Donald Duck doesn’t get much in the gaming stakes these days. Well… I suppose he gets more of a say in Kingdom Hearts than the other obvious Disney mascot but outside of that, there are very few really memorable games featuring the hot-tempered duck. I remember a fair few of them, mind, mainly because I also had a Master System and he appeared in a nifty little platformer called The Lucky Dime Caper. It wasn’t super special but it was sort of trying to ride on the coat tails of Castle Of Illusion and it was good in its own way.
So while Mickey Mouse was butt-bouncing his way through Castles and Worlds of Illusion and then through his own history, Donald was left with just a single entry into his own adventure on the Mega Drive in the form of Quackshot. And suffice to say, it’s actually pretty damn good. I’m fairly sure it’s one of those games that people who played it still hold in the back of their mind with fondness.
And to be honest, there are plenty of reasons why. So while it may not be the greatest game ever… it’s coming to be surprisingly tricky to swear and complain about. I’m having to properly nitpick here and it’s actually quite frustrating.
OOH. THERE WE ARE. MOAN NUMBER ONE: THIS GAME IS TOO GOOD.
Now before we get started, there’s one little thing I feel needs addressing in this game. Let’s think about Donald Duck’s character for a moment. He’s an angry duck who’s often the butt of jokes and gets very worked up over tiny little things. He’s also a massive dick to quite a lot of the other characters in the Disney universe. Now I know that Chip and Dale aren’t exactly innocent themselves – truth be told, they’re actually a pair of little twats who I BEGGED Donald to catch and kill when watching some cartoons – but sometimes, Donald acted like a proper wanker to them. He’s grumpy, impatient, mostly self-centred and he’s happy to do something if he gets something out it.
And Quackshot somehow managed to capture that perfectly.
Donald looks quick chirpy most of the time but if you leave him hanging…
Yeah. He lets you know about it. And it’s not as though we’re talking a long time. You leave him be for like three seconds and he’s tapping his foot and wagging his tail feathers about like you’re the worst person in all existence. He simply cannot wait for you. Thankfully, he isn’t as bad as Sonic in Sonic CD and just JUMP out of the game because you left him there for three minutes but you always gets that judgemental feeling from Donald. You don’t want to upset Donald. This game manages to make you feel that with all of about… what… six frames of animation. If that.
Also, during the game itself, Donald can collect chilli peppers from enemies (the ones who have little bags with them) and if he collects five, he goes APESHIT. His temper meter is raised and he barrel-rolls through the stage, clocking enemies, clambering over high walls and quacking like a diseased yak… which quacks.
OK, failed analogy. But you get the idea.
It’s only temporary though. So be prepared for a comedown soon enough.
OK, so story-wise, Donald’s found a treasure map while in Scrooge’s study hinting as to the whereabouts of King Garuzia’s Great Duck Treasure. And Donald being Donald, he’s all set up to go and become richer than Uncle Scrooge because that’s ALL ABOUT HIM THE SELFISH BASTARD. And of course evil scoundrel Pete (who, may I remind you, is friends with GOOFY in the Goof Troop lore but for what reason I’ll NEVER know) is spying on him and follows him because of course you do. Then Daisy sticks her oar in and does the whole ‘nagging wife’ routine that Disney seemed to just love portraying because SEXISM and yet he still goes off with her and yet takes his THREE NEPHEWS.
WHO CAN FLY A PLANE.
Anyway, the story itself begins by giving you a choice of three places to visit: Duckburg, Mexico or Transylvania. Now… Duckburg is an odd one to me because there’s really no purpose for this level to exist aside from set pieces and almost as a bit of a tutorial. It feels as though they had to shove in a level set in America for the heck of it and although you do end up getting the key to open the ruins in Mexico from here, as well as the bubblegum gun (oh Gyro, you crazy, crazy inventor of clearly useful items…), you could have received these items in a level that’s more fun than this one.
OH WAIT! MOAN NUMBER TWO: DUCKBURG IS BORING.
So eventually you’ll get the Hero Key to open the ruins and then GOOFY of all people, who just so happens to have gotten inside these ruins YOU NEEDED A KEY FOR, gives you a different plunger-
OH YEAH. Donald shoots plungers at enemies. Because we can’t shoot things that will actually hurt/kill anyone, Disney went with a plunger gun. Pete’s crew of enemies attack with tomatoes, bees, gelatinous blobs and cherry bombs. And then there are snake charmers and penguins and fucking birds that drop shit on you and bats and STATUES THAT FUCKING MOVE… and yeah. Yeah. This is definitely a kids’ game.
ANYWAY, Goofy gives you a different plunger that you can use to climb walls – WHICH IS ACTUALLY BLOODY BRILLIANT AS AN IDEA. PLUS THE PLUNGER WEARS OFF AFTER A WHILE SO YOU CAN’T JUST SHOVE ONE ON AND EXPECT TO STAY THERE. Honestly, this is a genius idea. You have to keep jumping and shooting plungers at the walls to climb higher but if you shoot too high, you might not be able to actually jump UP that high and land on it. It’s actually quite precise for an early 90s title.
This red plunger will eventually get upgraded once further to a green one that’s used to latch onto birds to fly over large gaps in terrain. Again, it just adds a bit more to the game rather than expecting you to know to use your red plunger to try and latch onto a bird, knowing it won’t work, you getting stuck, you getting frustrated and you throwing the cartridge out of the window with the Mega Drive still attached.
Because that’s a thing you might do and you don’t want to. Because how would you play Quackshot if you don’t have the console or the game? WHY ARE YOU THROWING YOUR CONSOLE AWAY YOU WEIRDO? Jeez. Stop being ridiculous. Just calm down, Donald. Fucking hell, mate.
And in the midst of all of the places you visit, you have a few bosses to deal with. Transylvania gives you the obvious Dracula character to defeat – possibly/possibly not called Duckula but that was already a thing so perhaps not – the Maharajah’s palace gives you the chance to fight a tiger that’s invaded the gardens and the Viking ship gives you a massive fuck-off headless Viking ghost. To be honest, all three of them are fairly simple to beat once you get the patterns down but defeating them without taking damage is more of a challenge. Particularly the FUCKING TIGER.
BOO TO YOU, TIGER. YOU SUCK. WE HATE YOU AND I DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND HOW YOU EVEN BREATHE FIRE AT ME. FIERY TIGERS I BELIEVE. THEY LOOK LIKE LITTLE TIGERS. I DON’T GET IT. STOP IT.
MOAN NUMBER THREE: THIS BOSS SUCKS.
There are plenty of places to visit in total on your journey, aside from your initial three places, you also get the Viking ship, the Maharajah’s palace, the South Pole and Egypt too. You do have to make sure you collect things in a certain order to be able to get further within each level. For example, in the South Pole, there’s a key in the ice but you have nothing to melt it with. Thankfully, the game has another neat little feature whereby you reach the end of a certain part of the level and you can call the aeroplane and go off to somewhere else. Now, to get the key, you need to get the Sceptre of Ra from Egypt which is found within the ruins there… but to get into the ruins, you need to DEFEAT THE FUCKING TIGER to get the Sphinx Tear. Once you get the tear to get the sceptre to get the key, you take the key to the Viking ship to get the Viking diary which continues the story but the fucking bastard who says he has it has LIED TO YOU.
But instead, he gives you the green plunger.
FALSE ADVERTISING, YOU FUCKING DICKBAG.
And then Pete captures your nephews and Donald gives him the diary and does his impatient face as if to say to Huey, Dewey and Louie that he’s tired of your shit – because DONALD DUCK IS TIRED OF YOUR SHIT – but they follow Pete to his hideout to get it back.
HOLY FUCK. THIS LEVEL. By this point, the developers really went to town on being EVIL with you. There are a shit-ton of death-trap bottomless pits here because you’re used to them by now and if you’re going to fuck about by this level, you’re really not doing a very good job at this gaming thing. You don’t go into a game like this, a neat, well-designed platformer with bloody good music, all guns blazing and thinking it’ll be FINE. It’s a Disney game, they’re all EASY and they’re FINE.
Look… this is essentially Disney’s version of Indiana Jones and that’s not exactly a kids film. It’s challenging. It’s supposed to be nice and simple to start off with and then ramp up the difficulty. This is a perfect example of how to ramp up the difficulty perfectly as the levels progressed.
One minute, you’re chased by fire in Egypt and then you’re traversing across flying platforms in Pete’s secret hideout. There are SOME unfair moments floating around. Like if you fall down a hole/shaft or something and you don’t think to press right as you fall, you could easily end up dying as you continue falling down into a death-trap. However… it’s one way of learning the level layout and one that certainly stays with you. It seems quite frustrating at first but it’s actually oddly satisfying as an older gamer to have the memory of it even after all this time. That’s the sign of a decent game.
LOOK AT DONALD HUGGING THE MOOOOOON! ISN’T IT CUTE?
Sorry. Not sorry. They look so in love! LOOK AT THEM BOTH!
Graphically, you can see that it’s absolutely fucking gorgeous. Donald looks amazing, he’s been given the due care and attention that he bloody deserves and the themed levels are very good fits throughout. If anything, the only one piece of music that really doesn’t work is Egypt’s level but that is MINOR gripe time. It doesn’t sound too Egyptian to me when the rest of the levels seemed to have music that matched it perfectly and effectively.
However… Quackshot is that game that few people really truly remember straight off the tip of their tongue when talking about great games on the Mega Drive. I hasten to add I might be one of them. There’s nothing that it does particularly wrong. It does everything right but it suffers purely from just not being a HUGE masterpiece. There are some really, really nice ideas but in the age of platformers… it hasn’t quite stood out.
AND THERE IS NO REASON WHY.
AND FOR THAT, I BLAME ALL OF YOU.
BUT YOU FIRST.
I’M BOTTOM OF THAT LIST.
BECAUSE FUCK YOU, IT’S MY LIST, THAT’S WHY.