June 8, 2010 | Andy Boxall
We would like to inform readers that phrases including ‘they don’t make them like this anymore’, ‘this takes me back’ and ‘I remember when all games played this well’ have been banned from this review. Qwak (iTunes link) for the iPhone may well be a remake of a ‘retro’ Amiga platform game – and before that a BBC Micro one – but to ensure you won’t be needing a pair of rose-tinted glasses to read on, this review will concentrate on the present.
As its name suggests, the hero of Qwak is a duck who leaps, bounds and with the aid of a handy power-up, flies around the screen on his jet boots, collecting various goodies. To progress to the next stage, or scenes as they’re called here, you’ll need to collect all the golden keys to make the exit appear. Making things slightly harder are the various baddies out to get you, but thankfully you’re armed with some eggs which you can throw to kill them, however making things harder still is that your eggs are in short supply. Collecting fruit will see them converted to new eggs when you complete the scene, but you’ll need to be pretty accurate with them so as not to run out later in the game.
There are 70 levels in total spread across six worlds, with a boss challenge level every once in a while, whose defeat lets you start from that point in the future. The controls are spread across the bottom of the screen and consist of left and right movement, jump and fire. That’s all you really need to know, as there is no plot or career mode here; this is pure platform magic.
Qwak is extremely fast paced and you’ll be zipping around the screen collecting keys, gems and flowers and frantically looking for the exit on almost every stage, as not only does your little duck move quickly enough on his own, but each scene has a strict time limit where if you’re not done when it ends, spiked balls drop down from the top of the screen! Although the rooms don’t scroll horizontally, there is more on the vertical plane and as the rooms ‘wrap’, falling down through the bottom brings you out at the top and is often the only way to grab difficult to reach keys.
So, how does it play? If you want a comparison, we would cite Bubble Bobble, but if you want a single word, then we would say superbly. It’s the essence of feel-good gaming fun and we defy anyone not to have a smile on their face when they complete a scene just as the time limit runs out, having collected all the gems and getting a Peace Bonus for not having fired a shot! A word of warning though. Qwak does get very, very difficult and in moments of frenzied action, it’s only to easy to press jump and not fire, usually resulting in one dead duck. If you’re easily frustrated, this probably isn’t the game for you.
Credit should also be given for Qwak’s wonderful design. Every scene is bursting with colour and imagination, characters move super-smoothly, the music and sound effects are both excellent – love the ‘quack!’ when our hero dies – plus the controls respond instantly, the game loads quickly and you’re up and playing the moment you press start.
Although Qwak could be described as ‘retro’, it’s only because everyone else – with the possible exception of Nintendo – seems to have forgotten that the traditional platform genre exists and while Qwak may have been around for years, it feels as fresh as the daisies you collect in the game! Qwak can be summed up like this – it may be simple to play, but it’s also one of the most challenging and rewarding platform experiences I’ve played on any system in years.