Duck Amuck

I played through Duck Amuck on my DS last weekend. Or, to be more specific: I played through Duck Amuck over an hour or so this last weekend. Man, is it a short game, but it also happens to be one of those titles you could probably squeeze a lot more fun out of if you went back and worked to unlock everything.

Essentially, Duck Amuck is a collection of Looney Tunes-themed mini-games, but what really makes the game is it's snappy delivery and well-tuned sense of humor. I haven't laughed out loud at a DS game, like, ever and I found myself grinning and chuckling all the way through the shortish title. The centerpiece of the game is Warner Brothers' 1951 cartoon classic Duck Amuck, a short I personally think is one of the best ever directed by Chuck Jones. In the cartoon, an erasable Daffy Duck is antagonized by the invisible hand of the animator. The same holds true with the game, though, instead of lots of animation jokes, we find Daffy making lots of glib remarks about the trouble with video games.

The point of the game is to make Daffy lose his cool. You do this by poking, prodding and tricking Daffy into a series of different mini-games. Each time you win the game, humiliating Daffy, you make him a bit angry. Make him angry enough and you win, game over.

The mini games are a homage to both some classic Daffy cartoons and classic game styles. In one game, for instance you have to tap out the notes of a song on a piano with your stylus as Daffy conducts. One key is wired to dynamite, so you have to deliberately miss the key. At which point Daffy comes over and hits it for you, blowing up. In another game you play an almost Dungeon knock-off that has you roaming through a random dungeon trying to steal a treasure from a marauding Daffy.

While the game is full of laughs, it was likely designed to be short because the interface can get a little old. You have to constantly poke and prod around to launch a mini-game and much of that animation is used over and over again.

While Duck Amuck sort of succeeds as a game, it completely falls flat on its face when it comes to replicating the importance of the original animation. Duck Amuck is only the second of three animated shorts by Jones to be preserved by the National Film Registry. It was selected because it proved that you can create personality and humanity in something without giving it a real voice or image. The character of the animator, which turns out to be Bugs Bunny, is as important to the cartoon as was Daffy. Not so in the game. In the game you are merely part of the audience.


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