Monday, 24 October 2011

Donk! The Samurai Duck! (Amiga) - Guest Post


! ! !

This game is serious business because it was made by The Hidden. The Hidden are serious business because their logo is an evil scary face. The evil scary face means serious business. The music is serious also.

Level Select! Looking a bit pants!

C'mon guys, I'm sure the Amiga could do more colours than that at once. When I started the game, I was given the choice between AGA Mode (improved graphics for Amiga 1200 computers) and Normal Mode (for A500, A500+ and A600). I'm sure I picked AGA Mode.

I can't pick any other levels, so I'm off to Sub Aqua Zone Phase One, 'Nautical But Nice'.

There's Donk in all his samurai glory, striding confidently toward victory. It's the nineties, so we're collecting all the massive gems and heading for the exit. Unusual for Amiga platformers, Donk doesn't have a time limit.

This music is awful. You can tell it's the water themed level because the music has drip sound effects in it. You can tell it's an Amiga game because it sounds like a terrible tracker module.

Give me a second. Let me park Donk here, I'm going back and making sure that this is AGA Mode.

(Donk isn't liking being left here one bit. He's twitching and blinking like anything. Is he allergic to water?)

(Normal Mode)

Eaagh! What's going on!?

What's with all the bubbles? Why did they use the Amiga's trademark horizontal gradient magic to do the solid parts of the level and use these ugly tiles for the background? Why does the ground look so terrible in both modes? Quick! Back to AGA Mode!

Okay, gems. No idea where the gems are, so we're heading to the right. All the best stuff is always to the right.

"Quacccck.!"

Donk's jump turns him into a whirling corkscrew of death. Almost. Touching those spiky things that jump out of the water from any side is instant death, but touching the water isn't. Donk doesn't like water, but all it does is take off a hit point and make him bounce off. (The colour of the bars at the top and bottom of the screen show Donk's health.)

These jumps are a bit much for Level 1... you can only just see the edge of the next platform from the one you're currently on and Donk's jump only just makes the gap. There's seven of these jumps in a row, each with a spiky thing in between. Then there's gems, a dead end, and we have to do seven jumps back.

Donk stomps around the with purpose and he's got an odd V-shaped jump so it's easy to overshoot ledges.

It's a crazy super-fast enemy shooting about the place! Duck!

And Donk transforms into a duck. From a duck. He transforms from a large duck to a bathtub rubber duck when you duck. And becomes invincible. If you hold it for too long he explodes and you lose a life.

Donk's whirling blade technique makes short work of that floating snorkel-wearing fool.

With all the gems collected, the screen turns red, the outer edge of the level is filled with flashing lights and an annoying siren starts up. I've got 90 seconds to get to the exit! Stomp, Donk!

They had the civility to place the exit right next to the last bunch of gems... unless you took a different route through the level and have no idea where the exit is. In that case, you'd be outta luck.

Okay, the next level is Sub Aqua Zone Phase Four, 'Halibuts Hell'. That's a terrible name. And what happened to Phases Two and Three?

Same bad music, same bad graphics, different bad level! Let's go exploring.

Donk's jump cuts through the pipes like paper. I hope there's a way back up, because I can't see what's below until I've already broken the pipe I'm on. Pulling down (to try and look ahead) makes me transform into a rubber duck and self destruct.

I found myself some gems and a clock that made everything go black and white and play old-timey piano music for ten seconds. That was strange.

A map computer! I'm free to scroll around the level and see where everything is. I can't take it with me, but I can use it as many times as I want! Marvellous!

This level's huge... and I don't see how I'm supposed to be getting to the exit if it's all the way up there... and there's two exits! How mysterious!

Following the trail up a series of secret platforms reveal the mystery exit!

I've no choice but to enter it now as I can't get back down from here. That's a pain. When you go back to a level to find the other exits, the level completely resets.

I've unlocked Phase Three, 'Fish Supper'. Are they just making these names up at random?

This level starts you off right next to the only gem, so it's a race against time to find the exit. This level is a continuous run of difficult jumps with spikys in the water. How boring.

I wonder if they considered how difficult it would be to see where you're going when everything is all red. It's made easier by the background sky being blue on a separate parallax layer, but that wouldn't help non-AGA players with their ugly bubbles.

Argh... these damned jumps!

I hit that platform above, slid down it, and ended up missing the passage to the exit. You only bounce upwards a tiny bit from hitting water, so now I'm dead.

Do I want to continue...?

Nope!

I've been playing this for over an hour... 'Nautical But Nice', 'Halibuts Hell', 'Fish Supper', 'Lair of the Octobot' (which didn't actually have any Octobots in it whatsoever), 'Shiver Me Timbers', 'Your Plaice Or Mine', 'Cod Roe', 'Water Loo'... enough is enough!

I think I've earned some different graphics!

How about this...

Complete with brand new CD Audio tracks, it's Donk! The Samurai Duck! for the Amiga CD32!

An intro! Context is useful. Okay, we're collecting gems... and keys! Okay, keys are good.

And Donk crashes his submarine into this scaled sprite. What a wally.

A different map screen! Now they're putting some effort into this. Alright, a tiny bit of effort.

Given this change, what do you think the game's gonna look like?

If you said...

... more or less the exact same, you'd be right! Now there's an unskippable first-person animation of running towards a door before every single level and a distracting scrolling layer of bubbles obscuring the nice dark background to playing the level more FUN.

The biggest change is the music. I'm not saying that the CD32 version's music is good, but it's so much better than the floppy disk version the game seems entirely different.

When you win a level in floppy Donk, you're rewarded with an incredibly cheap and bland gradient background with text on it. In this version, you get this looping animation of Donk running which makes everything run a bit slow. You can't skip it.

With the different world map comes a different level order. With not a small amount of relief I present: a different style of graphics! Have fun trying to guess what's foreground and what's background.

The whole place still inexplicably self-destructs when you collect all the gems, but what can you do.

I love these little guys in hats. They bounce around the place and run and have a jolly time. They're as good a character as Donk is himself. If there's a Donk 2, you should be able to play as one of these guys.

That lava spout kills you instantly. I first saw one of them when the screen was red, so I thought it was a geyser that propelled you into the air. I was wrong. This one's got a gem in it, so now I have to use a 'shield'. What do you do if you don't have a shield? No idea.

I'm going to type something outrageous now. The music isn't bad. It's progressed past the mires of original Donk's music and become 'agreeable' or 'appropriate' even.

Blimey, different graphics again! I'm getting quite far!

One thing common to both games is that you're never sure which levels you've won and which you haven't. The different exits open different routes on the world map, but occasionally they don't. Once you've opened enough routes, it's not clear which routes are forwards and which are backwards and what level you have to choose next to progress.

Whooooaaaaahhh! What the hell was that?

A level with no gems and no time limit? It could only be a boss battle!

And a boss battle it is. I jump into the boss room from below and he suddenly appears out of nowhere and drops on my face, killing me instantly.

When you die, you get this very odd sequence where Donk runs down some corridors in first person and slides up to these portholes leading back to the game. Was the original continue screen not dramatic enough for them, or did they just want to get their money's worth out of that Donk animation?

You get the same Donk running animation when you travel between zones on the map as well.

Donk doesn't die, he just gives up. And lives happily ever after!

I did go back and beat the boss, but my victory was disappointingly uneventful. He didn't laugh, wail, explode, curse, shake, flash or anything. He fell off the screen, the self-destruct went off, I went to the door and the level ended.

I'd have taken more screenshots but the boss didn't have any more frames. He didn't even shoot me, he just span around and moved along the walls of the room.

One key down and God knows how many to go. I'm going to stop here because I don't want to end up playing it all night. It's a stupid game and it's not very good, but it's not broken and that presents a problem. Donk is just on the good side of good. You don't lose your progress or special abilities when you continue and the CD32 version has saves. Exploring the levels doesn't feel like a chore because they're never 'too big' and Donk rushes about them swiftly. With the terrible music from the floppy version replaced with CD tracks, the game becomes playable and enjoyable sometimes.

It's not Wiz 'n' Liz, but at least it's not Dizzy.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this game on the CD32.. Its the only game I actually kept for my console..

    ReplyDelete

Semi-Random Game Box