Monday, 20 May 2013

Classic Game - Quackshot (Mega Drive / Genesis)

The 16-bit consoles introduced some of the best 2D platformers the world had ever seen, many of which, over 20 years later, are still the greatest examples the genre has to offer. Many of the most fondly remembered titles were based on popular Disney characters and movies, and Sega's Mega Drive console fared especially well in this respect. While the SNES had many of the same titles (Jungle Book, The Lion King, Mickey Mania), and even its own excellent exclusives (Mickey's Magical Quest), Sega's machine won by a narrow margin by having a far superior version of Aladdin (by the creators of Earthworm Jim), and the trio of jewels in the crown; Castle of Illusion, Quackshot, and World of Illusion. While I adore the squeaky rodent's adventures (despite having a dislike for Mickey himself), for me, Donald's globe-trotting quest is the best of the bunch.

Donald finds time to zip line down some electricity cables

It finds the irritable mallard in full-on Indiana Jones mode, complete with fedora and jacket, in fact, the only thing missing is the whip. Upon finding King Garuzia's Great Duck Treasure book in Uncle Scrooge's personal library – a book that tells of a hidden treasure of enormous value and even comes with a handy map - Donald decides he wants a piece of the bling lifestyle and sets off to locate the riches, taking his 3 nephews along for the plane ride.
Unfortunately, Pete's gang witnesses Donald finding this tome and set off in pursuit. Donald's hunt for wealth sees him visiting such exotic locales as Mexico, Egypt, The Maharajah, The South Pole and Transylvania. Starting with only 3 locations, obtaining clues on these stages opens up more on the map, and these can be travelled between by calling the trio of nephews to pick up Donald in the plane. This lends a real sense of adventure to proceedings and, while admittedly fairly simplistic, returning to previously visited countries to find an item that will assist you in another is satisfying and adds depth to an otherwise straightforward platform game.

The nephews drop Donald off in Transylvania, only for one of 
Pete's henchmen to be waiting for him

Quackshot looks gorgeous, with beautiful stages that really do justice to the locations they represent. The backdrops are detailed, colourful and contain some great parallax scrolling effects that really bring the countries to life, and the game is full of the usual excellent standard of animation one would expect from a Disney game. Donald himself is chock-full of amusing animations - especially his impatient foot-tapping if left idle for a few seconds – but all of the characters, from the smallest bat to the larger bosses you encounter, are cute, full of charm and make the game a treat for the eyes.

Donald scrunches his face up due to the recoil of firing his 
plunger gun at a strange cactus beast

Whereas most other platformers rely on the tried and tested head-stomps to dispatch foes, Quackshot, instead, arms Donald with your regular, household plungers. These are in infinite supply and will temporarily stun any enemy that they hit. Over the course of the game this weapon is upgraded, allowing Donald to fire them at walls and use them as platforms in order to access new areas. Other weapons our feathery hero accumulates include a popcorn gun and a bubble cannon – the former, unleashing a buckshot style projectile and the latter pumping out a slow moving bubble that can be used to destroy certain walls. Ammo for these weapons is limited but top-ups can be found in hidden areas, or are dropped by defeated foes - a bestiary which includes bomb-dropping buzzards, boxing turtles, killer whales, bats, haunted suits of armour and, of course, a plethora of Pete's goons. Donald's trademark bad temper also plays a small part too as, by collecting a few chilli peppers, Donald flies into a quacking fit of feathery rage, allowing him to storm through enemies without taking damage.

Unphased by the dead coming to life, Donald continues 
his quest with a smile on his face

Quackshot is a reasonably short adventure, but this works in its favour as it never outstays its welcome, and can be completed comfortably in one sitting. It can get harder towards the later stages, with some tricky jumps to navigate, but most experienced platform gamers shouldn't have too many problems getting to the finale. It matters not, as the whole game is exceptionally enjoyable to play and the wide variety of locations to explore keep it feeling fresh from beginning to end. Quackshot really is a fantastic platform game that oozes the usual level of class associated with 16-bit Disney games, and it's always great to see the pant-less duck with an attitude surpass the girlie-voiced rodent irritant.

One of the locations our feathered chum explores is a viking ghost ship... spooky!

This chubby tiger is one of several boss encounters Donald 
has to win in order to continue his adventure

Donald hitches a ride from a fellow bird, despite being larger 
(and, no doubt, heavier) than his friend

These sand dwelling crab things toss platforms in the air, 
providing Donald with some handy stepping stones

Title: Quackshot

Company : SEGA / Disney

Year : 1991

Format : Sega Mega Drive / Genesis