Deep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Aspect
  • Publishers:
    • Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    SMS
    • UK January 1994
    • Brazil June 1994
    GG
    • JP 12/17/1993
    • US January 1994
    • UK January 1994
Score: 80%

This review was published on 04/24/2017.

Deep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Aspect for the Sega Master System and Game Gear. The Master System version was published by Sega in Europe in January 1994 and Tec Toy published it in Brazil in June 1994. Sega published the Game Gear version in Japan on December 17, 1993, and North America and Europe in January 1994. Majesco also republished the Game Gear version, along with the portable itself, in North America in 1999. Aside from the Game Gear version having a lower resolution due to its small screen, there are no major differences between the two versions of the game. This is the sequel to The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck, which originally came out on the Master System and Game Gear in 1991, and itself is considered to be the companion title to QuackShot Starring Donald Duck, which also came out in the same year on the Sega Genesis. By the mid 1990s, 16-bit systems like the Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System were already the norm, so most people ignored 8-bit hardware like the Master System and Game Gear. However, good games were still being released for such hardware at the time, and Deep Duck Trouble is one of them.

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The game begins with a story sequence showing Donald Duck having a chat with his three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Donald asks his nephews about the whereabouts of his own uncle, Scrooge McDuck. Before they have a chance to answer, Scrooge gently floats onto the scene, having become inflated like a balloon. The nephews explain that Scrooge brought home a mysterious pendant from his latest treasure hunt, which he got from a shrine on an uninhabited island, and it put a curse on him! In order to reverse the curse, the pendant must be returned to its rightful place around the neck of a goddess statue inside the shrine on the island. Scrooge asks Donald to retrace his steps back to the island to break the curse. Donald agrees to do it, and Scrooge hands him his adventure diary, which has valuable information about the island. With diary in hand, Donald sets out on an adventure to help out his poor old uncle.

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The previous game already had amazing graphics for the standards of the Game Gear and Master System, but Deep Duck Trouble easily trumps it. It's no surprise, seeing as how this game came out so late into the lifespan of those 8-bit systems, when 16-bit platforms were already in full swing. By that point, the developers knew how to unlock the full potential of 8-bit platforms, optimizing things to an incredible degree. That incredible optimization resulted in incredible visuals. Deep Duck Trouble almost resembles a 16-bit game at times, featuring super sophisticated background designs and very vivid colors. Like the last game, the animations are the main highlight, as they are full of personality. Whenever Donald is injured, he'll begin punching wildly at the air, venting out his frustration. These impressive visuals do come at a cost, though, because some areas in the game lag pretty heavily. Thankfully, this lag seldom occurs.

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Yet again, you'll be controlling Donald in this game. As before, you control his movements with the d-pad and make him jump with the 2 button. The controls are a bit tighter this time around, making Donald somewhat more maneuverable. Similar to the Game Gear version of Lucky Dime Caper, but unlike the Master System one, Donald has three points of health represented by diamonds near the bottom left corner of the screen. Like the Capcom developed DuckTales game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Donald can replenish a single point of health by eating ice cream cones, which are often found inside treasure chests. Some chests even contain diamonds that give you points, furthering the similarities to DuckTales on the NES. One item taken from QuackShot is the spicy pepper; eating one of these will cause Donald to briefly run forward at lightning speeds, destroying anything that gets in his path. In addition to granting him temporary vulnerability to most things, these peppers allow Donald to break certain blocks that he runs into with his pointy beak. It's exciting.

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Donald still has the ability to stomp his foes to death, but unlike last time, he has no other means of attack. Previously, Donald could acquire weapons like mallets and Frisbees, but that's not the case in this game. However, Donald does have a new move to replace those weapons, and that's the context sensitive kick. Like the golf swing move Scrooge does with his cane in DuckTales on the NES, Donald can kick an object like a small block or treasure box by pressing the 1 button when near one. Most kicked objects will travel in a curved arc and get destroyed when they collide with something, though there are indestructible blocks that slide across the ground. Any enemies that get hit by the kicked object will either be badly injured or outright murdered. Occasionally, this ability will be used to solve simple puzzles. For example, Donald might have to kick a block into a pit of spikes and then use it as a platform to safely get across. Kicking stuff is easy to execute, useful, and fun to do.

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Like the previous game, you've got a stage select. Unlike the previous game, you can select from nearly all the stages right from the start, the last few being the only exceptions. Within these stages, Donald will zigzag through a treacherous forest, a shark infested sunken galleon, icy caverns, and into the crater of a hot volcano. He'll encounter many dangerous things along the way, such as hyenas, snakes, gorillas, barracudas, sharks, weasels, and thundering lava balls. This game definitely has better level design than the previous one, as there is far more variety. For instance, there's one section set in a savannah where a bunch of ostriches will stampede across the ground, and you have to jump from one ostrich to another to avoid being trampled to death. Then there's a part inside a volcano with rising lava, and you've got to wait for the lava to carry platforms upwards to proceed. Segments like that, coupled with the aforementioned puzzles, results in some solid stage design.

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Every stage ends with a boss encounter, but unlike the previous game, they're anything but standard. Donald doesn't exactly "fight" most of the bosses in this game, and basically just runs away from them like a total coward instead. This course of action fits his character perfectly. The way it works is that the screen will automatically scroll forwards as Donald perpetually runs away from the boss. You can't stop Donald from running, but you can increase or decrease his speed by pressing right or left on the d-pad, plus you can still jump. On top of the boss itself, there are usually countless obstacles in the way that Donald must avoid. Once Donald reaches the end, the boss will automatically be defeated, usually by running headfirst into a wall or something. In other words, all you have to do to win is survive. Some bosses change things up on you, like a big shark Donald has to swim away from, which causes the screen to scroll vertically instead of horizontally. The boss encounters are the most creative part of the game, and also the most exhilarating.

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The Lucky Dime Caper is decent, but Deep Duck Trouble is better than decent. This game does everything better than the previous one; better graphics, music, controls, stages, and bosses. Even the story is a bit more endearing, not that it matters for a game like this. There's no doubt that this is one of the best titles available on the Game Gear and Master System.

Word Count: 1,320

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