Saturday, 11 October 2014

Donald Duck: Quack Attack (PSX)

Donald Duck Quack Attack title screen
Alright, the last 'Q' game I'll be looking at this year is the Playstation version of Disney's Donald Duck "Qu@ck Att@ck"?*! (AKA. "Goin' Qu@ckers*!" in North America). Seriously, that's what it's called, you can see the title screen right there. I'm going to assume the bonus punctuation is standing in for unintelligible angry duck swearing, because it totally is.

Today's game is a request... uh, a suggestion... well okay someone basically just pointed out in a comment that the thing exists and begins with 'Q', but that's good enough for me. It turns out that Q isn't the most popular letter for video game titles, so I appreciate the help. R, S and T on the other hand I've got covered (and then some), so I wouldn't recommend recommending anything beginning with one of those letters for the next four months or so.

I've never even heard of this one before by the way, so I've no idea what kind of game it is or what the critical response to it was. Somehow though I don't expect to be impressed, but I'll give it an hour or two to surprise me.

Okay here's the plot: Donald's love interest Daisy is a reporter, and five minutes ago she decided to do a live TV broadcast from the lair of an sinister magician to report on his evil schemes. I mean from inside his lair, standing just a few meters away from the guy... without his knowledge or permission. But somehow the guy eventually noticed the film crew in his house, and now he's holding Daisy captive!

Donald was watching all of this live on TV, and he immediately races out to go on a daring adventure through a series of levels connected by teleporters to save her! Daisy's cameraman on the other hand is on their own... sorry mate.

Fortunately our protagonist is friends with a genius inventor and we could use his machine to beam right over to her instantly! But first we need more power, and that means going to places like Duckie Mountain and setting up equipment there to... reflect something somewhere, I dunno. So our first stop is actually world 1-1.

Hey each world has its own level hub; that's cool, I always appreciate being able to select and replay levels. Only one of the portals is working right now though, so there's no getting out of visiting level 1 first.

Oh man, it's called 'Forest Edge'. This is a platformer made in in the year 2000 and it starts with a forest level. I don't know what that says to you, but to me it says that the developers either hadn't played a whole lot of platformers before, or they were deliberately aiming for 'generic'.


LEVEL 1-1: FOREST EDGE


Huh... did this guy really just interrupt me with a tutorial message just to tell me to read the tutorial messages? C'mon man, stick to the essentials, I've got a short attention span and oooh, butterflies! And they're making out!

I'm not a great fan of referring to games as 'xxx clones' just because they're in the same basic genre, but this is so obviously a Crash Bandicoot clone. The music even sounds similar... with a bit of Little Big Adventure in there as well maybe. I don't know, maybe I just haven't played enough games from the 'run into the screen' platformer sub-genre to appreciate the subtle differences.

Wow, ducks suck at a jumping. Even with a double jump I'm struggling to make it up this tiny cliff. Look at those two butterflies laughing at me as I keep throwing myself into a rock wall over and over trying to find the right moment during my ascent to hit the jump button again.

Hah, I smacked that skunk so hard he's seeing stars! Oh hang on they're just collectibles sitting further along the bridge, I actually missed this guy entirely.

Like Crash Bandicoot I can either hit enemies or jump on them, though the range on his punch attack is so pathetic I don't know why I'd ever choose to use it. I don't get anything for killing enemies anyway, and their death animations are strangely unrewarding. They could at least explode into a cloud of cartoon smoke or play a satisfying sound effect or something, give me some positive feedback for what I presume is supposed to be the correct action here.

Those stars on the other hand will get me an extra life if I grab 100 of them, which is positive enough for me! These creatures had the secret to resurrection right in front of them the whole time, and were too lazy to grasp it.

Checkpoint! Nice, I like checkpoints. I'm bit weirded out though by the way Donald seems to start kissing his thought bubbles if you leave him alone for a bit. That ain't normal duck behaviour.

This guy looks a bit more of a threat than the skunk, maybe I'll jump on him instead. Then again those antlers seem to be sticking up more than anything, so maybe a kick in the ass is the safest strategy...

Oh. Accidentally hitting the antlers definitely wasn't the right move, but it seems that Donald actually survived it. Though now he's a spinning cloud of rage, furious enough to just beat the thing to death with his bare hands... or wings? No they're definitely hands, weird.

Anyway, when Donald is a pissed off cloud of fury like this he can destroy anything he touches, but it doesn't last long. It's basically a substitute for the brief moments of invulnerability you get in other competent platformers after taking damage, and afterwards he's just one more hit away from death. So I could really do with finding a health pick-up right about now.

I found a discarded cup of milkshake along the way which healed Donald's physical and psychological wounds, and now he's back to full health! So that's sorted out. Now I have give a ghostly teddy bear corporeal form so I can grab it for Donald's nephew.

The mean wizard stole the kid's toys and scattered them across the stages you see, so I have to deactivate his magic temporarily by beating up his spell book (sitting in the hallway in front of me), then I need to race to collect the toy (on the floor above) before it vanishes again. There's three of these teddy bears to collect on every stage in this world, which has me wondering why this kid needs a dozen identical bears so badly anyway. Especially now that they'll be all dirty.

I've reached the end level teleporter! No idea why his inventor friend scattered teleporter panels all over the forest, though they're probably related to those tutorial screens I kept running into along the way.

Man, this is giving me serious deja-vu right about now. The game really is like a Crash Bandicoot total conversion so far.

Fortunately unlike in Crash Bandicoot, I can just stroll over to the save machine to save my game between levels any time I want, no bonus level crate bullshit necessary. That yellow light next to the teleporter indicates that I've completed the level, green means I've grabbed all the toys, and the final blue light comes on when I beat the best time.

OI, DONALD! Quit kissing your imagination! Keep your fantasies in your head like everyone else.


LEVEL 1-2: THE GORGE.


Level two introduces epic chasms, complete with moving platforms; a great addition to any 3D platformer with depth perception issues! They've also made it beep for some reason, which is a bit weird. For a while I thought I was running out of time or low on health or something, but nope it was just the platform beeping.

That red box down there is called a 'flapper unit' by the way. Which I'm mentioning because it's called a flapper unit. It's like a cross between a springboard and a ? box from Mario, throwing star pick-ups out of it when I trigger it. The designers have cleverly made the stars land on the path in front of me though, so bouncing on a box won't slow me down...

...though it's a good way to throw off my aim when I need to make a precise jump! Actually I'm blaming this particular fuck up on the milkshake I just grabbed. It heals wounds, gives me temporary invulnerability, but also speeds me up. And they put one just before this jump!

Oh stop beeping already, you dumb-ass platform. You're not impressing anyone.

Huh... I remember Crash Bandicoot putting more effort into blocking off the sides of the path. Here Donald just doesn't want to leave the dangerous route. It's not hard to figure out where I'm meant to be though, as like in Crash the camera is pretty much fixed to a track. You could replace the background with a pre-rendered video and it'd likely work just the same.

I've been playing the PlayStation version of the game, but wikipedia claims that Quack Attack came out for eight different systems, and a cursory glance at youtube gave me the impression that there's at least four distinct games here, maybe five.

N64

Here's the N64 version of the same part of the level for comparison. It looks pretty similar in layout and definitely plays almost exactly the same, but the more I see of it, the more I'm convinced that this isn't really the same game. The levels start differing wildly, new enemies turn up, It's got me collecting different items... and his jump seems higher!

Now I don't know what to believe. Maybe ALL the versions are different! All I know is that the N64 game came out later, but makes the PSX game feels like a rushed port by comparison.

Oh, here's a fact for you that might turn out to be complete duckshit: apparently the N64 port is the first ever console game developed on the African continent.


LEVEL 1-3: HUEY'S TRACK


The third stage is a side view level! I have to admit, I still prefer side-on platforming to the Crash style, especially considering that it's not letting me accidentally walk towards the camera and off the side of the path. Donald's still crap at jumping though.

Oh, just spotted that mirrored mountain in the background. Kind of spoils the otherwise impressive view really.

Aha, the first indefensible flaw in the game! No one likes being forced to make a leap of faith, even when it seems obvious that there's nowhere else to go. I've been listening out for beeping, but it doesn't seem like a floating platform's coming over to save me here. I'd try crouching to see if I can pull the camera down, but ironically Donald can't duck

Oh no, I've stared at that rock wall too long and now I've started to see Batmobiles in it. See, look at the side nearest the waterfall, that's totally the bonnet of a billionaire's high-performance custom engineered vigilante automobile.

Okay give me a second to sketch this up and I'll show you what I mean.

See! That's totally hidden in there.

Man I just realised that I've just taken a Rorschach test and I saw Batman instead. I think that probably counts as a fail.

That's a hazard? Seriously? That tiny harmless bush can kill a duck foolish enough to walk up to it thinking that it's part of the background? Well at least now I know, so I won't make the same mistake twice.

Actually after reappearing at the checkpoint I did go and make the same mistake twice, because it's so incredibly harmless looking! My brain didn't even register it as something to pay attention to. I won't make the same mistake three times though.


HALFWAY POINT OF THE ARTICLE - KEEP READING, YOU'RE DOING WELL!


Whoa, I actually have to drop down to a different path here to collect the energy orb and a ninth teddy for my nephew's collection. This is the most complex the level design has gotten so far.

Oh, I'm supposed to be collecting one of those energy orbs on the right in each stage, but I've no idea what happens if I reach the exit teleporter without one because I haven't been able to overlook any of them so far. Seems entirely pointless to me.


LATER.


Alright kid, I brought you back all 12 of your soggy filthy teddy bears from the dankest corners of the forest, now tell me why it is I bothered to do that. What do I get in return for my act of extreme generosity at great risk to my own personal safety?

Why am I teleporting off to visit 8 Ears? Is he going to give me a reward?

BEARS' PATH! It's a path, that belongs to a bear, and he's not happy about me being on it. I hunted down 12 teddy bears and all I've gotten for it is a bear hunting me.

Man, I can't believe I'm making all of these jumps, as there's not much room to see what I'm doing here. It reminds me of the 'running into the screen levels' in that Crash Bandicoot game actually.

I'm hesitant to praise the developers for letting me confuse the bear by flipping that sign around along the way, in case they ripped that off Crash Bandicoot too, but it did amuse me.

Hah, he just slipped on a banana peel thrown by a friendly monkey! Or maybe an unfriendly monkey with bad aim, it's hard to say. Either way it's given me a chance to get some distance between us.

Though that looks like a 1up floating over on the left hand side. Should I take a chance and go back to grab it? I've already got a decent number of lives here (because I had to play the level again to get some better shots), but I can't just let one go by when it's so easy to collect... oh fuck it, I'm getting it.

AND THE DUCK MAKES IT WITH SECONDS TO SPARE! Sorry bear, I wish I could save you from plummeting to your death, but like the moving platform says... beep beep beep beep beep beep beep.

What was the point of that level then? Who knows? I got a couple of lives out of it along the way so I guess it worked out.

Okay then, I've beaten all four levels on this world so the boss portal has opened up and I don't have a good reason to put this off any longer. Well, I suppose I try beating some of the time records... nah.


BOSS LEVEL: BERNADETTE'S PEAK.


Are those... fangs? Man I just want to put a reflector dish on a mountain, I didn't sign up to get eaten by a giant carnivorous hen.

Phase 1: The antagonist sends multiple eggs raining down from the sky, each one deadly to the touch, though only two contain these hostile giant baby chickens. Unlike regular chicks, giant baby chickens are able to hunt and kill an average sized humanoid duck man from the second they hatch. Though they have to catch me first.

Fortunately this average duck man can crush newborn chickens into pixie dust by landing on their heads and squishing them. It's okay, they were born evil! Or maybe just hungry, it's hard to tell.

Phase 2: The chicken's mother becomes understandably upset and decides to show my duck what it's like when a bigger creature comes and lands on his head for once. This is the second time I've reached this phase though (apparently I have to go through the two phases three times over), so I know that I have to keep leading her around her nest like this until she's about to drop, then immediately run the opposite direction to get out of the way.

WHOA, that is not a nice way to go out. I thought she wanted to eat Donald, not crush him like a water balloon under a falling anvil.

Okay ignore everything I just said, as that's apparently not the way to evade the boss. And since that was an instant kill, I have to return to the start of the boss fight and do all this from scratch.


EVENTUALLY, AFTER REPEATING THIS ROUTINE FROM THE START SEVERAL TIMES.


Huh, are those... dogs? Why is a hen laying dog eggs?

Oh hang on they're just baby chickens that were born wearing shark masks. Well that makes a lot more sense. Also, I've just lost a hit point by walking right into one of their pointy noses. I need to get my head in the game, or else I'll be repeating chunks of it some more.


SOON.


Done! Turns out that I just had to run away from the hen whenever she got into one of her butt stomping moods, and no matter what she did, she couldn't catch me. But when I tried this in the N64 version on the other hand, I found that running away actually got Donald crushed, every time. Telling you man, they're not the same game.

She didn't explode into dust though like other enemies though, weirdly. Instead she's given up the ghost (but not the flies). Yes, go on up to heaven you duck murdering lunatic, you've earned your place in paradise.

Now I just have to set up the reflector dish. Or Donald could just put a weather vane here instead, whatever. It's glowing so I suppose it must have done the job... somehow.

With the first world complete, I was able to go back home to the lab to chat with science duck some more. This over here is the outfit swapper apparently. I can use it to change into the new outfits that I'll find along the way. I haven't seen any around though, so I'll leave it be for now.

Well that's an entire quarter of the game completed, but I might as well see what's behind portal #2. I think I'll have to give this one more level before I can make up my mind about it.
 
It's Duckburg, city of ducks! Or at least it was, before they got the wrecking ball on it. Alright this looks like the same drill as before: four stages, then a bonus level and a boss fight.


LEVEL 2-1: FIRST AVENUE.


This is already turning out to be way more interesting than the forest levels, with trickier jumps and objects lying a bit more out of the way.

Also I got to beat up an innocent dog and then use his unconscious body as a trampoline, because of my duck privilege.

Huh, that seems to be one of the pairs of rollerblades I'm trying to collect on this level, but the door won't open and the window seems to be strictly for the purpose of dynamite expulsion only. Oh crap, I should probably take a few steps back before I get my beak blown off. Though that's more of a Daffy Duck thing I suppose.

Wait, that's actually just a singular rollerblade in there, and there's three to collect each level. Uh?

Yeah I thought so: the guy clearly has just the two feet. WHAT'S THE THIRD SKATE FOR, HUH, HUH?

They've got conveyor belt ledges in this city? But... why? Does Duckburg have a big problem with graffiti or cat burglars or something? I suppose they could've put these here to stop Donald's platforming antics after what he got up to in QuackShot.

I'm grateful actually, as it makes my fuckups feel more fair. In the forest world most of my lost lives were thrown away on easy jumps or enemies because I misjudged my position or timing. Here if I fall off I can actually blame the level!

Just figured out that I can kick the dynamite back inside to blast open the doors! They're making it trickier to collect these toys now (plus I've still got a time limit to grab each of them after kicking the magic book, remember).

Oh, now it's transitioned to a sideways bit in the same stage, with actual obstacles and platforming challenges and stuff. And I still can't accidentally walk out towards the screen! Nicely done Quack Attack... oh damn, am I actually starting to like this now? I'd better turn it off before it's too late for me.


CONCLUSION

Donald Duck: Quack Attack (or Goin' Quackers) has trapped me on a fence. Every time I start to like it something about it puts me off, and every time I'm ready to be done with it I end up being won over by something else, so now I don't know what I feel about the game.

What I played was certainly competent for the most part, but not exactly compelling. I mean it didn't go out of its way to frustrate me, but it's all so basic and limited and slow. No matter what camera angle a level's using, there's only usually a tiny narrow path through it with no scope to try different approaches, and the main threat to me so far has been my lack of depth perception. I did like the level select hubs though, and adding the time trials was smart way to encourage replays and extend the length of the game a little without making them mandatory.

I suppose it doesn't help much that I don't care much about Donald Duck (plus being an adult distances me a bit from the target demographic), but for me this was lacking in inspiration, charm and all the other things that raise a good platformer above an average one.

I'll give it a gold star, because I would play this again of my own free will, but don't consider it a glowing recommendation.

Man, I really need to get some more good old fashioned terrible broken abominations onto the site to balance out all this averageness. Either that or rename it to the Beige Star for Not Being Crap, to take some of the shine off it.

That's how I responded to a limited exposure to Donald Duck: Quack Attack, but maybe you had a different reaction? Or perhaps you want to say something about my writing or website? Well you're in luck, good reader, as there's box down there fully equipped to carry your comments across to the masses! I'll read them all at least.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Semi-Random Game Box