A long time ago, a Shaun of a time long past reviewed a game from another Shaun of a time long past. That game was called Shoot the Moon (Free), and it was a triumph of simple gameplay married with a slick presentation to create a charming and fun game. In the years since then, both Shauns have been busy with various things, but fate has seen fit to find a reason for the lives of the Shauns to cross yet again. I’m Shaun Musgrave, and I am here to review Shaun Coleman’s cleverly-titled Punch Kick Duck (Free).
Punch Kick Duck is another action game, but this time instead of taking on the shoot-em-up genre, the developer has offered his take on another popular genre from the good old days of the arcades: the single-plane beat-em-up. Think Irem’s Kung Fu Master, and you’ll be on the right page. You guide your duck (or other character, more on that later) across each stage, fighting off the various enemies that assail you. You have but three moves in your arsenal. Well, you’ve read the title so you can probably take a guess which moves they are. You’ve got a high punch, a mid-level kick, and a ducking sweep.
It’s all rather simple at first. A bunny approaches and you give it a punch. A pig rolls up and you give it a kick. A lanky weasel approaches and you give it a sweep. They show up in groups, but as long as you keep your wits about you it isn’t too much to manage. Oh, and there’s a bear chasing you. You can’t do much with him, so best to pick up your feet when you aren’t fighting so that you can stay ahead of him. Reach the stairs and you’re home free to move on to the next floor. Don’t forget to pick up the coins the enemies drop while you’re at it. More on those later, too.
As you move up the floors, things get more complicated. Some of the enemies are pushing carts at you. Others toss bottles. You can deal with all of these things using your same set of moves, but you’ll have to learn which ones are best for which situation and when to use them. It’s such a simple system at its core, but thanks to the variety of enemies and interactions it always feels fresh. You’ll get a different arrangement of enemies each time you play, and there are multiple difficulty settings that mix things up even more. The challenge never feels unfair, and if you learn how to play well enough you can easily get through floors unscathed.
Okay, let’s talk about coins and characters. The coins enemies drop can be used for a few different things, but the most fun you can have with them is in using them to unlock new characters. There aren’t a ton of characters here, and that makes sense. Each one is carefully created and looks as natural in-game as the titular duck. It will take a lot of playing to unlock them all, so you’ll have something to aim at for quite a while. Each time you unlock one, you get a little animation of the character coming out of a package. Very satisfying stuff. The gameplay doesn’t change, but it’s fun to change things up visually. You can also use coins to continue if you’re defeated mid-stage. That’s less fun, but you can do it if you like.
So how does it monetize? The base game is free, and you’ll have to watch some ads now and then if you want to keep things that way. If you’re tired of the mandatory ads, you can drop a sweet two bucks on an IAP to remove them. If you want to spend more money, you can buy a couple of extra characters a la carte for a few bucks apiece. There are also voluntary ads that will earn you some extra coins, and that’s not a bad idea if you want to speed up the character unlocks and don’t mind watching them. All pretty reasonable stuff, particularly by modern standards.
Let’s talk about the presentation, because it’s absolutely dynamite. The game looks and sounds fantastic, and it’s appealing both in terms of art style and technical prowess. Shaun Coleman’s panache for pleasing, personable character designs helped make Shoot the Moon stand out and it’s on even greater display here. You could mistake it for a cartoon, and I love it. Oh, and you can play in portrait or landscape orientation, and the game is just as viable to play either way.
The only downside to the game is a usual one for beat-em-ups. If you really hunker down and settle in for a long-term session, you might find it getting a little repetitive after a while. As someone who loves the genre, it’s rarely an issue for me with good ones, and I do think Punch Kick Duck is one of the good ones. But I do know some people aren’t as keen on the constant slugfests with enemies and their endless twin brothers and sisters, and if that’s you then you might end up bouncing off of this game. The good news is that it is free to try in any case, so… you know, give it a try.
Punch Kick Duck is a blast to play, and a wonderful treat for the eyes and ears. It’s great to see Shaun Coleman take on another genre and put his unique spin on it, and the results are as good as I could have hoped. I hope our paths intertwine again in another ten years so I can see what he does with the single-screen platformer genre or something. For now, I’ll just keep enjoying this great slice of beat-em-up action. Perhaps you should, too.