Review: Duck Game

The OUYA has carved a niche out for itself as a couch gaming platform. Towerfall started that trend with the system’s launch one year ago, and and now Duck Game is set to do the same thing with a more Mega Man-ish approach to action-platforming arena combat. That game is more about archery, while this gives you a lot of different items and weapons to use against your enemies. Towerfall‘s limited weapon selection hurts it, while Duck Game is packed to the gills with things to use to either kill enemies or just amuse yourself. It’s got a light-hearted vibe to it, with a surprisingly high amount of comedy and even some sports-related humor in the form of a football mini-game and TV sports report presentation after a completed set of matches.

During each set, you’ll take part in however many rounds of action you set before the game. Five rounds are ideal for when you only have a small window of time, while is better when you’ve got more time to spare. No matter which round setup you go with, you and your friends will have a blast killing each other in Duck Game. The level variety is excellent, and it’s got some of the most varied (and silly) weapons you’ll find in a game. Where else can you have a stage with a shotgun vs. handgun standoff, and then in the next round, have a battle with a flamethrower against a fire extinguisher? There’s also more comedy thrown in with little animations – like having a duck get roasted with the flamethrower, or pretty much everything in the musical instrument-filled stage. There, you can have a little saxaphone battle, and then take a break from that to play with a drum set before grabbing more firepower to actually win.

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The core game lacks depth, but not fun. The basic idea of “kill rivals to win” is limited, but executed marvelously here. It’s a lot like Towerfall, but with a better weapon selection that makes it more fun to play. You’re never really sure who’s going to win each round, and it really does boil down to starting placement, proper platforming, and figuring out the timing of each weapon. The shotgun takes longer to use than a handgun, but is an instant kill. You’ll rattle off more fire with a handgun, but the shots are so small that you can easily miss. Tossing a weapon can help block an enemy in, and then you can use something else to win. This strategy comes in handy when using the flamethrower, which you’ll only want to use in wide-open areas unless you’re a big fan of either killing yourself in a game or getting a draw at best. The weapon selection is amazing, and beyond absurd things like musical instruments, you’ll also get crazy-powerful things like chainguns and even a blaster that is quite reminiscent of Earthworm Jim’s gun. The Mooninites’ QUAD LASER also makes an appearance.

This arsenal is put to use in the most addictive game released yet on the OUYA. It controls like a dream using either an OUYA pad or a Dual Shock 3. The PS3’s signature controller fits comfortably in the hands and allows for slightly easier movements than the bulkier regular OUYA pad. No matter which pad you use, the controls are incredibly-responsive though. The easy to remember control setup allows you to jump, shoot, or simply chuck a worthless weapon at an enemy without a care in the world. If you’ve got a house full of competitive people who loved gaming 20 years but fell out of love with it, they’ll love this game.

Duck Game keeps the 16-bit era alive with its art style and music. 8-bit pixel art may be a bit more in vogue, but I definitely prefer the increased color depth offered by going for a SNES look. The end result gets you more colorful graphics, and that benefits this game in many ways. All of the different duck head accessories you can put on stand out stronger with more color – allowing the Dick Tracy hat to pop more than if it was just going for a NES look ala Retro City Rampage. Still, Duck Game does kind of resemble every SNES-style game on the market — but with a lot more color depth in the backgrounds. Limited animation is used, and while that might seem like a bad thing, much like Mega Man, it’s used to make timing  jumps and attacks much easier. Speaking of the blue bomber, Duck Game‘s chiptune soundtrack wouldn’t be out of place in a Mega Man game. I found myself humming the character select screen music far more than I’d like to admit. The sound effects are all fantastic and fit their actions perfect. If you’ve got a little pea shooter of a gun, you’ll know it based on how piddly it sounds. When you get a super-powerful shotgun, you’ll feel it in the BOOM of the audio.

Closing Comments:

Duck Game is an absolute must-have for OUYA owners. It combines the frantic nature of Towerfall‘s gameplay with a far superior weapon selection. There’s also more variety in the maps and that means the experience is more replayable. On a system created for couch gaming, Duck Game fits in perfectly. What Towerfall did for it at launch, this does for it one year later by showing that the concept can be alive and well in a modern-day release. It’s a visual treat with more color variety than usual for a 16-bit style game, and it’s got one of the best soundtracks on the OUYA so far. If you’ve got the system, you owe it to yourself to play this game.

Platform: OUYA score4