Some of my earliest childhood memories involves me staying up at night to watch reruns of Gargoyles, which I thought was one of the coolest show to ever appear on television before I even understood what “cool” meant. Gargoyles seemed so dark and edgy compared to other Disney Channel cartoons airing at the time. Seeing Goliath soar across the skyline of New York, watching him constantly battle his former love Demona while growing closer with his new love Elisa, and seeing what new plans Xanatos had in store for the Manhattan Clan of gargoyles always kept me on my toes. Despite my interest in the show, I never once played the video game adaption that releases on the Sega Genesis. My mom refused to buy me any video game consoles when I was younger, believing I would treat them with a passing interest, thusly wasting money on an expensive hobby. I remember crying at the store when I saw the game and thought I would miss out on some integral story from the show if I didn’t have the game.
It is probably for the best that my young child self never had the chance to play Gargoyles. 28 years later and I’ve finally had the chance to play Gargoyles Remastered, and while it certainly isn’t the worst tie-in game I’ve ever played, it definitely isn’t the greatest and is at best an outdated relic of the 1990s side-scrolling platform adventure genre.
Developed by Empty Clip Studios and published by Disney Games, Gargoyles Remastered is a modern refresh of the classic Sega Genesis game with enhanced graphics that replicate the visual style of the animated series. Empty Clip Studios has done a lot of work to make this remaster run as smoothly as possible on modern consoles. I never experienced any framerate drops or glitches while playing Gargoyles Remastered, which is a feat in itself given how often many games ship with bugs these days. It’s clear the developers approached this remaster with respect for the original game and the animated series, although at times this remaster feels a bit barebones with its bland menus and awkward level transitions that tell the rather sparse story of the game.
The updated graphics being more show-accurate makes Gargoyles Remastered look great, but it feels like a lot of visual information for the player was lost by trying to make things look clean and like the show. There were plenty of times as I traversed levels where I felt like I couldn’t tell where to go next because the visual cue for a crack in the wall or ground wasn’t immediately obvious to me. Thankfully, the game allows you to switch over to the original 16-bit version of Gargoyles, which has more distinctive visual cues for where to go next in a level. I also found myself playing through most levels with the 16-bit style on because it had more charm and depth to it over the newly remastered art design that felt a bit too flat and empty despite being more show-accurate.
The best part about Gargoyles Remastered are the save spots and the ability to rewind the game a few seconds to undo an action made. There were plenty of times where I knew I would have some difficulty defeating a boss, so I would make a new save and try out the battle before reloading the game back before the boss. The rewind feature would come in handy for enemies who would send projectile attacks my way but I would miss dodging them, so I could rewind and make sure I didn’t let the attack hit Goliath.
What makes this remaster frustrating to me is how unwieldy Goliath plays. He’s a big, hulking gargoyle made of stone that also plays like a big, hulking gargoyle with weighty and sluggish movements. I am unsure if this was a design choice by the original developers that carried over into this remaster, but making him a few seconds faster would have helped greatly with traversing levels at a faster pace. Besides Goliath’s speed, sometimes Goliath wouldn’t stop moving when I would stop tilting my Dualsense’s stick. Also, trying to trigger certain actions like breaking walls felt difficult and awkward at times because I couldn’t control Goliath well enough. This made it more frustrating to navigate what were pretty simple and basic level designs. There was little to explore and discover, so navigating the levels themselves ended up being the easiest part of the game.
Enemy hit-boxes were terrible, and combined with how frustrating it is to control Goliath, I often found myself losing too much HP to enemies that should have already been dead but due to an attack not registering because of poor hit-box detection even with Goliath standing close enough to an enemy. Bosses also felt gimmicky in a bad way. There are only 5 bosses, but the latter three felt like their gimmick were there just to extended the runtime of the game. I found it frustrating here because some levels could be fairly easy to complete, but then there would be a robot in an elevator that required Goliath to hold on and attack to get into its chamber, and it felt so tedious fighting it that I ended up saving and taking a break before going back to it. Gargoyles Remastered’s refreshed soundtrack would also grind on my nerves during these battles due to their repetitiveness and lack of variation.
There is little to say about the story of Gargoyles Remastered, sadly. It is a very barebones plot of Goliath seeking out the Eye of Odin in order to destroy it. Goliath’s journey begins in 994 A.D. where he fights the vikings who have taken the Eye of Odin before finding himself in Manhattan, New York in the year of 1994. It barely acknowledges the plot of the show, but also has the player fight two familiar antagonists closer to the end of the game and hardly explains their role in the story and what relationship they have with Goliath. If anybody were looking to play Gargoyles Remastered as a companion to the show’s canon, it is much more like a loose adaption that utilizes characters for the sake of having something familiar to fight.
In the end, Gargoyles Remastered exists mostly for those who were either fans of the animated series or played this game when they were younger, but doesn’t really have much to offer beyond a few hours of gameplay and a mild sense of completion once it is finished. For a fan of Gargoyles like myself, it was nice to finally experience this piece of history for a series I hold fond memories of, but I also don’t feel like it was worth waiting 28 years to experience. For fans of the platforming genre who might have had a passing interest in Gargoyles Remastered, they would be better served playing something else with better levels and character control.
Gargoyles Remastered is available to play on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.