Gargoyles Remastered Review

Set in stone.

I vaguely remember catching the odd episode of the original Disney Gargoyles cartoon, but looking back on my youth, it doesn’t have the same nostalgia hit for me as the likes of Dungeons and Dragons or Thundercats. I don’t think I was ever really aware of the 16-bit game either, until it started popping up in lists of underrated or forgotten games of the era. It was therefore quite a surprise when this remastered version was announced earlier this year – why was this particular game was getting such a treatment? Having now played through both the new version and the original for comparison, my initial question remains unanswered.

The storyline for Gargoyles is incredibly barebones. You play as Goliath – a powerful gargoyle who is blamed for his homeland being invaded by Vikings and punished by being frozen in stone for centuries. He is reawakened in modern times when a powerful artefact called Odin’s Eye is rediscovered and must fight to vanquish those in possession of it. The story itself is told through static images and texts, which was understandable for the original but feels pretty disappointing in the Remaster. Even repurposing clips from the cartoon would have been more interesting than just upping the resolution on the originals.

It’s in the graphics that Gargoyles Remastered shows the biggest efforts for modernisation, but the overly defined artstyle chosen just doesn’t look that good to my eye. Many stages are too busy and several have colour schemes that are incredibly difficult to look at – the lava and factory ones in particular with their garish reds and yellows. This aesthetic overhaul wouldn’t be so bad if it were not so obviously a visual filter layered over the original game, which is made clear by the ability to switch between old and new graphics. If anything, the new graphics actively make the game worse as they feel laggy and collision detection appears to be based on the underlying original style anyway.

There are a handful of levels to work through here but the brevity of the original 16-bit game is very much maintained. Originally this short length was padded out through some absurd difficulty spikes and the game became somewhat notorious for these. Due to the Remastered version effectively being the same game beneath the surface, these difficulty jumps are still present. There are difficulty settings with Easy, Normal and Hard, each offering different amounts of lives and varying damage taken from enemy attacks. You can also select the Original game itself, but this crashed on the first level the three times I tried it before release. Given that you can instantly switch the visuals I’d recommend playing the new version anyway, even if you prefer the older graphics.

Combat is frequent but basic. You have a claw attack, a powerful ground pound and a throw that is particularly difficult to pull off with the newer graphics. It’s actually the quickest way to kill specific enemies, but was more frustrating than helpful before reverting to 16-bit visuals. Bosses are mostly pretty uninspired and most can be stun-locked to defeat with only a possessed lift and the final boss offering anything of note.

The other side of the game is platforming and this is better than the combat, but still has issues. Goliath isn’t the most responsive of characters – although he is made of stone, so I won’t hold that against him – and his flap jump is very floaty. He can also climb on walls and ceilings, although the latter is quite fiddly and prone to glitches.

One complex section in a factory sees you clinging to a bucket filled with molten metal, but trying to move from the side to the bottom seemed to fail as often as it succeeded. Fortunately there is a quick rewind feature that can be used across both modern and old versions of the game (presumably not the original option on the menu, though) which does go a long way to ease the frustration.

Gargoyles Remastered is a disappointing time. Fans of the original will delight in getting to play it on a modern system and the quick rewind helps to alleviate some of the more egregious design choices, but it also highlights how barebones this remaster really is. The rough and ready feel isn’t helped by modern visuals that look aesthetically worse and seem to add extra lag and imprecision to the controls. This is one oldie that perhaps should have been left to sleep in stony isolation.
  • Nice to see a relatively obscure game return
  • Cool character design
  • Quick rewind
  • Feels incredibly dated
  • New graphics actually make the game feel worse
  • Awful difficulty spikes
  • Boring combat
Written by
Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.