The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Duck Dodgers

Who is your favourite Looney Tunes character? Did you say anyone except Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck? Good because you’re WRONG. No-one likes Southern chickens, fast rodents or cats with the inability to catch birds. Well, maybe a little.

So Looney Tunes cartoons are, for lack of a better term; ****ing perfect and so because of their legacy, everyone at some point must have been excited to play video games about them, none of which have exactly fared well. Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is the most well known, but was a pretty dull puzzle platformer thing, but somehow spawned 3 sequels. In fact, a lot of the characters have their own games, Porky Pig got a haunted mansion game, Roadrunner, even Yosemite Sam, but we’re not looking at those today, mostly because…well, they’re not very good. In fact, are there any good Looney Tunes games? Really? The answer is probably no. But let’s take a look see at Duck Dodgers.

Ok, Duck Dodgers, the name painfully referencing Buck Rodgers In The 24th Century, is a spin-off cartoon where Daffy Duck (or his great great descendant or whatever) plays some ridiculously long winded character who is a space hero saving the universe from sci-fi parodies, which he ultimately fails. Someone at some point thought it would be a neat concept for a game and so here we are 11 years later talking about it.

The first problems become apparent when loading the opening cinematic. The plus side is that it tries to look good, there is some charm in the graphics, but ultimately they just remind me of Scooby Doo: Classic Creep Capers, which if you recall, is not a good thing. In fact, there appears to missing graphics, one character was missing his nose. The dialogue is just as ambitious, the characters speak, but the subtitles fall behind and the speech and the voice clips just bleed into each other and it’s just painful, but thankfully I can skip through it and just get on with the game.

The story of the game is that Marvin The Martian has created an ultimate weapon to destroy earth, unfortunately because he didn’t think it through, it needs atoms to work. You know, like EVERYTHING EVER. Oh except these atoms aren’t microscopic, they’re about as big as my fist, which basically means **** science…why am I worried about the scientific accuracy of a game anyway? Moving on, Daffy Duck Dodgers has to collect the energy atoms before Marvin to stop him. He could have just found one, laid a trap for Marvin and arrested him for crimes against the universe and saved the space government a lot of money, but THAT’S NOT FUN. Instead we get a collect-em up 3D platformer, which…is?

TO be fair to the game, the actual platforming aspect isn’t too bad, it mostly revolves on you picking up little items that fix your health/give you extra lives and they tend to lead you to the atoms, which is a bit of a bummer for those who like to explore. In fact, the actual game kind of tricks you into a sense of non-linearity, you do have to complete one area completely before moving on to the next section. This isn’t a problem if you like doing lots in one go, but for a game that plays like Mario 64 in Space…before they did that themselves, it feels just a little bit restrictive and added to the fairly small levels, it kind of brings it down and doesn’t really set the game apart from other platformers.

It’s not helped by the games camera, which like most 3D platformers of the genre, really does not like the player, often screwing up your jumps or just panning when you don’t need it, and the first person view is very hard to navigate.

Ultimately, Duck Dodgers is a game that tries to be good. The level design tries to capture that cartoon aesthetic and place it in a 3D setting, but the cel shading and 2D/3D don’t really look very good on the Nintendo 64’s hardware, and Daffy constantly is missing pixels when you look at him. I liked the voice acting, but that maybe biased because Daffy is just generally pretty awesome, it never got on the wrong side of annoying, nor was it over used, unlike some games I’ve played recently, and its camera is just…****ing awful. But surprisingly, for reasons I genuinely can’t explain, maybe it’s a fairly fun enjoyable game and it looks like Duck Dodgers managed to avoid duck season this year, I guess.

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