After Mickey’s ordeal in the Castle of Illusion, Quackshot is Sega’s second big Disney game. While Mickey’s game was a dreamy adventure with a fairy-tale-like atmosphere, Sega looked for other inspiration for Donald’s first 16-bit appearance. Since the short-tempered duck wouldn’t really fit into Castle of Illusion, the developer obviously not only looked at the famous stories of Carl Barks or Don Rosa, but the Indiana Jones films most certainly left their impression on the minds of Quackshot’s creators.
Instead of rescuing the usual damsel in distress, Donald goes on a good old-fashioned treasure hunt spanning half of the globe, starting from Duckburg and ranging from Mexico to India, from Norway to Transylvania. Every time Donald reaches a certain checkpoint, he can call his nephews in their biplane to take him to another place. That’s an important feature, since Sega implemented some light adventure elements. Donald often needs certain keys or items to proceed and these are usually found in other, far away places.
Donald’s most important tool is his specialized gun that shoots three different sorts of ammunition. There’s a five-way popcorn-shot, a slow, explosive bubble, and a multi-colored toilet-plunger. While the first two are only available in limited quantities and have to be regularly replenished, the plunger is not only a unlimited and upgradeable, but also very versatile: Shoot it against a wall, and you can stand on it. Shoot it to the underside of a flying enemy, and you can hold onto it and cross wide chasms. This versatile tool gives Quackshot a very unique playability and set it nicely apart from its contemporary contenders.
While the game mechanics were very fresh and original, it was really Quackshot’s graphics that stood out when it was released. Quackshot impressed with huge, detailed sprites, often surprisingly subtle colors and some very beautiful backgrounds. While a halfway-experienced player could finish Quackshot in two or three hours, the platforming became pretty tough in the later scenarios. The last stretch before the final boss frustrated players when reaching this point for the first time. Just like in Indiana Jones’ third movie adventure, Donald has to cross a seemingly invisible bridge to reach the chamber, where the treasure rests. This is accomplished by many, many short, very careful jumps. In comparison to said bridge, the battle against the knightly protector of the treasure is pleasantly easy.
Looking back on Quackshot today, one is really surprised at Sega’s audacity. Quackshot borrowed a few settings and set pieces from Indiana Jones, and Donald himself exchanged his trademark sailor suit for Indy’s classic fedora. Luckily, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg didn’t seem to mind Sega’s lovingly crafted tribute to their hero, so Sega was spared from having to change their game á la The Revenge of Shinobi. Nevertheless, a re-release of Quackshot today is pretty unlikely, due to Sega’s expired Disney license. Apart from the original 16-bit cartridge, there is also a Japan-only Saturn collection of Sega’s 16-bit Disney games. Both are worth tracking down. Rarely has there been such a fresh and original take on a licensed Disney character.
Article by Tomm Hulett
GameSpite Journal 12: Quackshot