The Snake Becomes The Key

Retro Gaming Humour

Howard’s egg-scrutiating adventure

Words:Stuart Hunt

Howard the Duck – The wise cracking, earth saving, big headed egg-poo-er, had his own line of fragrances, fine wines, and a computer game… I know amazing huh? Dont get too egg-cited, it’s crap!

I was a big fan of the Howard the Duck movie as kid and I didn’t even realise a game based on the film was ever created. I didn’t see any adverts, any reviews in magazines – a clear warning nowadays that such a game should be avoided like prison showers. My memory of it and its Amstrad counterpart, is shall we say, a little diluted now. I un-fondly remember it being mentally hard going. The controls were frustrating, the levels, or I should say, the first and only level (I saw at least) was amazingly taxing. So, at 25, I figured I could return to the game with 10 years of gaming experience under my belt. Having toppled the Covenant in two Halo adventures and finished Ghost Recon on the John Rambo difficulty setting, how hard could it be to jump over 3 inches of sand?

howard_the_duck_inlay.gif
The map’s on the other side you idiot!

I load up the game and begin my adventure in a tropical rainforest – a scene that I don’t actually remember seeing in the film, but never mind. The first task is to communicate with the duck, and by that, I mean get him to actually move his feathery ass. The controls in this game are dire, Howard waddles around the level like he’s layed a large egg in his pants and to make matters worse you’re given a pointless sped up 30 minutes (why not just give us a real 5 minutes?) in which to complete the first level. I guarantee, 18 of those will be spent trying to jump over of a piece of sand the exact distance of Howard’s longest possible jump (to the exact pixel). It requires a long run up on a piece of ground an inch in screen size. When, or probably, if, you manage this nefarious task, you will be awarded the most useless power up in computer game history – a jet pack with the power of a bike transformer.

You can’t take it out on poor Howard though, the duck clearly has amnesia, because when he’s trying to figure out how best to get back across the sand he just spent half his natural life trying to jump over, he forgets the jet pack he just found 30 seconds ago. Jerk.
I will say, please don’t attempt to make the return trip back across the sand by jumping, you’ll never do it as you’re given even less ground to pick up speed on. Such a feat will require you to control a running Howard around a corner – this is not an option – such an act is like trying to teach a guitar how to swim.

Touching the Void
Around the time you picked up the jet pack, a strange vampire midget character appeared, which looked a lot like the counting count from the Muppets. He may have stood out because perhaps like everything else in this game (except Howard) he doesn’t actually appear in the film – but he is your ticket out of there. To escape requires Howard to commit hari-quaki, so run into the count, watch Howard perform his ri-duck-ulous spinning floating move, signalling he’s dead or in the process of it, and cunningly you will start back at the beginning, still equipped with the jet-pack. What an ingenious puzzle, made all the more obvious when you realise Howard doesn’t actually have any lives – he’s imortal… of course! I was kicking myself when I realised.

Now you have to cross the treacherous death sptitting river – luckily we have a jet pack, right? Now, I’ve never attempted to cross a raging river, with strong currents trying to drag my bones down into a deep, dark watery grave. However, I can honestly imagine that actually doing it in real life, would probably be easier then trying to do it in this game. The crappy controls and the feeble nature of the jet pack, which seems to lose power after 5 seconds, make it almost as frustrating as trying to jump over sand. Almost.

So if you make it over the river, you’ll notice a pile of seeds sitting invitingly on the floor, which I will wager, you’ll assume is energy for the duck – it’s not, but it would make perfect sense to think this. Moving closer to the yellow traingle will cause one of those mini count’s to sneakily jump out and here is where the supposed ‘action’ in the game is introduced.

Now, Howard can talk, he can dress himself, he can even operate a f**ing jet-pack, but one thing he can’t do is fight for shit. Trying to get him to kick is like trying to talk a goldfish out of its bowl. Every time you attack, Howard has to jump in the air a few times first, almost as if he’s psyching himself up first. Fighting is a frustrating experience and as there’s no energy bar so the outcome of a fight seems to rest on the roll of an invisible dice.

If you manage to kill the count, you’ll probably feel like congratulating yourself, but keep the champagne on ice because another one emerges from the seeds quickly soon after. Yes that’s right, this game inhibits those annoying infinite baddy generators – seeds! (for some reason). If you are able to make your way safely past the stupid seeds, you’ll notice another stretch of sand, which looks suspiciously further then Howard’s current long jump record – a distance you will have witnessed him attempt so much, it will be burned into your retinas.

And so after a few hundred failed record attempts your time will run out, leaving you with two options: Replay the whole demoralising process again or take your aggression out on Duck Hunt.

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January 18, 2007 - Posted by | Movie Tie-Ins, Stuart Hunt

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