Retro Revisit: Quackshot Starring Donald Duck

Platforms: Retro

Nowadays, games adapted from famous movies/TV characters are generally hit-and-miss but in the 90s, some games released on consoles were definitely worth their reputation, and still are; for me one of the greatest ones was Quackshot, a 1991 Sega Megadrive platform game in which Donald Duck, in Indiana Jones mode, goes on the trail of a lost treasure.

The story was pretty classic for an adventure game; while Donald is flipping through some books in Scrooge McDuck's library, a map falls out of a book relating to the treasure of King Garuzia, ruler of the Great Duck Kingdom in ancient times. The map leads to the location of the king's most prized possession, hidden in a secret place shortly before his death. Donald thinks this is his path to riches. Teamed with his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and using the partial map from the library, Donald begins his search in a quest that will lead him in various places around the world such as Mexico, Transylvania or Egypt.

The first memorable thing with Quackshot was its immersive opening screen animations during which Donald is seen walking quietly in a cave, whilst the names of the other protagonists appear (just like in a movie) then stumbling across a pile of gold… and falling just as he reaches it. The credit screen was even better with Donald shooting the title with a plunger (you’ll see what great about them later) and adopting his famous angrily waiting posture. And when you could finally start playing the first level, what a joy! The impressive graphics, for the time, made all the various settings each more beautiful than the other and they were greatly enhanced by an excellent soundtrack which features a great string of classic console themes.

Quackshot also benefited from a traditional, yet very intuitive, platform gameplay which made Donald’s movements quickly natural. You could run, jump and slide of course, but could also use some cool weapons; Donald’s basic weapon was… a plunger pistol! Despite looking quite childish (or even ridiculous) at first sight, the plungers were nonetheless one of the coolest aspects of the game. Firstly they were great fun visually, and in terms of efficiency, but the more you played the more it became addictive to shoot various enemies with an object meant primarily to unblock toilets (and maybe even more when you realised that this was Mario’s working instrument. Even better, the type of plungers Donald could use evolved as the game progressed. At the beginning, Donald could only shoot yellow plungers which only stunned enemies for a few seconds, but quickly, he acquired red plungers which could still be used to stun enemies but could also temporarily stuck on walls and therefore help Donald to reach inaccessible areas or avoid enemies’ projectiles. And if this wasn’t fun enough, Donald’s arsenal as then endowed with a third type of plunger, green ones, allowing him to hang on birds and thus cross sizeable gaps. Donald had an unlimited number of plungers but he could also find rarer, yet powerful, weapons: popcorns, which could completely destroy enemies, and bubbles, which could destroy elements blocking his way. Finally, Donald could become furiously angry (invincible) if he picked up 5 chili peppers, allowing him to destroy absolutely anything in his way.

For all that, Quackshot was not a completely perfect game, for instance it had some of the defects of many platform games at the time in terms of inadequate saving (leading sometimes to restart the game from the beginning) but in comparison to other games at the time it had a very decent lifetime and most importantly. More importantly, it still fascinates players years after its release. Not bad for an Indiana Jones rip-off featuring an irascible duck!

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