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Time Ducks Review

By Andrew Nesvadba, on December 20, 2011


Time Ducks
Download on the AppStore
Rating

PROS

  • 'Ugly' pixel-art style feels coherent and as a result genuinely 'whacky'.
  • A strong example of gateway Arcade gameplay; the first taste is free and only gets harder from there.
  • Plenty of challenging achievements with unlockables that modify gameplay.

CONS

  • Roulette icons need to be clearer; rote memorization of combos almost easier than looking at the indicator.
  • Scaling gameplay can result in stagnant repetition; easy to reach your skill cap without further variation.

VERDICT

Time Ducks is the sort of arcade game that occurs when you let your imagination run rampant while tying it down with solid game design principles; it's not perfect, but it's a fun ride while it lasts.


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There are two ways to approach a game like Time Ducks by Tough Guy Studios. One is to simply say "it's Frogger, combined with Flight Control after a heavy session of drinking in the Hot Tub Time Machine" and just leave it at that... I'll even pat you on the bottom as you scamper away to your room to enjoy it. The other is to put on a legitimate reviewers hat and wait for the inevitable gaming coma that comes when you finish a round, not quite knowing what happened, but knowing you did something right.

This makes Time Ducks sound like some sort of insane mess, however it's anything but; despite its garish pixel-art style and liberal take on aesthetics, everything you do in Time Ducks makes sense. Your goal is ultimately very simple: Animals will appear and you must draw a path for them to follow back to their home. Playing this way will score you points, but it's not the optimal way and that's when things start to get complicated.

Firstly, players can manipulate time by swiping left to reverse (which is in limited supply) and right to speed up. This allows you to save animals that would otherwise be turned in to roadkill. Next, players can create 'combos' by sending creatures home in a specific order, increasing the score multiplier and unlocking tier two or three creatures that are worth even more points. This in turn allows players to unlock achievements and rare creatures including a wild Justin Bieber (don't ask).

The sum total is a game that quickly shifts and evolves despite its simple beginnings, creating something of a hall of mirrors situation - once you think you've figured out where all the doors are you find a new one. In a way, the biggest worry of the game is waiting for the novelty of it all to wear off, usually from hitting your natural skill cap.

Time Ducks is an example of classic arcade gaming transformed and transposed for a modern audience - its scaling difficulty caters to a broad range of skills, revealing its secrets faster to those who 'get' the gameplay while slowly nudging those who don't; its bright 'retro' appearance is 'ugly' yet coherent and full of life in a way that reminds me of John Kricfalusi's (Kris-falusi) animations (Ren & Stimpy); and its simple controls obscure what can be a relatively complex game.

If you're after an addictive arcade title that begs to eat up any spare moment you give it, check out Time Ducks.

Screenshots

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