Features// Replay: The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck

Posted 12 Mar 2010 14:43 by
Did you know that SPOnG is more than a news site? Oh yes! We have a huge Game Museum archiving almost every single computer game you can think of. 'Replay' is a regular feature where we play through a title in our database ? be it old, overlooked or simply niche ? and give you the impressions of today.

I've just completed The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck. My mission was to save Huey, Dewey and Louie from Magica De Spell as well as retrieve Scrooge McDuck's good luck charm. What does Donald get as a token of thanks? His very own Lucky Dime. That's right, the uptight snooty billionaire gave me ten cents.

If I was Donald, I'd have punched the old git right in the face. Did he realise how many continues I used on the final level just to get his poxy coin? Apparently seventy duck lives is worth a dime. And talk about putting value on your nephews ? not even four cents each.

Despite the lack of an alternate ending where Scrooge McDuck is violently abused, The Lucky Dime Caper is in fact a great platformer that's stood the test of time. First released in December 1991 for the Sega Master System and Game Gear, the game was the result of a special arrangement that saw Sega developing exclusive Disney games (other examples being Mickey Mouse's Illusion series).

Launched alongside Quackshot on the Mega Drive, this 8-bit adventure was really fun to control yet a beast to master. Make no mistake, this is as challenging today as it is engaging. I remember the hours it would take me in 1991 to get to the second round of stages. Playing it today only took me about 20 minutes, but it was no less taxing.

The reason for this is the life system, allowing for two enemy hits before death. When you start a level, Donald has a weapon at his disposal to take out strange colourful baddies. Get hit once, and you lose your weapon until you either die or are able to collect another one.

This is a particularly crippling state as it's easy to try to rush the game and mistime enemy movement. That, and jumping on enemies makes for a significantly weaker attack on bosses. It's not so bad on the easier Game Gear version, as you don't lose your weapon, but the levels can still be quite tough.

Luckily power-ups aren't too hard to come by. For every second foe you squash, an item appears. If you're on your last legs, you'll get a weapon ? either the very useful hammer with a large swinging radius, or the piss-poor frisbee that misses almost every enemy and is bog slow.

I honestly have never seen a good use for this shockingly bad weapon, other than the fact that you can throw it upwards. You end up going hammer or bust.

Other items range from the generic 1-up and points gem to a star, which powers up your weapon four times before giving you invincibility on the fifth pickup. In the Game Gear version, these star items act as hit points, adding up to three dots on the screen which represent your health.

For an 8-bit game, you see some lovely colours and scenery, and despite a few screens being nothing more than a block colour Donald is taken through some very nice locations. When you start the game, the first port of call is to rescue Huey, Dewey and Louie (Even though Magica's cronies snatched the kids from out of the blue, Donald somehow knows the rough location of where they're being held captive. Ah, the beauty of old-school).

You get to trot through forests, ravines and exotic temples before facing off with bears, lions and weird meteor-lobbing statues. Then it's a journey over tropical lava-covered islands, pyramids and the Antarctic to get the kids' coins back before challenging De Spell at her own castle for the Lucky Dine.

And you'll be surprised at the variety of platforming tasks that lie in the levels, making each of them play differently to the last. More admirable than the level gimmicks however ? and perhaps the best thing about this game - is that it does little to patronise, thanks in part to its difficulty curve.

Each screen poses a fresh duck-buggering challenge, which can make the game feel relentless to some but even more satisfying to others. There are even alternative routes throughout most of the levels bar the openers, just in case you want an ass-kicking that you've not endured before.

Truck through to the end though, because The Lucky Dime Caper's finest moment is in Magica's Castle ? a seemingly never-ending circus of gothic duck death, featuring a series of spiked walls and floors to overcome that requires split-second reactions.

Yeah, actually beating Magica's a bit of a damp squib if you have the hammer ? simply smash the crystal ball ? but it's the journey that makes it. At that point you'll just be happy to survive to care less about a crappy end boss.

The Lucky Dime Caper is an example of Sega's impressive track record with the Disney brand during the 1990s, and all the more for it being on a console that was a generation behind the latest machines.

It won't take you long to complete, but playing it will certainly be a fun experience and is one of the Master System's best. Find a copy and give it a play one lazy afternoon for good times.

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Billy McGregor 10 Apr 2010 23:17
Amazing interview! I was spellbound.
great game and great interview 4 Jul 2010 23:01
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