"In Duck Amuck, your goal is not to save the princess, or to make Daffy as wealthy as possible, or to show Bugs Bunny once and for all which mascot is superior. You aren't even sparing the cartoon world an invasion from Marvin the Martian. In fact, though Daffy is clearly the star of the show, you're not helping him do anything great at all. Instead, you're trying to ruffle his feathers. You win the game when he gets so angry that he blows his top. That's it. End of story."
There's something calming about the sight of a duck paddling across a placid lake or flapping its way across a fading evening sky. Perhaps it's because there are few animals more mild-mannered in all of nature. Yet what must lie beneath that dapper surface? What might break free with just the right amount of provocation? The possibilities are fascinating, and they lie at the root of one of the most well-known characters in animated history: Daffy Duck.
Everyone who has watched a cartoon or two starring the famous fowl knows that Daffy Duck is not mild-mannered. He's a stick of TNT, lit and ready to explode. That's his essence and it's precisely what anyone needed to capture when producing a game about one of the most famous ducks in the history of television. Duck Amuck demonstrates that point... well, not perfectly. It comes interestingly close, though.
In Duck Amuck, your goal is not to save the princess, or to make Daffy as wealthy as possible, or to show Bugs Bunny once and for all which mascot is superior. You aren't even sparing the cartoon world an invasion from Marvin the Martian. In fact, though Daffy is clearly the star of the show, you're not helping him do anything great at all. Instead, you're trying to ruffle his feathers. You win the game when he gets so angry that he blows his top. That's it. End of story.
To frustrate the duck, you'll play through a series of mini-games. These are connected by a navigation screen that is one of the most interesting in the history of the industry. Daffy Duck appears on a white background, like a sheet of paper, and you use the stylus to interact with him (yes, almost exactly like the unseen animator in the classic Chuck Jones cartoon that harassed Daffy with a pencil). A few pokes might cause him to angrily hop to the side, or perhaps you'd like to slice him in half. You can do whatever you like, and mostly that'll cause some options to appear on the screen. For example, three buckets of paint might appear in the corner. You can grab a glob of paint from one of them and use it to access a mini-game.
A lot of thought clearly went into the interface. Daffy yells at you and makes amusing comments about the DS specifications, the state of the game industry and more. He sounds roughly the same as he always has thanks to the current voice talent over at Warner Bros. working its usual magic. Some of the diatribes are downright amusing and the animations are excellent. You really feel like you have the duck at your mercy, even if the number of reactions he has to your pokes and prods is a bit on the low side. In the most positive way possible, the menu is one of the best parts of the package!
The numerous mini-games, in contrast, are the worst. Their chief selling point is that victory amounts to an angrier duck.
One stage has Daffy Duck (clad in green garb like Robin Hood) floating along through the sky, trying to land safely on the ground so that he can raid the sheriff's treasure. Your goal is to prevent a happy landing by helping him to avoid pleasant tree branches in favor of harsh boulders and the like. To succeed, you blow into the microphone to keep your volatile charge aloft. The problem is that you can't always see much of what's coming ahead, so there's a bit of guesswork involved.
Another level has you gambling in an Old West setting. You toss cards toward an eventual three opponents (one being Daffy) until the value of the cards exceeds a required number for the given stage. If all goes well, Daffy will be unceremoniously kicked out of the saloon, an angry loser. If you fail in your mission, he'll smugly inform you that he mopped the floor with you and his overall level of rage will drop a bit.
That's how most of the mini-games go, whether you're lighting a trail of gasoline and tracing its route to make sure that Daffy is blown to Kingdom Come, or knocking at sticks to drop a canvas over him, or moving an elusive diamond through a mine or helping Daffy climb a staircase in a haunted castle with what he thinks is a candlestick (it's dynamite). There are over 20 mini-games. If you're unsure what you're supposed to do in one (since they're not usually explained before-hand), you can pause the action to read a few simple directions that make your objectives clear. Then it's back to angering the duck.
The shift from helpful player to frequent tormentor is delightfully satisfying and the presentation throughout is top-notch, but it's hard not to feel a bit disappointed by the time the final credits roll. The mini-games that make up the bulk of the game just aren't addictive enough. There's no high score table to keep you playing with an eye on breaking old records, either, though at least the game tracks which challenges you've completed perfectly and provides hidden coins you collect from each of the mini-games. Once you've grabbed those goodies and have caused Daffy to lose his temper a few times (something you can easily accomplish over the course of 2 or 3 hours), the cartridge won't get much use unless you're showing it to a friend. Duck Amuck is a solid-gold idea that just needed a little more time to percolate. React accordingly.
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 17, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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