Out Now – Version Played: Xbox One (via Game Pass) – Also available on: Switch, PS4, PC
Popular tabletop card game Munchkin, designed by Steve Jackson (the American one, not the British Fighting Fantasy one – although, confusingly, this Steve Jackson did write Fighting Fantasy gamebook Scorpion Swamp) and with now-iconic art by John Kovalic, has had an absolutely bewildering number of versions, licensed and otherwise, since the very first game was published in 2001.
There’s a version of Munchkin for everyone, it seems – just on the parody, non-licensed end of the scale, there’s pirate, superhero, vampire, spy, Cthulhu, western, zombie, post-apocalypse and space opera versions (amongst others I’ve missed). Licensed versions come in Marvel, Adventure Time, Harry Potter, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and even Warhammer flavours; even here, I’m just scratching the surface of what’s available. It’s a pretty big deal for a non-mainstream game and shows no signs of slowing down, eighteen years on from the original game’s release (I haven’t even mentioned the numerous expansions that many of the different versions have – nor the fact that mixing sets is a perfectly valid thing to do, to create monstrous hybrid versions tailored to your group’s specific genre tastes).
Despite the numerous reskins and licenses, the original Munchkin was ostensibly a parody of puffed up TTRPG power players, with a specific fantasy theme (a la Dungeons & Dragons). You can see why other versions were made to broaden the scope of the game’s targets for parody, because the references to TTRPGs throughout Munchkin tend to be very specific for players already familiar with Dungeons & Dragons or fantasy TTRPGs in general.
So you can understand why Asmodee kept the fantasy theme for the very first Munchkin video game, but also why they’ve shifted the goalposts and seem instead to be parodying the type of procedurally generated, video game dungeon delving titles such as Gauntlet. There’s no digital recreation of the card game to be found here, which might be quite a surprise for many players.
Munchkin: Quacked Quest sees 1-4 players entering a randomly generated series of dungeons (bots accompany a player who would otherwise be alone) in order to accomplish tasks that are also randomly generated. Dungeon elements – including the final boss – are generated from a deck of cards, dealt by the ‘Wight Brothers’ in the game’s lobby.
For example, a dungeon may require players to knock as many enemies into a pit in order to win, another may task players with collecting as many rubber ducks (a Munchkin staple) as possible or slaying as many monsters as possible. At the end of each series of rooms, players will face off against a boss before a sequence in which bonus points are handed out for a series of (yes, random!) special achievements, such as dying the most times, killing the most monsters and so on (this can be quite annoying, as players with no other chance of winning can suddenly find themselves in first place, thanks to the completely random bonuses dished out post-boss battle). The winner at the end of this process gets to choose a card that goes into the dungeon deck, allowing for further possibilities the next time the game is played.
There’s a tutorial which introduces you to the controls nicely, but doesn’t really give enough time to other aspects of the game, leaving it feeling a little impenetrable despite its general simplicity.
It does have a pretty nice style, visually; it’s cartoony and colourful, with some nice lighting effects. Sound-wise it’s less successful, unfortunately – with a near-constant commentator delivering snarky voiceover that isn’t particularly funny; even less so when the limited number of phrases he’s recorded repeat ad nauseum, very quickly indeed. The music and other sound effects are, sadly, similarly repetitive and unmemorable.
Worse still, despite the potential for huge variety in each stage, the objectives, enemies, visual themes and general layouts also become repetitive a lot quicker than you may expect; sometimes in consecutive stages. Item cards lack vital information too, with only the visual of the weapon and its gold value (in far too tiny text) on the cards, leaving players none the wiser as to whether or not they should take or sell the loot they find. This is probably the biggest oversight in the game – the loot system is completely pointless without knowing the advantages or disadvantages of the stuff you can pick up or sell.
Though control can be quite unresponsive, there’s a reasonable number of options, from melee and ranged weapons to a charged dash attack – and thankfully, players have infinite lives. If you die, you’ll float around for a few seconds as a ghost, which can actually be an advantage in some situations – seeing as you can pass through walls and float over otherwise deadly substances.
It all feels like a massive missed opportunity though. The humour doesn’t quite work, the bots are annoyingly capable and even playing with friends quickly becomes repetitive and dull due to the constantly repeating objectives, layouts and the relentless, unfunny, limited commentary. Though it’s fun for a little while to annoy your friends and family by pushing them into pits or just hacking them (cartoonishly!) to death, this is very short-lived. Munchkin: Quacked Quest showed a lot of promise, but is, for me at least, a crushing disappointment.
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