Today’s so-called edgelords are not much to hang on the Christmas tree. By the 1990s, no one had raised an eyebrow at their tirades. At that time, sarcasm, bitterness and general way of life were mainstream. Therefore, one could make an animated series about an alcoholic duck and father of a family who neglects their children and hates everything and everyone, and shows the best broadcast time. The TV series was called Duckman, and was actually shown on SVT for a while. Those were great times.
Of course, the darkness, the dirt and the cynics became something of an empty pose sometimes, even then. Often, even. But many times there was also sincerity in the grim mines, even when they used irony to desperately mask the worst blacks. It is not enough to say things that upset people – it must mean something beyond the shock value as well. Otherwise it will just be a tiring, empty gesture directed at absolutely nothing.
Duckman is hardly the best comedy of the 90s or so. Not even the best animated comedy. But it puts the finger quite well on exactly how much cynicism and misery actually found space in pop culture, even in things that were created for a mainstream audience. Even seemingly kind and modest family series like the ambitious TV series Dinosaurs (with incredible effects and puppets created by Jim Henson’s studio) had a clear undertone of darkness. Not just because the series ended with the extinction of the dinosaurs, but because the common thread throughout the series was about why they did it. And it was clear that it was about us.
Unlike in old sitcoms, it did not work out in the end as long as one believed in the family and old values. And yet this was a series aimed at children and young people, in the first place. It’s one thing when Seinfeld wallows in wonderfully funny misanthropy, and another when cute muppet dinosaurs show the kids why humanity is doomed.
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What is it?
A well-crafted and bitter point-and-click adventure based on an animated series.
Illusions Gaming Company
Playmates Interactive Entertainment
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A duck for its time
Duckman is simply a very logical creation if you consider that it is a child of its time. An era where dirt was everywhere. From the misery in Seven to games like Bad Mojo, where you are a cockroach running around in wonderfully disgusting environments. Not to mention the breakthrough of grunge music and all the dirty and depressing music videos that were produced during the not always so happy 90s. It is against this background that one must understand Duckman’s fourth wall-breaking irony and cynicism.
However, it was never one of the most popular animated comedy series, even though we who actually saw it liked it. On the one hand, Jason Alexander (Costanza from Seinfeld) was perfect in the title role, as the bitter duck and the detective who completely lacks good sides, and is pretty bad at everything he does. But the series also managed to put its finger on the bitter spirit of the times, while at the same time making fun of it with constant ironic little inserts.
That it was actually made a game based on the TV series is surprising enough in itself, but that it is also quite good is directly incomparable. Duckman: The Graphic Adventures of a Private Dick is not at all as equivocal as the title would suggest. In fact, the game is generally kinder than the TV model, strangely enough. The script does not have the same nice cynical bite, quite simply. It will be more expected, a little tamer stuff. More like a modern edgelord, you might say. But not for that matter without qualities or fun passages. The game has also made sense not to hold on for too long. It has a simple but clear plot where Duckman is replaced by a new model, who takes over both his job and his family.
Unfortunately, it is not Jason Alexander who does the voice in the game, but the replacement does such a good job in the role that it does not do much. In addition to the strong voice acting, the game is generally very accurate. It captures the series in an excellent way, both in terms of animations, aesthetics and sound design. Even if the script, as I said, does not really reach all the way.
The puzzles are not very memorable, but they are perfectly okay. Some are a bit resourceful, even, and none are of the kind that make you curse the game’s designers. A little too simple, perhaps, but it fits in the context. The point here is not to solve tricky riddles, but to bring to life a dose of accurate, interactive version of Duckman.
Old losers never rust
Compared to some other point-and-click games based on TV and movie models Duckman definitely a really solid game. Everyone who likes the series should give it a try. Those who have not seen it can with advantage check it out on youtube, where there are actually both individual episodes and entire seasons uploaded. As you probably understand, since the game is part of our series of articles about lost games, it is unfortunately not possible to buy Duckman: The Graphic Adventures of a Private Dick today, if you do not happen to find a used copy somewhere (but then you should have a satanic turn).
However, if you find the game in one way or another, it is easy to play it even on modern computers, as it is compatible with ScummVM. To get a little idea of how the game sounds, moves and by itself, you can check out our little movie below, where we show a little from the beginning of the game.
Duckman may be a child of his time, both as a TV character and game hero, but surely there is room for old losers even in our time? I hope so.
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