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Quackshot Starring Donald Duck (Genesis) artwork

Quackshot Starring Donald Duck (Genesis) review


"Although the various equipment available had the potential to facilitate a rousing adventure that could have offered a true sense of exploration, most stages are instead hampered by extremely linear design with little or nothing worthwhile to see thatís off the beaten path. Item swapping mostly just amounts to busy work, necessary though it is, and that process becomes less tolerable each time youíre forced to take another run through an area because you lost your last life and were returned to the world map."



Quackshot: Starring Donald Duck is an experience that I purposefully set aside as a special treat for myself until only just recently. I figured that when I finally did get around to trying it out for the first time, I would make the happy discovery that Iíd been missing out on an awesome platformer for all these years, one that the passage of time and the changing nature of games hadnít somehow rendered less enjoyable than perhaps it would have been if only I tried it much sooner. Unfortunately, my assumptions wound up being wrong.

If you go into Quackshot expecting something like DuckTales or Rescue Rangers, youíre in for some disappointment. Capcom had no part in this particular title, so the vibe is quite a bit different. I knew enough to at least anticipate that much, but I still didnít expect to find a game that is so tedious and even occasionally cheap. This is a product that was presumably made for kids. Cheery music and impressively detailed graphics help it to sound and look the part, and yet the overall package suffers from enough questionable design choices that Iím surprised the kids of the era soldiered through it. Todayís youth have so many superior options that I canít imagine why theyíd even bother.

The game begins as Donald Duck blows off a dinner date with Daisy and begins traipsing around the globe. He hopes to find spectacular treasure with aid from a map he stumbled across, and his search will begin at one of three potential locations. The decision over where to begin the hunt for wealth offers players the illusion of freedom, but actually thereís no reason to go anywhere other than Duckberg. If you try venturing to one of the other stages first, you wonít get far before youíre ordered either to locate a key or to return when you have an upgrade that waits behind a locked door that only said key can open. The game continues in mostly the same manner from there, frequently offering up useless choices but ultimately requiring you to do everything in a specific order if youíd like to backtrack as little as possible.

Stages themselves are simplistic at first, but they soon grow more difficult. Duckberg finds Donald running along an alleyway while enemies that mostly look like Pete stand around on crates and toss rotten fruit if they are given a chance to attack. Itís possible to toss plungers to interrupt such attacks, at which point Donald can safely trot past and hopefully keep moving until heís out of range. Other hazards include giant springs that follow dangerous arcs between trash cans, as well as birds that drop vases from above and hideous women who appear from windows and do the same (I say ďhideousĒ because basically they just look like Pete with a wig). Then youíll reach a flag and you can catch a plane ride back to the map before you decide where to venture next.

As your exploration continues, youíll soon gain abilities that let you navigate areas in a slightly more adventurous fashion. A plunger upgrade allows you to leap your way up along walls, for instance, while bubblegum lets you issue forth explosive bubbles that will harm enemies and also eliminate weak obstructions. Before long, youíll find that you need to rely on a combination of items in your inventory to get anywhere important within the game, which sometimes means you have to consult menus a few times per minute as you hastily swap items and try to keep moving. The game seems to delight in slowing you down, though, even when youíre not diving through your gear. Youíre constantly forced to stop and wait to avoid swinging pendulums, ghosts, sound waves and so forth.

Although the various equipment available had the potential to facilitate a rousing adventure that could have offered a true sense of exploration, most stages are instead hampered by extremely linear design with little or nothing worthwhile to see thatís off the beaten path. Item swapping mostly just amounts to busy work, necessary though it is, and that process becomes less tolerable each time youíre forced to take another run through an area because you lost your last life and were returned to the world map.

That scenario plays out a lot more than I expected. Some levels are especially good at burning through your supply of extra lives until you memorize their hazards (after which point you need only be patient enough to not rush and youíll do just fine). In one scene, for instance, you must jump and grab a hook that rests on a live power line. Then you can use the hook to ride the like a person might ride a zipline, but you must also periodically jump to other hooks to avoid electrical charges that form traps along the way. Thatís simple enough, except the screen scrolls pretty quickly and sometimes you wonít see a new hook until youíre almost on top of it, at which point itís easy to jump wrong and then drop into a bottomless pit and lose a life. In one case, a hook is a trap and youíre best off not jumping for it at all, even though it looks like you should. Donald will simply grab the new hook on his own when the time is right, but you have no way of knowing that until youíve quite likely lost one or more lives.

The cheap deaths that you encounter until you memorize everything wouldnít be as irritating as they are if you were able to resume play close to where you lost that final life, but the developers often force you to start from a single checkpoint that is placed nearer to the beginning of a given region than it is the middle. That fact can catch up to you at inconvenient moments. In the Transylvania stage, for instance, you must work your way through most of a massive mansion complete with a long hallway full of mummies and then an underwater area where you will take far too much damage unless you move at a crawl. From there, you head through a lobby area where a giant ghost will keep turning around to face you and then split apart if he spots you, which tends to cause you to lose some life as specters swarm you. With no immediate indications appearing to let you know that you should do otherwise, youíll likely keep moving to the right and slowly losing energy until finally it dawns on you that Donald doesnít actually seem to be getting anywhere. Thereís a secret solution that you must discover in order to break out of an endless loop, which I wonít spoil here. What I will say is that itís not exactly intuitive, and then that scene is shortly followed by a new area where you must carefully scale a wall while leaping along plungers. If you take too long ascending that area, youíll be crushed and lose a life, and you still have a few corridors to clear before you reach a boss encounter at the end of the stage.

I suspect that people who played Quackshot back in the day will still be able to enjoy the game today, by ignoring the flaws Iíve mentioned and instead focusing on the positive elements and possibly nostalgia that have carried them through the tedious adventure at various points during the last couple of decades. Unless you formed an attachment to those mostly unremarkable elements at an early age, though, I canít imagine you playing through the game now for the first time and having a terrific time. I know I certainly didnítÖ

Rating: 5/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 23, 2013)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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