Back in 1993, Amiga gamers were treated to a unique and colourful platformer about a duck in search of an exit. Now nearly 20 years later Qwak is back – but has it held up? The answer is a resounding yes, but a few problem design choices may keep gamers from doing the duck walk for very long.
At its most basic, Qwak is a simple platformer with incredibly addicting gameplay. Scattered across 70 level are keys, potions, and fruits. The duck is looking to open the exit, and to do that you’ll need to collect every key in the level. Fruit helps boost your score, and potions will offer up short term boosts like a super jump or rocket boots. Those will come in handy, because if you don’t get to the exit quickly you’ll have to dodge spiky balls of death that rain down from the sky!
The genius here is that while many of the platforms and obstacles are made up of standard materials, an equally large number are made up of fruit. A row of grapes could be boxing in an enemy, for example, or a wall of cherries could be hiding a key. Collecting those fruit may be great for points and essential for getting where you need to be, but it also means you’ll have to time things right so as to best defend yourself from the enemy you’re about to release. The duck is armed with an endless supply of eggs, but they’re less than precise, so you’ll need to make every shot count.
As a veteran of the original I can honestly say that the level design feels a little tighter than before, though it’s entirely possible that’s a result of displaying only a fraction of a level on the screen at any given time. Whatever the reason, Qwak feels faster and more frantic in a good way. The graphics have been given a slight makeover as well. Everything still retains the same design, but certain elements feel a little more polished and a little more loved than they did back in ’93. In terms of cuteness, Qwak absolutely shines.
Enjoying a title so faithful to the original means you’ll also have to take the good with the bad. The game offers up a limited number of lives and a limited number of credits just like you’d expect in a truly old school gaming experience. You’ll also need to commit a good chunk of time to Qwak because there’s no option to continue if you exit the game. While we can certainly appreciate how this design choice mirrors that of its retro roots, there’s simply no excuse for it given then quickplay nature of iPhone gaming sessions.
The controls also feel a little awkward. Putting virtual arrows and buttons on the screen is fine and dandy, but it can be too easy for your thumb to slide to the wrong arrow at a crucial moment. This could have easily been avoided by letting us scale the size of the controls or letting us slide our thumb to the left and right to control direction without on-screen arrows. When it comes to iPhone platformer controls, customization is the name of the game.
It’s colourful, it’s classic, and it’s surprisingly fun after spending nearly 20 years on the shelf. The only real problem here is that Qwak‘s iPhone port doesn’t really take the needs of the average iPhone gamer into consideration. Add a continue option, offer up some additional control choices, and Qwak has the potential to be one of the best old school experiences on the iPhone. As it stands right now though, Qwak is fun and simple platformer with a few glaring flaws.