In the 70s and 80s, there seemed to be a lot of animation to be found in a wobbly, hand-drawn and charming style – think Roobarb or Henry’s Cat, for example. It was this type of cartoon that I was most reminded of when I played Catch a Duck, though there’s a lot more depth in the animation and general visual style here than in those classic shows.
Catch a Duck is a puzzle game in which your vulpine avatar must avoid all manner of dangers – other animals, human hunters and pesky traps – in order to eat the tasty duck in each level. Levels are essentially mazes, with a duck usually at one of the furthest points from the start. There are twenty levels and five bonus levels to unlock; the bonus stages see you eating a large number of rabbits in order to secure as high a score as possible, rather than the single-duck goal of the main stages.
The rules are straightforward: animals will eat each other (bigger ones eat smaller ones, so your fox can eat rabbits for bonus points as well as the duck at the end of the stage), so you must avoid all animals larger than yourself. All traps and other creatures affect the computer controlled characters too, so you can set animals against each other, have hunters shoot animals (or each other!) and lure them into traps too. The fox can hide in tree trunks; sometimes other creatures are hidden in bushes or trees – you’ll notice a telltale rustling if something is hiding within some scenery and it’s just a case of bumping the tree or bush to knock the animal out of its hiding place. Sometimes the duck is hidden this way, which leads to a tense search for your prey – at least the first time you play the level, in any case.
The aforementioned visuals really are superb. Catch a Duck has an utterly charming visual style and to complement this, the sound is absolutely fantastic too. The music is quirky and the sound effects, from the amusing pop of the rifles belonging to the hunters and each animal’s muttering, are uniformly excellent. Even the loading screens, with their deliberately crude, hand-drawn tutorial tips, stick to the lovely, lo-fi visual style.
The situations that can emerge on your duck hunt are amusingly chaotic; there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had from setting up predators against their prey, especially when it leads to a comical chain reaction of creatures fighting each other. This makes up for the fact that the levels are brief and often quite linear in their layouts; unfortunately, the levels only start to really ramp up in challenge towards the end of the game – and before you know it, it’s over.
That said, the rabbit-eating bonus levels are very challenging – and there’s definitely a sterner challenge to be found if you’re looking to get 3 stars in every level. With no time limit and the stars themselves being objects in the game to be collected, Catch a Duck can veer between being a pretty chilled out puzzle game to a frantic chase within moments.
Catch a Duck is likely one of those games you may not look twice at in the overstuffed, difficult to navigate eShop on Switch – and that’d be a real shame. Though it really won’t take you long to get through the main levels – the difficulty does spike in a few places, though even with that happening, you’ll still reach the end pretty quickly – the game is very reasonably priced and it’s a brilliantly charming, very nicely designed puzzle experience while it lasts. Catch a Duck really is a lovely little game, and I’m very glad to have been given the opportunity to play it.
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Many thanks to Ultimate Games SA for kindly providing the Catch a Duck review code.