Looking back its kind of surprising how overlooked Sega’s handling of the Disney is. While Capcom and Virgin churned out unambitious platformers Sega were not afraid to take risks. While Castle of Illusion was a bit safe Quackshot and its formula was a bit different. One part platformer and two parts adventure it is vastly underrated and often forgotten. Next to World of Illusion it might be my favorite Disney licensed title from that generation. Do not pass up this great title!
One day while perusing Uncle Scrooge’s library Donald stumbles on a map that details the location of King Garuzia’s treasure. With dreams of being richer than Scrooge Donald sets off to find this lost treasure. The map is incomplete, which necessitates a worldwide treasure hunt to find the missing pieces and ultimately the treasure. Unfortunately Pete overhears his plan and also follows Donald Duck to reach the treasure first.
Donald Duck is far from the most agile platforming star. He walks at a leisurely pace and his dash is more of a waddle. You won’t need it outside of a few unique situations however. Lining up jumps can be a little tricky as Donald doesn’t have much air time. He also slides a little before coming to a complete stop. Speaking of sliding, the slide maneuver is the MVP of Donald’s move set. Not only is it faster than walking but it sees significant use throughout the game. A rarely used ability is his temper; eating five chili peppers sends Donald into a blinding rage, taking out everything in his path. Unfortunately you’ll probably manage this three times during the course of the game.
Since this is a Disney title the action is nonviolent. Donald’s primary means of attack is his plunger gun. While it sounds silly it proves to be an interesting mechanic to work with. On its own the plunger gun doesn’t kill enemies, it only stuns them. You’ll earn a few upgrades for it over the course of the adventure. The first allows plungers to be used as makeshift platforms. The other late game addition allows them to stick to birds to cross gaps. You’ll also find different ammunition. Popcorn bullets can kill enemies completely with its three-way fire. The only drawback is how fast it eats ammo. Bubble gum shoots out bullets that can also destroy enemies as well as specific blocks. While ammo is limited generally you’ll find more lying around so it isn’t as limited.
Of all the games starring the Duck family Quackshot next to DuckTales captures the spirit of the Carl Barks comics. Indiana Jones is also a heavy inspiration as Donald looks the part as well. Rather than a linear set of stages there is a world map you can explore at your leisure. New locations open up as you find clues or are told by NPCs. All of the jet setting has a purpose; oftentimes you’ll need a specific item to progress in certain countries. While it gives the illusion of a nonlinear adventure in truth there is a set path with very little deviation. There’s just enough freedom to make the game more free form than it actually is.
Each country is composed of an overworld and its “dungeon”. The overworld is a brief series of platforming challenges leading to its dungeon. But to access each dungeon you’ll need a particular item first, such as a key or scepter. This usually involves visiting a different location before returning. The game smartly sets up checkpoints in front of each dungeon that you can warp to, cutting down on the repetition.
The actual dungeon portions of the game are where the true adventure begins. Each one is a bit of a maze with all kinds of platforming challenges and light puzzle solving. The puzzles are simple if you’ve been paying attention and the game will even provide you with clues. Variety is the game’s greatest asset as each country brings its own unique challenges and enemies. That being said this is still a Disney game and the difficulty falls on the easy side. Even the few boss battles have incredibly simple patterns to follow. There is a little bit of a spike toward the end that I wish were sprinkled throughout the rest of the game however Quackshot finishes strong regardless.
Quackshot takes everything that made Castle of Illusion great in terms of presentation and goes a step further. The artwork is absolutely brilliant, full of detail and great color usage. Thanks to its international setting the game visits a spectrum of locations, with all being very distinct. The streets of Duckburg are a far cry from icy hills of the South Pole or India inspired Maharajah. The animation is also spectacular; honestly despite being released in 1991 Quackshot compares favorably against later releases. And it has an awesome soundtrack to boot.
I can’t stop gushing about this game. Quackshot is one of the best Disney licensed games of all time and a superb action platformer. You would be a fool not to pick this one up. Now if only someone could tell me what the hell went wrong with Fantasia…..