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I’ve been spending a lot of time enjoying the Sega Genesis during 2021. That includes revisiting one of my favorite games from my childhood, 1991’s QuackShot.
Sega created QuackShot as something of a follow-up to Castle of Illusion. But while Castle of Illusion stars Mickey Mouse, QuackShot is a Donald Duck joint. It’s also a different flavor of game. Castle of Illusion is a linear platformer. It’s fun, but it’s also simple.
QuackShot, meanwhile, is a nonlinear action-adventure platformer. Heck, it’s a bit of a Metroidvania back before anyone ever used that term. Donald visits different parts of the world and often has to backtrack as he unlocks new items — like a bubble gum gun or various keys — that help him access new areas.
It takes a lot of inspiration from Indiana Jones, which is obvious just by looking at the front cover (which is fair, as Steven Spielberg was himself inspired by the classic Donald Duck adventure comics). It’s a globetrotting adventure that tests your wits as much as your reflexes.
QuackShot is also gorgeous for an early 16-bit game. Compared to even Castle of Illusion, the sprites are large and detailed. Donald is also far more expressive in this game than Mickey was. Each level stands out thanks to expert use of the Genesis’s admittedly limited color palette.
I also love Donald’s weapon of choice here: a plunger gun. First off, it keeps the game kid-friendly and light. But it’s also just a fun tool. As you upgrade your plungers, you can stick them into walls to help you scale them or even attach them onto moving birds to help you traverse over large pits.
And even though the nature of the game requires you to revisit levels you’ve already beaten, QuackShot isn’t tedious. The first time you reach the middle of a level, you’ll place a flag. From here, you can call your airplane to take you to another stage. If you return to the level you were at, you’ll go to where Donald placed that flag. You don’t have to replay that first part of the level again. And even when you need to backtrack, like after exploring a pyramid in Mexico, shortcuts help make the return trip quick.
QuackShot is a fair challenge throughout. It has some harder sections toward the end (where they should be), but it’s nowhere near as brutal as many Genesis games can be. While it’s a bit more difficult than Castle of Illusion, QuackShot is a game that you can beat without having to depend on save states or a rewind feature.
Sega made a few great Disney games for Genesis. I’ve also talked about my love for World of Illusion, which brought Mickey and Donald together for a co-op puzzle-platforming adventure. But QuackShot is still my nostalgic favorite. Something about its nonlinear nature makes it feel like a real adventure to me when I was a kid, and I still have fun flying around the world with Donald and his nephews today.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.
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