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Quackshot Starring Donald Duck

Genre: Platformer Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1991

Of all the characters in Disney’s stable, only Mickey Mouse is more famous than Donald Duck. Movies and cartoons galore have made the rodent’s pal one of the most recognizable figures ever created. I’ve always liked him, probably because he’s the only Disney character who really lets go when he’s pissed. Never one to be taken advantage of, Donald gets what he wants, no matter how much trouble it gets him into.

In Quackshot, the famous fowl has found a treasure map (funny how those things just seem to pop up) for the lost riches of King Garuzia. He sets off to find it but is followed by Big Bad Pete and his gang of thugs (or what pass for thugs in a Disney game). Thus begins a race for the Lost Duck Treasure that will cover several continents.

If you’ve played Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, you’ll feel right at home here. Quackshot is from the same mold of that classic title and the similarities are quite obvious. The graphical style, music, sound effects; just about everything is the same. Where Donald and Mickey go their separate ways though, is in the game play, which is something this game has in spades.

Donald has a large repertoire of moves, ranging from a slide to a dash. I didn’t find the dash move particularly useful, save for a few key areas but the slide move is indispensable for getting through many stages, as well as avoiding attacks from most bosses. One element that was underused I think, was the “quack attack.” Feed Donald six chili peppers and he loses his temper, going nuts and eliminating all on-screen foes. This temporary invincibility is only available in a few spots and is almost unnecessary. Sega could really have done so much more with it but as it is, it’s little more than a novelty.

Although it incorporates your basic platforming elements, Quackshot goes a step further by including a working inventory. Believe me, Donald accumulates a lot of crap on his journey and uses all of it. Be it one of several keys, ancient scrolls, or a mystical staff, each item has a specific purpose. He also has a few weapons to combat Pete, like a bubblegum gun, which destroys certain blocks, and a popcorn gun that eliminates enemies completely. His most versatile armament is his yellow plunger gun (you heard correctly). While it may seem odd for a duck to wield such a weapon, I ask you to reserve judgment until you’ve seen it in action. The gun can be upgraded twice: once to stick to walls (red), allowing Donald to climb to out-of-reach areas, and again (green) to allow him to stick to flying critters and pass over canyons and other wide open spaces. The gun doesn’t kill anyone (this is a Disney game, remember?), only stunning them long enough for our hero to pass by safely. You’ll need to nail your foes with some popcorn to get rid of them for good. Some bonus items, like 1ups and money bags, can be found hidden in blocks or are carried by enemies sporting satchels. Food to fill your energy bar and ammunition for your weapons are everywhere, so shoot everything!

All of the items you obtain must be used in a specific area. The trouble is, you never know what you need in a given stage until you reach its end. There, a member of your group will tell you what is required to proceed. This is good actually, as the non-linear game play allows you to visit almost all of the game’s ten stages in just about any order. Once you’ve reached the end, Donald plants a flag to call his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie; who provide transportation via airplane. When you reenter the stage, you begin at the flag, instead of having to start over.

The stages themselves are diverse and very well drawn. From the streets of Duckberg, to the deserts of Mexico, to the hull of an ancient Viking ship, Donald will travel the world over in search of the lost treasure. Sega appears to have taken the level of graphical excellence created in Castle of Illusion and pushed it even further. Quackshot is more colorful and better detailed, edging out the company mascot by just a tail’s length (bad pun, I know). I’m a sucker for parallax scrolling and this game does not disappoint. The South Pole level looks gorgeous, with its colorful snowy tones and multiple levels of waves and clouds passing by. All the levels are bright and colorful, as this game was released at about the time when developers were really beginning to get the feel of the Genesis’ hardware.

Longtime Sega fans will recognize the music immediately. It’s done by Bo (the same fellow who scored CoI and many other Sega classics) and has a bunch of memorable tunes that will stick with you while you play. The Duckberg theme is a favorite of mine, with its harmonica melody and bouncy riff. Bo really knew how to score platformers and the man should really release a greatest hits album. If you remember the tunes from the Ducktales series, you should like the music in Quackshot. They’re not the same themes but the style is spot on.

Many of the effects are from Mickey’s game, which goes a ways toward establishing the whole “Disney universe” theme that Sega capitalized on in the later title World of Illusion . As great as everything sounds, I only wish there had been some voice clips included for Donald. He seems too quiet in this game, especially when he’s famous for not being able to keep his mouth shut.

I guess the only problem I have with Quackshot is the fact that it’s so darn easy. Levels offer little challenge and some of the bosses are laughable. I guess you could say that it balances out though, since the game is easily an hour in length. Regardless, being a Disney game shouldn’t automatically mean the game can be whupped by a six year-old. The lack of a selectable difficulty level means that first time players will have little trouble, while veterans will blow through the game in no time.

In the end, however, Quackshot is an excellent piece of platforming that succeeds on just about every level. With the exception of Fantasia (I’m still pissed about that one), Sega did a great job with the Disney titles they released. Anyone with a Genesis should have a copy of Quackshot in their library. It’s a great title to break out and play every so often. Once you get over the low difficulty, you’ll have a ball.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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