When you think of masters of stealth, there’s always one character that comes to mind: Agent 47 from the Hitman series. He’s a lean, mean, ruthless killing machine, but he’s not the only sneaky psycho in the gaming world. In fact, there’s a new killer on the loose, ducking and diving to avoid detection while stalking its prey. That’s right, The Psychoduck is here, hoping to deliver a stealth experience to kill for – albeit one on a much smaller budget.
Coming from the developers at Nibb Games, and published by those at Ratalaika Games, The Psychoduck is a stealth game which sees a mentally unstable duck going on a rampage. This psychotic duck has a penchant for crowns and wants to add to his collection by stealing them from the herons he slays. It won’t be easy though, with guards on patrol and suspicious herons on high alert. Hence, a stealthy approach is necessary to achieve those highly coveted crowns.
With fifty stages on offer, and a goal that seldom changes throughout, you have to wonder what The Psychoduck can do to hold your attention. Initially, you just have to sneak up behind the heron using a crouch mechanic, before stabbing them in the back when prompted, but soon frogs in the form of guards are thrown into the mix. This is both a good and bad thing however.
Timing is everything and it actually poses a challenge as you study the movement patterns of the guards, watching them move either laterally or vertically. If they spot you, the level resets. Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine exactly what their field of vision is and occasionally you wonder how you’ve been spotted, while other moments pondering how on earth they didn’t see you. Making matters slightly more confusing are the moveable stones, which can be used for hiding behind (despite being much taller than the stones). Again, being caught by a guard is a little bit too much pot luck, with your ninja skills only partly to blame.
Due to the shortness of most levels, the frustration of any failings is quite well offset with success. Sadly, The Psychoduck will begin to feel samey after just a few outings and you won’t get much joy from the bland, simplistic looking environments – grassy, sandy, and snowy. The achievement list essentially acknowledges this as you’re able to obtain the full complement of Xbox Gamerscore for completing the first fourteen levels. Most players are likely to cut their losses at this point, if not before, and that’s a bit of a shame when there are still ideas being implemented afterwards.
The puzzling nature of the stealthy goings on becomes more complex as extra guards are put on watch and stones can be used to slightly alter patrols. There are even bushes to hide in, a slingshot to lure guards away, crocodiles as a mode of transport between environments within the same level, and path-blocking turtles. These aspects definitely improve the gameplay, but it’s a case of too little, too late. The slingshot is pretty lame also; you’re only allowed to fire it towards designated spots, instead of letting players have freedom with it.
Should you finish the lot, I don’t see much reason to jump back in, except for getting all of the snails. Acquiring the collectible snail on each is a fairly easy task, but if you miss any then that could add some replayability. I highly doubt many folks would stick it out for the fifty levels to be honest and so it’s a bit of a moot point.
While The Psychoduck isn’t a terrible game, it never truly excels at anything and your success is half luck, half skill. Boredom creeps in early on because of a simple concept that’s repeated over and over, with nothing exciting going on visually either. Sure, the further you delve, the slightly more interesting it gets, but it’s still a drag. The decision you must make is whether you’re willing to pay a fiver to boost your Gamerscore and kill a few herons, or if you’d prefer to spend it on a better, more mentally rewarding experience.
The Psychoduck is a bang average – at best – stealth game, which you might actually want to dodge and hide from.
The Psychoduck is out now on the Xbox Store