Sunday, January 6, 2008

Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck

Remember Duck Amuck the 1951 Warner Brothers classic about Daffy battling an unseen animator? It's a classic and may seem like an odd choice on which to base a DS title but bear with me. Fifty seven years after the release of Duck Amuck we have a ubiquitous handheld that includes a touchscreen and could conceivably allow anyone to take the role of Daffy's tormentor in that remarkable film. It's a daring idea and one that doesn't always work but I have to applaud the effort and the few lightbulb moments this title triggered.

The game starts with a white screen. And then Daffy walks on. This is by far the most delicious moment in the game. You have a blank canvas with Daffy Duck flappin' his bill at you and you hold the animator's brush. Think of the possibilities. Instinctively, I tried to erase his head so I could redraw it as a flower remembering one of Bugs' gags. This is where the game disappoints. Nothing happens and it's a real chore trying to find what will make something happen. Admittedly, when I stumbled upon a gesture that would get Daffy going it felt good. Real good. But if a title ever screamed out for an action palette this is it. I'd love it if the bottom screen was bounded by Bugs' blotter, pens, and paint that I could click on to give this a bit more structure and to provide a clue of what to do. If you wait long enough something will appear on screen that you can tap on. Tapping on it will unlock a mini game that breaks you out of the experience but allows you to earn some points that will fill up Daffy's rage meter. The idea is to get Daffy so enraged you break his...spirit. What can I say? Chuck Jones is a sick man.

The mini games aren't that bad and can even be engaging but as I was playing them I would find my mind wandering back to that blank canvas and the possibilities it might hold. Of course, I was also starting to realize that this game was heading in a much different direction than the one I wanted it to.

The blank canvas serves as a skeleton to hold together the meat of the title: the mini games. I was crossing my fingers that the canvas part of the game was the game. And as a menu it doesn't really work because you have no clue what to do to provoke Daffy in unlocking a mini game. Normally, that kind of "figure-it-out-yourself" gameplay would appeal to me but the rewards aren't good enough for me to want to explore too much. The better you do the quicker you're into a mini game and away from Daffy.

My vision for this title would have been the blank screen, Daffy, the player as the hidden animator and ditch the mini games. Without a doubt, keep the free play aspect. Don't even include a hardcopy manual with the game. My title would probably be closer to a tech demo than an actual game but it would be a very satisfying way to spend a couple of hours. I guess what I'm describing is an illustrator's version of Dr. Sbaitso based on the Duck Amuck flick.

Overall, this title is good and like I say the mini games are pretty nice actually. The graphics are amazing; vintage Chuck Jones artwork which brought out a smile from me. Daffy's character is humorous and endearing and talks up a storm which really gets you into the game. You could do a lot worse for a mini game compilation than Duck Amuck. The only thing it didn't live up to was my imagination and my assumption of what Duck Amuck was going to be about which isn't really fair. I have to applaud Warner Brothers for going out on a limb and realizing this title.

You can find this title for $20 so I wanted more than anything to rate this a buy but I can't; it's a hold.

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