Catch a Duck – Review
Follow Genre: Puzzle game
Developer: All Those Moments
Publisher: Ultimate Games
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Catch a Duck – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Charming graphics and sound design
Bad: No option to change control settings
User Score
7.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (2 votes cast)

“Catch a Duck” is a game where you, like a fox, have to catch a duck. While the title covers the premise adequately, the game actually defies expectations. One might be forgiven for thinking the game is shovelware based on the title, but there’s actually a lot of creativity to be found here.

Story

As the opening cinematic plays, a David Attenborough-like voice explains to the players how the natural world has been the stage for spectacular events for millions of years. Juxtaposed against this serious narration are deliberately poorly drawn cartoon animals, chasing each other. Unfortunately, this brief spoof of a nature documentary is the only thing that remotely resembles a story in this game. Although there isn’t a lot of backstory necessary here, why not use your voice actor more if you’re going to hire him anyway? A bit of ironic narration at the start of each level, or perhaps if you failed an attempt to catch the duck -which is your goal, if the title didn’t give it away- would have added a lot of additional depth to the game.

Graphics

The art style presented here is incredibly charming, with the animals looking like they could’ve jumped straight out of a storybook. This is enhanced by the choices in colors: everything uses soft pastel tones that fit the natural setting of the forest. Despite this, a lot of effort was put into making the levels feel different by using different tones for the background, and various types of vegetation. It’s a shame that the opening cinematic is presented in a much lower resolution than the rest of the game. This is especially apparent when playing the game on a TV rather than the Switch’s native screen, with blurry images and pixilation.

Sound

The sounds the animals make are crude imitations of actual animal sounds, with a voice actor quacking, roaring, and growling. This unexpected and original take on sound design fits the game’s charm and feels surprisingly more natural than if actual sounds had been used. Although there is a music track, in the form of an upbeat guitar song, it’s repetitive and can be distracting during the levels. It can be turned off in the game’s main menu, and the game actually works better without music. What’s left, apart from the animal sounds, are actual forest sounds, with rustling leaves, blowing winds and the occasional woodpecker. Playing the game with these sounds enabled in the background provides a nice relaxing atmosphere.

Gameplay

In essence, Catch A Duck is a grid-based puzzle game. You play as a fox, bent on catching and devouring the defenseless duck that’s waiting for you in each level. This is easier said than done, as the forest is filled with dangerous animals, deadly traps and relentless hunters. In addition to tracking down the duck, there are also three stars to collect in each of the 20 levels. These stars are used to unlock another 5 bonus levels. The bonus levels differ from the standard ones in that they have a time limit to complete. 25 levels isn’t a lot for this kind of game, and you’ll likely finish it in an hour or two.

Although the objective is the same in each level, the game constantly attempts to keep your attention by introducing either new mechanics or new variations on existing mechanics. Even the final level introduces a new element, in the form of long grass that the fox can enter. The other animals cannot enter the long grass, and while you are hiding there, they can not see you either. This is only one of many mechanics that are played with in order to deliver a relatively simple yet compelling experience. There is a food chain, for example, stronger animals will chase and eat the weaker animals.

As for predators, bears are at the top here, wolves are below them, then come hunters and finally, there is you, the fox. Should two predators of the same tier run into one another, they will still attack each other, with only one surviving the onslaught. This is an important mechanic: you’ll often find yourself deliberately drawing out a bear in order to lure them to a wolf, for example, then hiding yourself, so that your two enemies attack each other. Hunters use ranged attacks, so this requires a bit more precise timing but drawing their attention can make it so that they shoot each other. There are also two types of prey below you: rabbits and ducks. These will never attack anything, but the rabbits can be chased into traps to dismantle them or be used to lure enemies away as well.

The levels are well-designed and often require a bit of critical thinking and triggering chain reactions in order to obtain all three stars. There is a lot of variety here: sometimes you’ll find yourself running down a gauntlet of enemies and you’ll need quick thinking and precise timing so that they attack each other rather than yourself. Other levels require you to sneak around and use underground tunnels and other hiding places. The order that the levels are presented in makes little sense, and difficulty spikes are encountered in what seems like a random order. You might find yourself stuck at a level, having to try it over and over and when you finally complete it, you’ll find that the next three levels are incredibly easy.

Besides the balance issues between levels, there are two other frustrating problems you might run into, on the Switch version at least. Although the movement is grid-based, the fox can only be controlled with the left joystick. Even when using a Pro Controller, the game doesn’t respond to the D-pad. The controls for the joystick are incredibly sensitive, up to the point where you’ll end up making unintentional mistakes when moving around the grid. Holding the joystick in a certain direction for a fraction of a second too long and you’ll end up missing a hiding place or unable to avoid an enemy. This can become utterly frustrating and could’ve been avoided if there was an option to adjust controller sensitivity, or simply by being able to use the aforementioned D-pad but sadly, no such option exists. Another problem is that very rarely, a bullet can get “stuck” on a part of the grid. Moving the fox over the stationary bullet will still cause death. Should the bullet get stuck in such a way that it cannot be avoided, restarting the level is required.

Conclusion

Although the game has a couple of issues, there is still a fun time to be had here. The combination of cartoon graphics and crude renditions of animal sounds oozes charm. It’s a short but sweet affair, with only a few hours of gameplay and very little incentive to revisit once you finish playing, but the price point is so low it’s well worth checking out.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Catch a Duck - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


1 Comment

  1. Ibuki
    Ibuki
    September 19, 2019, 1:33 am

    I actually quite like the art in this game.

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