Donald Duck's superhero alter-ego comes to the GameCube in Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows. Unfortunately, this game would've been better off staying in the shadows.
Disney’s PK: Out of the Shadows is yet another example of a “kid’s game” being a euphemism for a game with dull, shallow gameplay. While there are fun and interesting moments scattered throughout the game, the act of completing the game feels like a chore and is only likely to give satisfaction to those who are easily amused or to those who have never played a good game.
The game’s story is quite simple. It follows Donald Duck’s superhero alter-ego, PK, as he goes from fledgling hero-in-training to a genuine true blue Superhero who single handedly thwarts the plot of the evil Evronian aliens. It’s not terribly complicated or interesting, but as a framework for an action-adventure game aimed at kids, it fits the bill.
The game’s graphics are probably its strongest suit. Disney’s PK: Out of the Shadows uses cel-shading to create a comic book feel. Interjections like “Fwoosh”, “Boom”, and “Krak” appear on screen with the appropriate sound effect to add to the comic book presentation. Also, the game’s pretty backgrounds use vibrant colors that one would find within the pages of a Disney comic. On the down side though, the game’s framerate can be a bit erratic at times. The same can be said for the in-game camera which will sometimes provide views that hinder gameplay. Still, with solid animations, colorful particle effects and the aforementioned strong comic book presentation, the game’s graphics are nice.
Unfortunately, the gameplay in Disney’s PK: Out of the Shadows is nowhere near as good as its graphics.
The main problem lies in the fact that it is extremely repetitive. That’s all you really need to know. Run from the corridors of one level to similarly designed corridors (with different textures) on the next level. Hover jump over bottomless pits and toxic ooze in one level only to hover jump over different pits and poison ooze in the next level. Shoot at 1 of 2 different types of enemies (the Cool Flame and the Evronian) on one level and shoot at these same enemies on the next. Go the next level and you’ll get to shoot at them again. If you get far enough, you’ll get to shoot at the Cool Flame that jumps around and three more different types of Evronians; one that uses a hover vehicle, one that has a force field, and one that just shoots a lot. Oh, and don’t forget to keep your eye out for the six Captured Scientists on each level. If you get near one and don’t rescue him in the allotted time, you’re going to have to replay the entire level from the beginning to get another chance. Yup, you get to go through the same repetitive gameplay again!
Towards the end of the game, there are a few fun areas once you pick up the ability to use PK’s X-Transformer (the gadget that helps PK be a superhero) to swing across larger gaps. Unfortunately, this ability is not gained until you’ve trudged through most of the game. The Remote X-Transformer ability is introduced about halfway through the game in an effort to change up the gameplay a bit, but these portions play out as a very very basic scrolling shooter that isn’t any more fun than the rest of the gameplay (shoot, turn, shoot, turn, turn, turn, strafe, turn, shoot).
There are two ‘bright’ spots to be found in the gameplay. The game’s controls are fairly simple and easy to pick up. Also, many checkpoints can be found throughout levels, and there are no limits to the number of times PK can respawn so finishing a level (and the game) is more a matter of persistence than a test of skill. These two factors should help a younger gamer to finish the game, eventually. Of course, whether there’s enough fun in the game to motivate a younger gamer to attempt to finish the game is highly questionable.
The sound in Disney’s PK: Out of the Shadows is not as bad as the gameplay but it’s nothing special either. The sound effects themselves consist mostly of energy blasts, explosions, and other sounds one might hear in a sci-fi movie. The effects are fairly ordinary, they get the job done. The music is pretty standard too, using synthesized techno-pop tunes to accompany the overall sci-fi superhero vs. aliens theme. Unfortunately, there are times when the music uses sounds that seem like they might be from an in-game character or object which can cause some confusion.
The worst part of the sound is definitely the voice of PK. PK’s voice is hardly fitting of a superhero. Disney may have done this intentionally as PK is supposed to be a novice, but nowhere in the game does PK sound terribly heroic or tough. The charm and edge of an angry Donald Duck are nowhere to be found in PK’s whiney clearly enunciated speech. Fortunately, the voices of the other characters in the game are not nearly as annoying.
I’m pretty sure I don’t fit the target demographic for Disney’s PK: Out of the Shadows, but one hardly needs to be in a target demographic to judge a game’s quality, or lack thereof. A younger gamer with little gaming experience could be amused by this game for a while but there really are other GameCube games suitable for younger gamers that would provide a better overall experience. While the game does feature some nice graphics, its repetitive gameplay, repetitive level design, and lack of replay value, PK is at best a mediocre “kid’s game”. If you really need to keep your kids occupied for a few hours with something Disney, you’re probably better off with a Disney movie.