, the Disney Afternoon Collection also comes with a bundle of special features. Each game has a boss rush and time attack mode (each of which in turn has its own associated achievement/trophy, adding some nice replay value) - but perhaps the coolest thing here is the gallery. Providing everything from boxart to artwork, concept art and other development related sketches, each picture has its own little note explaining what you're looking at, and why it's significant to the game's history. Giving you a really nice look at the original development of a collection of games that are getting on for 30 years old, this is one of the nicest touches in the game, especially if you were a fan of any of them growing up.
In all, the mileage you'll get out of the Disney Afternoon Collection largely depends on whether you've played the games before. If you grew up playing all these games, then this is a no brainer, as getting the chance to relive your childhood on a current gen console is well worth the asking price, without even taking the uber-cool behind-the-scenes gallery into account. If you know you like old school platformers, and you aren't put off by the often unfair feeling difficulty level (or you're totally fine with having to use the rewind button every few steps), then you'll likely have a blast here as you play through your very own Disney afternoon. But with the difficulty being as tough as it is, this is a game that'll take those who aren't used to retro platformers off guard - beware ye who enter here.