Review by Ryan Harrison
If Mickey can get his own great Mega Drive game, so can Donald!
QuackShot starring Donald Duck (Disney Interactive Studios/Sega, 1991) for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive is the game that first saw legendary Disney character Donald Duck make his first appearance on the system, as part of a long-running series of action games starring Disney characters that were released on a multitude of Sega consoles in the early to mid-nineties. It follows on from another well-known platformer, Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse, released the previous year, and while it has a similar look and feel, differs to Mickeys game by going for a non-linear game that requires exploring and acquiring key items from various locations in order to progress in others.
The story of the game, told in a short slideshow-style opening, is that Donald discovers a book in Uncle Scrooges library that tells of an ancient hidden treasure of King Garuzia, ruler of the mythical Great Duck Kingdom. Donald also finds a map to the treasure, and calls on his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie to assist him in finding the treasure. However, it just so happens that Big Bad Pete was spying on Donald the whole time while he found out about the treasure and decides to sabotage Donalds efforts while hoping to claim the treasure for himself; so throughout the game you will have to contend with the members of his gang and fend them off while you progress.
The story as a whole is nothing too intricate, and the whole wild goose chase in hopes of finding treasure isnt exactly the most original plot of a Disney cartoon, either the story-telling aspect is still helped some by a host of other characters who make an appearance in the game including Daisy Duck, Goofy the Dog, Gyro Gearloose and Magica DeSpell. Even Mickey makes a cameo appearance as his face appears on a blimp seen flying in the background in one of the games stages.
QuackShot is a side-scrolling action platformer that differs to Castle of Illusion in that its layout is less linear; while there is a specific order in which you have to progress through the game, it is still possible to select one of a few different stages to visit from the map screen once you begin the game. You may find that once you have gone as far as you can in one stage, you wont be able to go any further until you have acquired a key item for example a plunger gun that can shoot plungers that stick to walls in order to let you climb up them; a bubble gum gun to fire bubbles to destroy walls that lead to new areas, or keys to unlock a door to reach the next part of a stage.
The good news is that should you reach a certain part where you cannot progress any further until you have acquired the right item, Donald plants a checkpoint flag, so you can resume from that very point once you do get that item and come back to the stage. While touching a flag, you may pause the game to bring up your inventory menu and call the airplane to return to the map screen and visit another stage. Also, new stages will be made available as you clear certain areas.
It isnt too terribly difficult to work out where to go to get the next item you need to get further in the game, but there is the occasional area that may require you to backtrack or replay through multiple times for example the mansion stage that has several doors leading to new areas while some may take you back to a previous point, so it can be frustrating trying to memorise the correct path in order to reach the end of the level.
Control of the game is easy enough to work out; the D-Pad will get Donald moving in the corresponding direction, and with the action buttons, he will dash, fire his current weapon or jump. Donalds initial weapon is a revolver that fires toilet plungers; these dont kill enemies but can stun them for a few seconds and allow you to walk past them without fear of taking damage, and it also comes with an unlimited supply of ammunition. It is possible to acquire colour-coded plunger upgrades later on in the game; the first upgrade gives you plungers that stick to walls that Donald use to climb by jumping on them, the second attaches to birds and he can grab on to catch a lift over long chasms. You can also fire popcorn or bubble gum from Donalds revolver, however their ammunition is limited and has to be topped up by finding it lying in the open, or being dropped by enemies when hit.
I found that the control is good enough to work with and responds quite well, though they do still feel somewhat slow, and judging the distance you want to go when making precise jumps or slides (as youll find out in stages requiring you to slide through narrow gaps while avoiding hazards dropping from above) is a little tougher than it ought to be. I also found that there was the occasional part where you had no choice but to take damage; one part has spears that rise from the ground in random patterns; they are too close together for Donald to stand in-between, and go too high up to jump over.
One of Donalds other abilities is his quack attack his Temper gauge begins to fill up by consuming chilli pepper items, and once it is completely filled, he charges forward frenziedly and knocks down anything in his path. This does come at the expense of not having complete control over his movement, but the good thing is it happens in areas where there are no pitfalls that you may inadvertently charge into and be cost a life cheaply. However, many stages dont feature any chillis at all, so for as helpful as this ability is, you wont find it available when you may need it most in the tougher, later parts of the game.
What rounds the gameplay off is the challenge; which for me was just about right. Donalds life gauge can be topped up via food items that can allow him to withstand as much as 8 hits before hes a sitting duck (sorry :P), and while there is a life counter, you also get infinite continues. These would make the game sound easy, however some stages filled with harmful traps or pits that require crossing with some very careful jumps mean it will still take some skill to beat the game. Enemies and bosses, meanwhile have set attack patterns that can be easy enough to anticipate and avoid while you attack back; you may be caught out the first couple of times you play through a level, but with a little memorisation, I found that the enemies did not pose too much of a threat after.
Now lets talk about presentation; like the other high-profile Disney games to grace the Mega Drive, QuackShot comes with some excellent, colourful and very detailed graphics. Donald and the other in-game characters look virtually identical to the way they do in the cartoons; and everything has a classic Disney cartoon vibe to it. The parallax scrolling effects and backgrounds in each and every stage of the game looks great; your travels taking you from the bustling urban city of Duckberg, to the ice-laden south pole, an intricate and lavish mansion in Maharajah to a dank, haunted Viking ship; and other such locales as an ancient Egyptian tomb and the gothic stone castle of Transylvania. Couple these dazzling settings with the designs and animations of the character sprites, and in a nutshell, the graphical department of QuackShot absolutely nails it.
The music of the game is pretty good; every tune goes well with its respective level, but I didnt find any outstanding, memorable background themes. Sound effects are solid, too; the only real letdown being that you wont hear any voice sampling especially since Donald Duck is a character with a very recognisable voice.
A few cryptic moments and a lifespan of 1.5 2 hours mean it may take a couple of tries to beat the game start to finish. It isnt an overly difficult game and suits its target audience well, though one drawback is that there isnt anything new to find on a second playthrough. It would have been nice were there some secret areas or optional stages to tackle perhaps, but this adventure is one that is fun enough to play through that it will always be worth another run through at another point down the line. My final recommendation would be to get a copy of this game for your Sega Mega Drive/Genesis collection if you possibly can; the only flaws are minor, but as a Disney game it is one that is done very well and is both fun and moderately challenging. The standalone cart goes for a reasonable price and would be worth getting, but try if you can to get the 2-in-1 cart that also comes with Castle of Illusion. Whether youre a Disney fan or are looking for an all-round solid game for your old-school Genesis library, QuackShot should fit the (ducks) bill.
Product Release: QuackShot starring Donald Duck (EU, 12/31/91)
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