Saturday, May 4

Review: Duck Game [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While it is great that both the Switch and indie developers in general have brought back local multiplayer gaming with a vengeance, it hasn’t all been upside. There are, no doubt, stand-out titles that either do things a little differently or have a sense of style that makes them noteworthy, but to be clear many of these titles fall into the category of being more of the same. They can be fun for a short while but they fail to have any longevity due to a lack of variety in levels, the predictability of the action, or a plain lack of depth. On its face Duck Game doesn’t necessarily look like it breaks out of that mold, but once you play a string of matches full of the unexpected, unpredictable, quick and intense shooting action it offers you’ll be likely to get hooked. The fact that online, local, and even wireless play are all possible then helps it further stand apart from the pack.

Duck Game is all about variety, and that extends into just about every crucial category. First and foremost you’ll see that in the game’s weapons, which differ not just in their appearance or range but also in function. We’re not just talking about guns here, of which there are plenty, but there are also tactical weapons like landmines, a holy book for converting your enemies, and many more that take time to understand but add a load of flavor to the experience. The levels are the next layer that adds variety as their layouts, scale, and choice of weapons will vary wildly, which keeps you guessing and removes any consistent winning strategies. There are simple small levels where it’s an enclosed space with only some hand grenades to work with (good luck blowing up your enemies while avoiding the blast yourself) and then larger levels which will have things like jetpacks and grappling hooks to help you get around. In a string of 10 levels you’ll never know quite what to expect.

To throw in some additional flavor the more you’ll play you’ll begin to pick up smaller nuances and strategies that are possible. While you typically can only shoot side to side if you time things correctly firing while jumping or falling down can change your trajectory. Laying down can also be a tricky strategy, essentially playing dead to let your enemies shoot it out, then potentially sneaking in a quick attack to take out the survivor and win the day. You can add additional flavor with mods that can be unlocked through the single-player arcade mode as well, so if you’re diligent and are willing to face that gauntlet of various challenges the game can be as different and diverse as you want it to be.

While the multiplayer action is absolutely a blast there’s no doubt that the single player challenges, by comparison, are simply a bit bland. They vary pretty wildly in the skills that they’ll demand you develop and refine, and can serve you well in better understanding the nuances of the game, but they’re also tough to stick with for long stretches since they lack excitement. If you want to unlock all of the game’s possibilities though you’ll want to put in the time to get through them. For people who want to flex their creative muscles there is an included level editor, just understand the learning curve that any such endeavors can take, though any levels you create you can then add into your local or online rotation if you’re in control of the lobby. Whether playing locally or online the action is almost constant (aside from when you’re dead and the round is being played out) as each new level loads almost immediately, conquering an issue many titles have with lulls in the action.

While ultimately the long-term success of Duck Game’s available Online play may be a fair question, as long as you’re able to find people to play with it’s one of the best mutliplayer experiences you’ll find on the system. It’s diverse, deep, has many times the volume of content you’ll find in any of its competitors, and it maintains a brisk pace whether in the match or loading the next stage. While some AI ducks to fill in gaps or quack against would help provide a little extra longevity or fun when you’re on the go, there’s still no denying that Duck Game is at the top of the Switch multiplayer food chain.

Score: 8.5

  • A ridiculous number of diverse and unexpected weapons
  • The number and variety of stages to play on is impressive
  • Each round is quick and intense, and the next stage loading takes almost no time at all
  • Hats… so many hats

  • If you’re stuck playing single-player the experience isn’t nearly as exciting or fun
  • No AI ducks to match up against
  • As with all indie titles with online support the long-term viability of the community is impossible to predict