DUCK: Dangerous Ultimate Cartridge Kidnapper is the latest game from game developers Duck Team. They released on Valentine’s Day, 14th February 2023 putting out a party game set to rekindle that love for retro games and the fun we had playing them. I’d say it’s safe to say they have succeeded. Join me as I take a first look at the game below.
If you share a love for retro games whether it be Tetris, Mario or even more recent games let us know below in the comments. What game has a special place in your heart? For me, it was playing the original Sonic on my first-ever console, the Sega Megadrive. I’m eager to see if this game has that authentic retro feel. Let’s go!
Since the game’s initial release, it has garnered positive ratings on Steam. The game seems to be winning the hearts of gamers so far too. From an initial look at the game, it’s easy to see why. From its quirky art style, personality, characters, and authentic-looking retro feel. With a quick intro, the game tells a short story of a group of duck friends who stumble across a game cartridge while out playing. The game boasts that it has 100-in-one games and excited to play it they all return home to boot it up. A malevolent spirit resides within it however (think Jumanji) who challenges them to play all 100 games or be trapped for eternity. An interesting premise that surrounds what is basically a recreation of those 100-in-one games pack that we have all played at some point.
As you advance through the introduction you find that each of the duck friends must complete twenty games each chosen at random. You start your adventure in retro gaming with the character called Sandra and you are thrown straight into the action. A choice in difficulty is given to you; Original, Easy, Normal, and Hard. As the Original difficulty is the default option this is what I went for. I am unsure where it sits on the difficulty scale but it was challenging, to say the least. With each game, you are given the controls for both controller and keyboard (although it is stated a few times it is best played with a controller) and instructions on what you are to do in each game.
Each “micro-game”, as the game developers call them, is challenging. The time allotted to each one is set especially to make you think fast and coordinate your controls playing them. For example, one was a tank battle game in which you had to take down the enemy tanks all before the timer ran out. It took a few tries to perfect the most efficient way to tackle this. With each death, you are given a “cheat code”, a string of arrows that you have to input before the countdown ended. This itself, after a few repetitions at doing this, became a mini-game in itself where you tried to be as quick as possible. In failing to put the code in you lose a life. Another game meant sneaking from one side of the screen to the other past guards and knowing when to hide. This was especially challenging as the timing had to be so exact to get across within the time limit.
Some of the more enjoyable ones for me were the ones that were more about skill rather than timing. An example of this would be the game where you are an astronaut floating in space trying to catch the stars. The challenge is the astronaut is rotating and can only be moved using quick bursts of a rocket. In some others, you have to bash buttons to complete levels. One, in particular, was where you are dung beetle rolling a dung ball home for tea. This involved quickly tapping buttons while at the same time kicking flies away who came swooping in every now and then. As you advanced the games just got more random. Sometimes extra time was added. They also got quirkier as you progressed and I never got bored of playing them, only mildly frustrated. I was surprised some didn’t even have a timer and just let you play it as if it were just an objective-based game. An example of this was a top-down car driving game in the style of the original GTA where you had to collect items placed across a big map.
Graphics & Audio
From the get-go, the art style comes across as very professional and quirky. Sometimes it was simple looking relying on drawings and not animations for the intro. The drawings do a good job of telling you the story however and you can follow it without a problem. Each micro-game is created with painstaking attention to detail to faithfully replicate the aesthetic of retro games from around the 80s and 90s. One game replicates the Windows 98 desktop where you have to close the pop-ups within the time given. Another was a corridor crawler-type game in the style of Doom. Much of the pixel art was quirky, referenced some popular memes, or could indeed become memes themselves!
The music given to the games is just as faithful to the retro feel the games themselves bring. When you think of the sheer amount of mini-games the developers would have needed to create music and the effects then you start to understand what a mammoth task it was. The attention to detail that has been given to the game was also impressive. The music to each game is crafted to suit vastly different genres. From retro-sounding grungy rock music to go with an action game to more of an 80s-style synth style. Every piece of music and every sound effect suited the game being played.
You are guaranteed a few hours of gameplay playing through the many games solo as you try and reach the main objective. Ultimately facing up to the demon that trapped you and escaping. Aside from this way of playing DUCK: Dangerous Ultimate Cartridge Kidnapper has another setting, party mode. Here you can compete against others with the same microgames. The challenging aspect of the games means a few attempts per game are needed which means that even more time is spent focused on button mashing or finely coordinating your movements through each game.
I found myself a bit unsure about the playstyle but once you are thrown into the games and their faithful recreation of the style of games you grew up with you can’t help but fall in love with DUCK: Dangerous Ultimate Cartridge Kidnapper. I was reminded of my childhood playing these unforgiving games where checkpoints were a rarity, there were no safety nets and games were hard. I also loved the weird and wonderful personality given to every game included within the main game. Sometimes I’d laugh and sometimes I’d be puzzled at the randomness! I’d definitely recommend this to anyone with a love of retro games from yesteryear as the developers have painstakingly recreated a part of our past as gamers.
I award DUCK: Dangerous Ultimate Cartridge Kidnapper a Thumb Culture Gold Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.