I grew up in the late 90s watching most of these animated Disney shows, but Gargoyles seemingly evaded me. Be it the limited exposure here in Australia, or my own ignorance, I never really had much of a connection to it. While I’ve certainly watched a few episodes of the series since then, my knowledge of the tie-in game released on the Sega Genesis back in 1995 also remained a mystery. That being said, I never owned or had access to a Sega Genesis (known in Australia as the Sega Mega Drive) anyway.
It is with Gargoyles Remastered that I was admittedly surprised and excited to dive into a franchise I’ve since come to enjoy, for its dark, gothic art style and rather mature approach to its themes, given it’s still marketed as a Disney series for kids. Developer Empty Clip Studios has delivered an absolutely gorgeous remaster, with updated visuals that practically match the impressive quality and detail of the show. But in the same breath, the game itself has unfortunately not aged well in terms of its mechanics and level design, making for a rather shallow gameplay experience.
A New Era
Gargoyles Remastered loosely follows the events of the show, as you take control of Goliath, the leader of an ancient magical clan known as the Gargoyles. You begin the game by taking on an evil clan of Vikings in medieval Scotland as they attempt to steal the Eye of Odin, a magical relic that can grant its user various powers including supreme strength and the ability to change form. You’re soon trapped in stone, as you awake a thousand years later in modern-day New York City. The battle only continues, as you find the same clan is up to its old tricks.
It’s a minimal story that does its best to encapsulate the premise of the entire series, even if it’s told through a few random, yet well-drawn stills that can be seen before and after each level. The game itself takes players through five levels as they explore various parts of the city, each of which takes only an hour or so to complete. While Gargoyles Remastered doesn’t feel particularly long, it also feels like it’s from an era where games weren’t meant to be finished in a weekend, regardless of their length. We’ll touch on this a little later.
Carved From Stone
Goliath has a few tricks up his sleeve in terms of gameplay, which do their best to provide a sense of depth and variety. He can utilise a basic swipe attack and throw enemies about the environment, even if neither option gives the impression of any sort of contact, leaving you to swing rapidly in the hopes that your foe is being affected in some way. Platforming feels a little more robust, as players can climb buildings, and even use a running attack to burst through walls to access new areas and secrets.
The double jump is also here, in which Goliath can spread his wings to cover larger gaps, but it never really feels warranted or useful for the majority of each level. While it’s only working with a design from another era since gone, it’s a shame that the gameplay itself wasn’t given the same treatment as the visuals. It’s serviceable, but ultimately shallow.
We had mentioned before that Gargoyles Remastered feels out of time, in that it’s not meant to be finished in a single weekend. I made the mistake of trying this out on the hardest difficulty, which makes no apologies for how brutal the enemies and obstacles can be. Thankfully, players can now take advantage of a rewind feature that can save them from sticky situations in order to try again. But even on the normal difficulty, I found myself trying more times than I would like to admit.
Look the Part
Gargoyles Remastered almost feels like a remake, as opposed to a remaster. Its visuals have been completely redesigned and updated to look almost identical to the show as if you were playing an episode from a side-scrolling perspective. The character models, environments, enemies and backgrounds have all been updated, and look incredibly slick.
You can also switch to the original visuals with the tap of a button, and while those visuals have also aged quite well and retained their own charm, the newer visuals are arguably the strongest aspect of this experience. The Sega Mega Drive also had its fair share of banger soundtracks, but thanks to the updated audio, things feel more epic and atmospheric as a result. Once again, however, you can switch back to the original version, which retains those old-school tunes and crunchy sound effects.
Gargoyles Remastered is a gorgeous revival of a series that simply needs more love in the modern era. But it’s ultimately let down by its shallow gameplay, short runtime and brutal difficulty. While the rewind feature is a nice touch when it comes to the overall pace of the experience, there’s nothing more really holding it together. It’s certainly worth trying out for the sake of the fans, but I’m not sure if this game will win you over alone. Check out the show and thank us later.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Fantastic visuals that remain true to the source material; Rewind feature helps the overall pacing
Lowlights: Shallow gameplay; Short runtime; Higher difficulty levels are brutal
Developer: Empty Clip Studios
Publisher: Disney Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch,
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.