Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows - GC - Review
During the 16-bit gaming era, Disney began licensing their intellectual properties to several video game companies. Continued success at retail has encouraged game developers to use every Disney property available.
The latest Disney game to land on the 'Cube is PK: Out of the Shadows. PK is a superhero version of Donald Duck. No longer the hot-headed, easily-angered duck we all know and love, Donald can now jump, hover and shoot alien invaders with his blaster weapon. It sounds cool, but once inside the game, players will realize that PK should have probably stayed within the shadows.
Every level is as straightforward as they come. Don't expect to find yourself exploring enormous, colorful worlds, because PK's architecture is made up of many basic platforms and long corridors. That's mainly what this game is: a kid-friendly, platform-filled shooter. There aren't many items to collect, just weapon power-ups, health replenishers and 40 robotic-like things that are needed to complete the game. There are 6 robots in each level, most of which are hidden in fairly obvious locations. The thing that makes collecting them difficult is that they can only be snatched while the robot time limit is running. The time begins to count down once you're within the robots' range. When the time is up, the robots go into hiding and cannot be caught until you return to the level at a later time.
When you're not collecting the few items that are necessary to complete your mission, you'll find yourself running, jumping and shooting. In most cases, only one enemy will stand in your way, but there are times when as many as two dangerous foes will attack at once. I know it's scary to think that gamers might actually have to battle two enemies simultaneously, but don't be afraid -- each of the game's six baddies have an easy-to-learn attack pattern that can be figured out in a couple of seconds.
As you can see, Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows is not big on variety. There are different levels in this game, but they all play exactly the same! Sure, the level changes, but the mission does not. Run around, jump a few dozen times, shoot every enemy in sight, and when all is said and done, you get to do it all over again. And again. And yet again, until you're blue in the face.
Aside from being repetitive, PK's biggest flaw is its camera. Or more appropriately, its lack of a camera. There is no way to manually change the view in this game. You can press the lock-on button (right trigger) to place the camera behind PK, but it doesn't always work, and when it does, it's not always helpful. This creates a big problem in the latter half of the game, since you end up dying over and over again trying desperately to complete a task that is nearly impossible to complete in the current view. No one wants to lose in a game because they couldn't see where they were going, or because they couldn't see the enemy that was shooting them in the back. That brings up another problem with the camera: enemies. Since the lock-on function doubles as a poor view-changer, there is no guaranteed way to lock-on to an enemy that you aren't facing. If your back is to an enemy, or if you're standing a little sideways, the game may interpret your action as being a view change, moving the camera in an awkward position. Meanwhile, the enemy continues to shoot PK, depleting his life.
Some levels have two-dimensional, Crash Bandicoot-type areas where the camera cannot be changed at all. In this case, the lock-on function works pretty good. However, without the ability to change the camera, moving along the small platforms and avoiding deadly searchlights (that'll shoot bombs at you if you're spotted) can be really tricky. Most of these areas are set up like a simple maze, where you'll have to move in and out of the foreground. If the camera could be manipulated in some way, areas like these would be easy enough for a gaming novice to conquer on the first try.
In PK's defense, the camera is manageable. Most gamers with any amount of skill are used to conquering games with bad cameras, and with a little practice, you'll definitely be able to finish this game. The thing is, why would you want to? Why would you want to go through the trouble of battling the camera instead of challenging enemies? Because it's fun, obviously. (Not the camera battling part, the enemies.) PK isn't exactly what I'd call challenging, but it does have some difficult parts, and the run-and-shoot nature of the game is a nice change of pace from the "collect six items, unlock a new world"-type of action/adventure games that flood the market every Christmas. Of course, the "fun" received when playing PK may not be enough for some gamers, especially those looking to get the most out of their money. The fact that it's short (and repetitive) doesn't make the game any better.
As far as the graphics go, PK is below most other GameCube titles. Donald Duck looks really good -- the cel-shading technique used on him is one of the best yet. Other than that, there isn't much in this game that'll catch your eye. The animation isn't choppy, but it's not particularly fluid either. Cartoony backgrounds are intended to create a comic book-like feel, but the plain design defeats the purpose. Cool polygon effects like real-time water are nowhere to be found. In their place are a number of unrealistic-looking, badly animated effects that make the game look very dated. Furthermore, when the characters speak, their mouths don't move as smoothly as they should. Given the incredible mouth movement technology that is available to game developers, such mistakes are unacceptable.
Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows is moderately fun, but it gets old way too fast. The gameplay is addictive -- from the end of the first level I was hooked. But by the end of the fourth level I began to wonder if I was going to get to see a new episode, or if I was going to have to watch the same show ten times in a row. No one would watch ER if every episode was a rehash of the first. The same logic can be applied to a video game's levels.
Donald Duck (er...PK) is lookin' good in cel-shading glory, but the rest of the graphics are around the quality of three-year-old Dreamcast games.
With annoying voice-overs and average music, silence has never been more golden.
The hardest part is managing the camera.
This isn't exactly an original concept -- Rare made a very similar game for Nintendo 64 called Jet Force Gemini. Like JFG, Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows is an extremely repetitive shooter.
In one of Linkin Park's most popular songs, they say, "I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn't even matter." That's kind of how I felt when Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows was over. Its high points are not nearly high enough to prevent it from being another average PlayStation 2 port.