We’d love to know what came packaged in Hunt Ducks I. We can’t imagine anything less than what’s on offer in Hunt Ducks II, so the fact that this is a sequel to a game that – theoretically – has even less content, well, that absolutely boggles us.
Clearly, this isn’t going to be a long review. Hunt Ducks II isn’t so much an homage to Duck Hunt, as it is a looting of it. It feels like the developers have ram-raided Nintendo’s vaults, put the dog and the ducks from Duck Hunt in the back of the van, and then steamed away, leaving the features, fun and gun behind. It’s a hackjob of a copy, managing to be significantly slighter than an already slight 1984 launch title for the NES.
Here’s what happens after you pay the 79p entry fee to purchase Hunt Ducks II. You’re given a menu where the only notable options are whether to play one-player or two. Let’s assume that you’re not the kind of person to subject Hunt Ducks II on mates, so you’ve gone for one-player.
You’re holding a shotgun with three rounds in it. But of course, you’re not holding a shotgun with three-rounds in it, because Hunt Ducks II’s inevitable handicap is that there’s no lightgun, zapper or even Sega Menacer to use on the Xbox. So, you’re playing with your controller, because there’s no better approximation to duck-hunting than jamming your thumbs into some rubber nubbins.
It’s a pretty fundamental problem, obviously. We would even argue that the entire premise of Hunt Ducks II is shot to pieces by there being no gun hardware. Not that we expected the developers to tap up Madcatz and get one made: it’s just that there’s no point in an homage without one.
Adding insult to injury is the cursor, which moves so slowly that we started pressing buttons in the hope that there was a ‘speed up’ button. Alas, no. You’re going to be aiming at ducks as if you were wielding a cannon on a pirate ship, desperately shunting it in the right direction.
Ducks are unleashed in twos, sometimes at the same time, other times staggered. They tend to bounce against the sides of the screen three times before scarpering. You have three shells, so there’s room for one wayward shot. Hitboxes are pretty decent, actually, so time your shot well enough and you will actually hit the thing. The dog, looking like he’s been hung and drawn since the NES years, picks up the ducks and groggily waves them about, presumably wondering where thirty-eight years have gone.
To progress the level, you need to shoot six of the ten ducks in total, which is rarely much of an issue. Some ducks move faster than others, but as long as you’re patient and wait for the right moment, you’re going to hit them. And six out of ten ducks is quite the safety net: you’ll be fine even if a few get away.
Without the threat of losing a level, we looked at the score to offer some challenge. Except the score doesn’t do anything it should do. Miss a shot, and the score won’t be impacted at all. Get a headshot, or kill two ducks at once? Nah, it couldn’t care less. As long as you get your ten birds, you will get max score. So, no joy to be wrung from score-chasing.
As the levels continued forever without much in the way of variety, we ransacked Hunt Ducks II’s drawers, desperate to find something else of value. We shot the dog. Credit to Hunt Ducks II, as it lets you do so, but it also immediately chucks up a Game Over screen, pooping the party before it even gets started.
Two-player is one-player but with two sluggish cursors, so you can share in the unmitigated tedium, and what kind of friend would you be if you did that? There are no modes, no difficulty settings. Even the original Duck Hunt had an additional mode and some clay pigeon shooting. Here, the most fun you can have is reading the angry reviews of the game on the Xbox Store. There aren’t even any achievements to drown your sorrows with.
Hunt Ducks II is Duck Hunt. It’s Duck Hunt to the point of a cease-and-desist. But you can imagine the lawyers for the defence making their case: look, this one doesn’t have a gun peripheral. It doesn’t have any game modes. It doesn’t even have the chuckly charm from the dog. You can’t possibly sue Hunt Ducks II for copyright infringement, because it is clearly so much less than Duck Hunt.
Which might be enough for Nintendo’s lawyers, but is it enough to part you with 79p? We ducking hope not.
You can buy Hunt Ducks II from the Xbox Store