Homeward Bound: The Account of Duck Duck
A Review by Paul Harrington
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Meatballsub's Account of Duck Duck is a puzzle game that invovles its titular character gathering keys, spending money, and poopin' on enemies as he embarks on a journey home. The game opens with a simple, but well animated cutscene that doesn't bother telling a story. Instead, the story is contained in the game's Slime Salad game profile (A readme file should be included that contains it as well). This isn't a flaw; the game is decidedly old-school, and this gives it a very NES puzzle/action game feel. There is an optional text-based tutorial that explains the gameplay mechanics well, but it's a bit wordy and, again, should probably just be included in a readme file.

Each stage contains three keys that the player must collect, a series of monsters, and a series of switches. Players must activate these switches (sometimes in a specific order) in order to create bridges to reach the stage's goals. Each stage is contained to one screen, which works well, giving the player a good sense of where everything is.

There are a few different types of enemies; blue slimes, that move back and forth; red slimes, which chase you; hamster-things, that move at random. The hamsters are definitely the most annoying, since each stage is on a time limit and their random movements will just delay you rather than add difficulty to the puzzles.

Players defeat enemies by dropping duck dung in their paths. When an enemy wobbles into this vile pile, it shrivles and dies. Touching a dead enemy causes a power-up (or deadly MOLDY BREAD) to appear at random in the stage for a brief while. If you clear all of the stage's enemies, they'll all reappear, so your best bet is to leave one alive as you collect your keys.

For each enemy consumed and each stage cleared, the player earns points which can be traded in for health upgrades and new abilities when a green duck named Gunther is found in a stage. For a demo, what's available in the shop works well, and I'd be happy to see it expanded in future versions.

The current demo consists of four stages and a boss. I'll be honest, I wasn't able to defeat the boss. I couldn't tell if what I was doing had any effect. There's a small purple bar at the bottom of the screen which I assume is the boss's lifebar, but it moved both up and down at times. The slimes that chase you during this boss fight seem to teleport at random, which was frustrating when trying to trap them. I enjoyed the four puzzle stages, but the boss wasn't much fun. Both times I fought him I lost because I ran out of time rather than losing because I took too much damage, and when time runs out you get a full game over rather than just losing a life. Replaying the same puzzles a third time to get back to the boss felt like a chore, even though I enjoyed them the first time. The game is much more of a puzzle game than an action game, so once you know where to go and in what order, there's no real point in making the player replay a puzzle.

The sloppy feel of the boss fight is my only major complaint here. This is a solid demo that leaves me wanting more, which is exactly what a demo should do. It needs a readme file, a continue option (replaying four stages was tedious, it would be horrible if there were 20), and better passability on the tree tiles (you should really be able to move behind the trees that you first encounter in Stage 3). These are minor issues that are easily fixable, so I'm definitely looking forward to an updated version. The core gameplay works, and I'd like to see it expanded. For now, the demo is definitely worth checking out.