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Deadly Duck (Atari 2600) artwork

Deadly Duck (Atari 2600) review

"Devious. Diabolical. DEADLY!"

Deadly Duck asset

Ancient ponds were breeding grounds for danger, especially for ducks. As everyone knows, the natural enemy of any peaceful mallard is Carpilius volatus, what many of us terrified citizens know as the flying crab. This particular species builds nests in peaceful bodies of water by dropping bricks in arbitrary locations. These creatures used to be a costly nuisance for pond ecosystems until about ten thousand years ago, when duck evolution reached a milestone. It was then that the first ducks were born with projectile-shooting barrels that protruded from their bills. Originally, it was bricks that littered the small bodies of water of the past, but nowadays its Carpilius volatus chitin.

Deadly Duck is not so much a game as an educational tool teaching us about the struggles between modern duck and the vile flying crabs. Assuming the role of one pissed off water fowl, it is your task to commit genocide on the aforementioned arthropods by firing upwards at them. With each exploded carapace, you'll rack up points and gain extra lives. The crabs, however, have a means of reprisal by dropping blocks on you. Should you manage to miss a falling piece, it' become a roadblock, reducing your range of motion and possibly setting you up for a massive cranial contusion in the future. Thankfully, the bricks are temporary and will disappear after a few seconds.

Crabs understand the value of a fair fight. They tend to keep things interesting as long as possible by starting off with a light assault, and then gradually increasing the severity of their attack. Going balls to the wall would be effective in eliminating the duck, but what's the fun in that? First the crabs increase in speed and move more erratically, canceling any sense of rhythm or timing the ducks might have. After they've frustrated the ducks with their crazy lack of flight pattern, they call upon the dragonflies to block their shots. These dragonflies also have a knack for crumbling duck shots, turning them into deadly shrapnel that threatens to tear unsuspecting mallards to bits.

It's this factor, the progressive climb in difficulty, that separates Deadly Duck from other obscure additions to the 2600 library. Where many games either go from easy to face-crush in a level or two, or are far too simple throughout, Deadly Duck turns up its challenge factor by adding small constraints with each new level.

Deadly Duck (Atari 2600) image

These limitations might seem insignificant on their own, but they add up quickly. Soon there will be a huge line of dragonflies accompanied by crazy fast crabs. Eventually the opposition becomes so quick and numerous that only through scoring a lucky shot can you actually expect to emerge victorious. Rather than a game of timing and precision, Deadly Duck shifts into one of patience and reaction. You must learn to watch every factor--the crabs, the dragonflies, the falling bricks--and wait for the moment to shoot, doing so regardless of whether or not there's a crab in your line of fire. Even if there isn't, there's still a fair chance one might wander in front of a shot. All the while you must be conscientious of any bricks or shrapnel and be ready to dodge in an instant, as both of those increase in speed in later levels.

While the boost in difficulty rating reduces playing to waiting and firing mindlessly, it's still an appreciable factor. I also don't think this shift in focus, in going from a precision-based game to one of patience, was unintentional. It's as though the developer found a new obstacle to throw at you, one that you can't perceive, by changing the gaming skills set emphasized. The game leads you in one direction, then sucker punched you while your attention was diverted. If you tried to play the precision game after the shift, you got your feathers plucked. It definitely kept me on my toes.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying this title is brilliant. Deadly Duck is, however, a competent and addictive addition to the vast number of Space Invaders clones. Don't let the lack of recognition scare you off. If you still play games that require only a single button and you enjoy blasting airborne menaces, then look up Deadly Duck and defend the pond!

Closing note: Let me get this straight... You play as a duck who can destroy crabs with his projectiles, but not dragonflies? "Why yes, I own a gun that can fell an elephant, but it's completely ineffective against deer." I know, I know, don't question 80s game logic...


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (March 22, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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If you enjoyed this Deadly Duck review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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zippdementia posted March 24, 2012:

Wow, Joe! Another game review worthy of ROTW mention. You've once again left your safety zone for a different style of writing and deliver a review that gets me interested in a game that (let's be honest) I've no chance in hell of ever playing.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted March 25, 2012:

Thanks, Zipp! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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