Daffy Duck in Hollywood review
Cast your mind back to one of the first reviews I did here on On Her Majesty’s Sega Mega Drive: Donald in Maui Mallard. Yeah, it was a relatively decent platformer with vaguely racist undertones and an odd jumping mechanic, but it didn’t seem to leave a lasting impression on most. Most, that is, except for Looney Tunes, who decided that “anything they can do, we can do better, as long as we do it 20 years ago because our stuff isn’t so great now”. Strong words. In response, as if to say “Pah!” to Donald’s pathetic little excursion to Maui, Looney Tunes kicked it up to 11. They sent Daffy Duck to Hollywood.
Of course, that’s just the fun theory I have in my head. In reality, Daffy Duck in Hollywood beat Donald by a full year, getting a 1994 release for the Mega Drive, and, oddly, the Master System(the Master System was still relatively big in South America, and Tec-Toy, notable purveyors of gaming trash, was quick to distribute it there, but I digress). The question here, though, is not, “Who was fastest?”. This is a battle of the mallards. Which duck has the stuff to make the big bucks? Who had the better game?
Daffy Duck in Hollywood kicks off with a cute comic book-style cutscene detailing how we got here. Yosemite Sam has had his gold awards stolen from his safe by Professor Duckbrain, who is demanding a $1 million ransom for their safe return. Demanding not to be followed, he threatens to put sticks of dynamite in Sam’s path to make sure the deal goes as smooth as possible. That leaves Yosemite Sam with only one sensible option – bring in Daffy Duck to go after the villain. This is a generic, cookie-cutter framing device, but it works well here, as it allows for a diverse mix of levels as we embark on our quest to get the award back. Also, this intro is genuinely quite funny – being peppered with the hallmark Looney Tunes humour that we’ve come to know and love over the years.
Yet, while the game is presented humorously, the gameplay is far from funny. I’d like to preface this by making clear that this game is not terrible, just limp like a dead fish. It’s a bland, joyless, and cynical platformer where you have to pick up objects to advance, all while shooting your bubble gun at enemies and picking up different upgrades and going for the high score. This is all just old ground, and I know there are many games that take on a basic formula and come out decent, but this game just lacks any je ne sais quoi about it. Bluntly? It’s boring. Players will find themselves shooting and jumping in this game with a stone-faced expression, basically because the game is too easy to inspire anyone – nothing you do feels like an accomplishment – and because you won’t be able to stop thinking, “I could be playing Mario/Mega Man/Crash Bandicoot right now. I could be playing Bubsy. Hell, I could be playing Maui Mallard!”. Everything you see here has been done so much better in other games – Daffy Duck in Hollywood‘s existence is an act in redundancy.
Having said that, though, the designers have at least been astute when it comes to bringing the controls together, or at the very least, they did a better job than the Donald Duck dev team did. Daffy handles very sharply, moving with precision, which is ironic if you remember how stupidly clumsy the duck can be in the ‘toons. Daffy can be handled with care, which is really, really disappointing, as the game, boring as it is, just didn’t need this level of precision in the controls – no one will ever play through the game far enough to appreciate how slick they are.
Finally, it has to be said that the music is a big disappointment, in comparison to Maui Mallard. It works, sure, and just about fits the levels’ aesthetic, but it’s nothing special. A shame too, since the music is normally a stand-out feature in average games like these. One thing that did leave me scratching my head, however, was the title track. Not the standard Looney Tunes intro – this plays well in 16-bit, but the menu music. It just doesn’t fit the setting of Looney Tunes or Daffy Duck at all, sounding closer to the menu music from Final Fantasy X, with its cascading electronic up-and-down backing beat. Later on, it segues into something more palatable, but I was really caught off guard by this track. Was it leftover from another game? Perhaps. It’s a decent track, but it just doesn’t fit. Nothing fits together in this game.
It’s a shame, but the duck really deserved better. Unfortunately, this is a slow and plodding mess that is better left avoided. Donald wins this round.