a quacking contest
with James Whittle
'You're despicable!' Expect to hear the catchphrase of Daffy Duck - one of most popular Warner Bros animated cartoon characters - in the latest video game for the Nintendo DS handheld game system, Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck.
Published by Warner Bros Games and developed by California-based WayForward Technologies, the game is derived from the classic 1953 animated short Duck Amuck. It was voted No2 by 1,000 animation professionals in The 50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time, a 1994 book by animation historian Jerry Beck (the No1 spot went to 1957's What's Opera, Doc?).
In the game, a player takes on the role of a vindictive Warner Bros animator who torments the vain and excitable Daffy in various ingenious ways using the Nintendo DS stylus, in much the same way as the off-screen animator's brush does in the classic short.
Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck has about 20 mini-games, which range from Atari-style arcade diversions to 3D action challenges. The goal is to prevent Daffy from winning, aggravating him so much he blows his top.
You can look forward to the duck stew game, in which you chop vegetables for a duck broth. Another mini-game uses the Nintendo DS built-in microphone, requiring a player to blow out a candle while Daffy is running up some stairs or, conversely, leave the fuse burning on a stick of dynamite. In another challenge, set in an old western saloon, you use your stylus to flick playing cards to the players at a table.
The beauty and humour of this game is the way Daffy interacts with the player. He responds in the same way he did with the animator (who is revealed to be Bugs Bunny) in the original cartoon short.
A lot of the gags from the film have been re-tooled to fit the game system. A player can pick Daffy up by the scruff of his neck or fling him around the screen - moves that either lead to the menu screen or the multiplayer screen.
Daffy constantly makes sarcastic comments on the poorly constructed games (an amusing feature given the poor quality of the mini-games), the Nintendo DS system's capabilities and inadequate use of himself as the star character.
The game has a surprising sleep function, which you have to experience for yourself. Trust me, it's a hoot! The developers obtained special permission from Nintendo to create this feature, so I won't spoil it for potential players.
The game works brilliantly as an interactive cartoon. It's obvious the development team poured their heart and soul into the design and reworking of the short's humour, but the unbelievably boring mini-games don't live up to its potential.
Pros: Outstanding graphics, sound and presentation.
Cons: Sadly, the mini-games are uninspiring.