Review: Duck Souls

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Sometimes it’s nice to sit down with a game that’s not going to consume hours of your life. I love compact experiences, ones that get you into a creator’s vision and back out in a single go. The name Duck Souls might not inspire much confidence, and the memes won’t help, but it’s a wonderfully bite-sized bit of challenge platforming to work through in about forty minutes or so. While that might not seem so remarkable, it does strike a far, far more reasonable balance with its challenges than most indie offerings, and it looks absolutely lovely while it’s at it.

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You’re a duck! The last duck, apparently, as the souls of your kin grimly inform you in the opening. There are duck eggs left nesting around the world, though, and from these your species could make a resurgence. But that means someone like you (a duck) needs to go retrieve them, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re all at the end of long halls or caverns of spikes, spinning blades, sentry guns, and worse. Your non-corporeal allies were at least kind enough to grant you the power to dash, and between that and your keen wall-jumping abilities, you’ll have everything you need to gather up these precious eggs.

Forget about the name, because Duck Souls doesn’t resemble that other game it’s two letters off from in the slightest. If anything this is entry-level Super Meat Boy, comprised of a hundred single-screen rooms to run, jump, dash, and climb through to the coveted eggs. Your duck controls much like Madeline from Celeste, too, with its dash functional in any direction and in midair, but requiring you to land on solid ground before using it again. Levels make the most of this, offering all sorts of tight platforming challenges and fun gimmicks like breakable walls and homing missiles. It’ll all be very familiar if you’ve ever played a SMB-style challenge platformer before, but tuned way lower than the ones you’re probably thinking of.

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That’s the real charm of this one, though the bright, bold pixel art and pleasant tunes make a pretty good case on their own. Duck Souls is one of the easier, more welcoming platformers I’ve played, without abdicating its challenge entirely. You’ll still need to be quick and precise, but the short levels and gentle difficulty curve mean no matter how bad you were at Super Meat Boy, you’ll still be able to finish this, I’d wager. That alone should earn Duck Souls some recognition in a world where every other platformer is a miserable slog of overtuned acrobatics. It does exactly what it sets out to do, which is entertain and challenge for an hour or less, and it deserves a chance for doing it so well.

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