Duck Life: Train a Duckling, Save a Farm
Duck Life is a quirky racing slash pet simulation game wherein you aim to turn your ordinary duckling into a racing champ.
In this hybrid game, you are a farmer in desperate need of some money. Your formerly thriving farm was hit by a tornado and the only thing that survived is a lone duck egg. You then get the idea of training it so your champion duckling's winnings can help rebuild your estate. Clearly, this game is nothing to take too seriously. Riches-to-rags story, motivational poster-worthy slideshow and all.
Duck Life: Simplicity Goes Literal
The game play cannot get any simpler. Your duck has four status bars representing its four race stats. First is the Energy level, representing its endurance to actually finish the races. If ignored, your efforts to raise the other status levels do not matter because your duck will fall flat in the middle of the race. Next is the Running level, which represents how fast your duck is able to outrun its rivals. Third status is the Flying level which shows how much on an edge your duck has when it comes to taking off and gliding over ditches. This is of course useful when overcoming slope obstacles in a race. Last but not the least is the Swim status, which represents how fast your duck can move when it is crossing bodies of water.
As expected, your duck starts out with a negligible level on everything. Your job is to train it so that it gains enough experience in each category. Use your starting funds to buy some seeds to boost up your ducks energy level. A normal seed costs only 1 coin, which then adds permanent points to help you along. The more expensive Skill Seed adds points to all the stats at once. This blue seed costs 10 points and is not a need to buy item if you can just tough out the training.
The training itself may start out slow at first. However, it seems this game was designed to cut those who absolutely hate level grinding some slack. Duck Life is pretty generous when it comes to speeding things up with regards to level grinding. Thanks to the significant performance improvement each bar adds, your capacity for experience gain also rises exponentially. We especially liked this approach because really, dragging things out would have only removed the fun factor out of this bite-sized title.
With running, your duck will be jumping over objects while aiming to collect coins. This is pretty straightforward, resembling NES games of old. As your quacker gets his speed on, your reflexes will also have to follow suit in order to avoid those rolling obstacles.
Flight training is a barebones attempt at a launch game. Aside from direction, there is nothing else to mind here. Pressing left will make your duck fly higher while the right key takes his altitude down a notch. All you may want to focus on is collecting the coins scattered about the skies. This is optional of course, but more coins net more seeds from the shop as well.
Swimming employs aspects from the other two training regimens and even this is pretty easy to grasp. All you will have to focus on is avoiding objects to prolong your duck's swim distance. The up arrow makes your duck jump and the down arrow makes him dive. Left and right will help move him to stay on sight. Buoys, walls, deserted islands, ships and icebergs serve as obstacles to avoid in this training type -yes, we get the ship . Again, there are coins to be found, but you may want to focus on avoiding an off-screen death for the most part.
Making Things Quick
If you are attentive, training to max out your stats can take around thirty minutes. Not much time spent considering the fact that each stat has 150 levels. Once you hit that mark, you will have no trouble with any type of race, in any category. With no major skill required to win anyway, reaching level 150 is really the way to go.
There are four categories overall. Winning first in any of the Beginner Races will give you 50 coins to spend as well as extra customization options for your duck. Amateur Races give you 100 coins and Expert Races give you 200 coins. Both give colors and hats for your racer as a reward as well.
The World Championship, which is your ultimate goal from the get-go, pits your quacker with his toughest rival. This unlocks only after you win in all the other categories. Finishing first in this will give you a whopping 200,000 storyline-wise and end your quest. If you want to race some more, you can always replay any of the stages. With max stats however, your duck will have no challengers.
The game is overly simple and short. Anyone can play and finish this game, even your five-year-old niece. That is not to say that it lacks the charm for older players. Those who are after something to fill in a coffee break will likely benefit from its brief game play time. Treat it like a sampler collection of mini games. With regards to replay value, veteran players will find that there is none to be found. You can always start from scratch and play the game all over again, but that is what the sequel is for anyway.
Graphics are cute. It is nothing fancy, yet it is appropriate for the type of game play Duck Life has. The menus are quite basic but are at least clean and non-distracting. The animation looks to be straight out of a student's Flash project, which adds to its comical, charming visuals. Seriously, a one-legged hopping duck animation? Sheer genius.
The best feature that the game has to offer is the duck customization. As mentioned before, winning the races will unlock several hats and colors. You may then use these to tweak the quacker and make him, well, sort of unique. Hats cost 100 coins to change, regardless if you have purchased it before or not. Colors work the same way but it only sets you back half of the cost. The Crown will be free to use as long as you have completed the game already. You may reset both options to default in case you end up missing your yellow, hatless pet after all that.
Though the customization options do nothing to boost your duck's performance, Duck Life still gets brownie points for its existence. We also appreciate the fact that the duck follows your cursor around on the home screen -which is something that will certainly make pet lovers swoon in delight (we know some of us did).
Duck Life is not something that veteran players need to go out of their way to try (though we do recommend that you do, if only for the sake of being amused for a wee bit). But for those who have a very limited time to spend on games, this may be the perfect distraction. Kids and younger genre fans will most likely enjoy its straightforward game play in contrast to all the frilly games out there. For the adventurous, Duck Life's silly Easter eggs and its ability to make fun of itself could be an entertaining break from hardcore games. At worst, Duck Life will get boring very fast because you will either love it and finish it all up too quickly or you will simply not care about it at all. This kind of fence splitting is quite rare in a game, and Duck Life manages to pull it off with its charming yet overtly rough aesthetics and mind-numbing gameplay.