Anyone over the age of 18 should hopefully have some experience of the wonders of Inspector Gadget. With voices from no less than Get Smart star Don Adams and Cree Summer, who played several odd-looking female aliens in recent Xbox/PC hit Mass Effect, Inspector Gadget formed a part of the backbone of many an 80s kid's cartoon viewing.
Whether it holds up these days is another question, but let's not diminish nostalgia with cruel reality. No, let's forget that and, for the purposes of this review, assume that Inspector Gadget is the greatest cartoon ever created.
As such, it's about time they got around to making a game of it. As is only right, you get to play as Gadget himself, his sidekick Penny and Brains the dog. Dr. Claw has stolen a load of jewels from Buckingham Palace and as the bumbling, gadget-laden Inspector, it's up to you to get them back.
Very much the traditional side-scrolling action platformer, Inspector Gadget involves running and jumping across a handful of levels, always more-or-less trying to get from one end to the other. Most of the levels have a slightly open feel, leaving you to find a button or switch that opens a gate allowing you to move further on.
However, there's a good deal of variety from level to level. The environments move from one gaming staple to another, from castle to mine and so on. It all feels in character with the show though, with its self-consciously transparent manipulation of the central conceit, as Penny gives Brains that knowing look as if to say 'Oh dear, it's Dr Claw again, I wonder how Gadget'll fluff it up this time'.
The levels themselves are all filled with jewels and gold stolen from the palace, but these are really just score bonuses for the seasoned and/or obsessive gamer. You're not always just running about on your lonesome, either. In some levels, you tag-team between characters, as one opens gates for the other.
Then there's the mine shaft level where you control Gadget as he flies down the shaft on roller-skates, a scene that could easily have come from an episode of the show. Although not crammed with gadget-use, you do get to use Gadget's classic inflatable jacket, his trademark floaty umbrella and a mallet with which to whack nasties. Namco has quite clearly gone to some lengths to ensure that the game is more than just any old re-skinned generic platformer.
The visuals aren't stunning, but it looks attractive in a suitably retro fashion, and makes great use of the license. The cut scenes between each level also feature full-screen animations of the main characters, drawn to look almost exactly the way they did in the TV series. Fans should be pleased.
So far so Gadget, then, but there are some retro concessions that the game could perhaps have done without. Inspector Gadget plays much like a 16bit platformer. This isn't a complaint as such considering that the game is well put together enough to lack any negative signs of ageing, but the difficulty is a factor they've decided to carry over.
It's not so much that the levels are incredibly difficult, although they are tricky at times, but more that once you lose all your lives you have to start the game right from the beginning. There's also a Quick Play mode where you can play any level you've already reached in the main mode, but to actually make progress, it's back to the beginning each time. We can understand wanting to stick to a retro blueprint, but forgiveness is a virtue.
For those willing to stick with the game though, this difficulty factor will probably just make you appreciate each level even more. Sure, they're not spectacular feats of game design, but each one is different enough to stand alone as a little nugget within your gaming memory. Inspector Gadget is great for big fans of the series. For the rest of you, it's a good old-school entry into a genre whose parties are getting really quite crowded.