Version tested: DS
- Developer: WayForward Technologies
- Publisher: Warner Brothers
You'd be forgiven for dreading the appearance of the Looney Tunes name nowadays. The heydays of the classic shorts are long gone, characters replaced by pale shadows of their former selves trying to act hip in a world of Family Guy and Naruto. Stick to what you know - the old ones really are the best.
Drawing inspiration from that thought, Duck Amuck takes its cue wholeheartedly from the 1953 cartoon short of the same name in which Daffy Duck becomes aware that he's in a cartoon, tormented by an artist on a drawing board. This time around, though, Daffy knows he's in a DS game and you, the player, get to poke and prod his feathered form to provoke some kind of reaction. In doing so you'll unlock mini-games to play, the success of which contributes towards raising his anger level in order to reach some form of arbitrary ending.
How very meta! Daffy's DS debut is an experience like no other on the handheld. It's a title with some clever ideas, and yet, as a complete package, I can't wholly recommend it.
To explain first, the fun comes in finding the different ways to access each mini-game or animation. At the start it's you, Daffy, and two white screens. Do what you like: slash him with the stylus and you'll cut him in half, starting a game in which you must swipe multiple Daffys off the screen within a time limit. Close the case and he'll start screaming how dark it is. Prod him too many times and he'll walk off and re-enter with a set of paint pots, suggesting you stop messing with him and paint the scenery, thus opening up more games. Even doing nothing eventually produces some comment or other.
Just scratching and tapping away is a pleasure in itself. Daffy's an engaging victim, a self-aggrandiser with a wise-crack for every action. It's all in full speech, too. I've said this before, and perhaps it's not such the mean feat it once was, but it always feels a little special when they get people talking on DS, don't you think? It's arcane grown-up console magic on a tiny little game card. Isn't technology wonderful?
Yet that eagerness to go wild soon dissipates. There are only so many animations and comments that Daffy can muster, and you'll inevitably be done with everything way too quickly. In his role as a glorified screensaver, it isn't long before the exploring and experimenting comes to a halt and Daffy's repeating the same unskippable comments over and over in your search for something new. Thankfully a blatant hint system stops the prospect of finding the few remaining mini-games becoming a chore, and you can instantly access unlocked ones via a menu without going through the animations each time.
But even if you can stomach the brevity, the other problem is that the mini-games themselves are more miss than hit. They aim to be short and sweet Wario Ware affairs, but they're usually too simple, and there's no going back to ramp up the challenge or try for high scores. That may have provided some longevity to the experience, but all you've got beyond the initial flair are special bonus items to look out for around the scenery.
As such, it's a short-lived love affair. Duck Amuck is a title that does its utmost to show (a lot like Rub Rabbits) what the DS can do with all its gimmicks, but it fails to live up to its qualities on the game side. As much as I loved it for the first few hours of play, it outstayed its welcome shortly after. To quote Daffy rather inappropriately, it's dethspicable.