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by David Welbourn

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A Flustered Duck

by Jim Aikin profile

2009

(based on 12 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

You play as Elliott, a pig-boy. It starts when Granny Grabby orders you to get Mabel the duck down from the roof. You try, but a series of unfortunate events ensue ending with Mabel swallowing the diamond ring you planned to give to Suzette! You need to get that ring back, but how?


Game Details


Awards

1st Place - Spring Thing 2009

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
You may be only a pig-boy, but you know your ducks., May 11, 2013

You play Elliott, a harried farmhand at Granny Grabby's farm. Her prized duck Mabel has swallowed the engagement ring you intended to surprise your girlfriend with this evening - you must get it back! With the help of your favourite pig Bessie, you will embark on an enjoyable load of puzzles and fetch-quests, that range from the simple to the slightly obtuse, but all full of this light, quirky humour.

The lightness does perhaps disguise that it is possible to put yourself in an unwinnable position without the game immediately telling you. However, these occasions seem rare, and with careful reading you should be able to avoid this (if the narrative voice seems iffy about your action, consider its necessity before continuing on). The inventory system is also rather inefficient - while the game will automatically shift items into a container when your hands are full, it then ceases to recognise you as 'having' these items, and you will have to take them again before attempting to use them. This is a minor quibble, however, and doesn't really get in the way of the fun.

In all, this is a great little comic puzzler, full of the joys of spring (and things).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Promising start, not fulfilled., February 1, 2024

A Flustered Duck starts out seeming promising enough: The PC, a downtrodden pig-boy working on the farm of the tyrannical Granny Grabby, has somehow scrimped and saved enough to finally buy the diamond ring that he needs to propose to the girl of his dreams -- but, he is thwarted in his designs when the farm's duck, a favorite of Granny's, ingests the ring during an unlikely accident.

It's a fanciful setup, vaguely remniscent of Lost Pig, and after 50 moves or so (enough to get out of the prologue and off the farm), I was well-primed for the series of mildly-comic obstacles that would surely stand between the protagonist and his goal. What I was not prepared for was being plunged into a nonsensical world of odd vignettes connected only by the most tenuous moon logic.

I don't really have a problem with the classic "pastiche" style of Adventure and the Infocom canon. Nor am I opposed to humor based on silliness. This world, however, just fundamentally didn't make sense, often veering past silly to a level of weirdness that was so unexpected as to be disconcerting. I and the two people with whom I was playing lost our ability to suspend disbelief within a few hundred moves, but we persevered in order to give the game a fair chance to recover.

Unfortunately, it never did. Though we did finish the game, we did so only after receiving plentiful help from the integrated hint system, which is context-sensitive and well-implemented. There was no occasion on which we regretted having consulted it. Even after having run the gauntlet of puzzles, all three of us were fairly horrified by the actual retrieval of the ring -- instead of being triumphant this moment was more than a little repugnant, as it involved (Spoiler - click to show)hacking into the duck with a knife and pulling the gore-covered ring from its torso. Although this act has no lasting physical consequences due to a magical countermeasure, I think the experience would leave the duck in a state better described as "traumatized" than as merely "flustered." After delivering the ring and mentally reviewing the activities of the PC that day, I cannot say that I was left thinking that he and his love interest would share a happy future, which rendered the end unsatisfying.

On a technical front, this piece was put together pretty well. Aside from a scoring bug (explained below), the only other one that stands out is a repeated message on picking something up (Spoiler - click to show)(the television) that doesn't make sense after the first time. The prose is very serviceable, and I can't recall any typographical errors.

Although this game didn't work for the three of us, your mileage may vary. For the edification of would-be authors and to advise potential players, following are some specific gripes that we had with the game. Many of these are generic gripes against the "very old school" style, but I will still call them out here because the introduction of this game falsely suggests the more player-friendly style of later eras.

(Spoiler - click to show)
1. Information given about the observable environment is deliberately incomplete. Objects in plain sight of the PC (Spoiler - click to show)(e.g. a penny on a table) go unmentioned unless the supporter on which they sit is examined. In some cases, objects in unobstructed view must be located with specific >EXAMINE commands. In an early and egregious case, even the presence of objects comparable in size to the PC (Spoiler - click to show)(furniture objects in the living room, including the penny-concealing table) are omitted from the initial description of a room.

2. Numerous objects are hidden inside or under objects described vaguely, often things whose existence and/or reason for being in that location are unhinted. While >EXAMINE and >SEARCH are generally equivalent, in at least one case (Spoiler - click to show)(berries on some bushes), >SEARCH gives no indication of a critical object's presence while >EXAMINE does.

3. The game implements a novel mechanic in which, upon taking an object for the first time, it is automatically examined... if it has not yet been examined. This is a neat idea, but it does not work well for a particular object (Spoiler - click to show)(a surfboard), which provides more information when examined while holding it. This critical extra information is easy to miss as a result. The effect is particularly off-putting in the context of a game including many objects that serve no specific purpose.

4. The game implements a hold-all object, but the logic controlling automatic shuffling of objects into it has faults, such that sometimes the object-juggling fails, causing the intended action to fail. It's not clear whether that's due to a bug affecting the "player's holdall" type of object in Inform 7 5U92 or due to an issue with custom code. While this would normally be a minor annoyance, this bug interacts with another bug related to scoring (Spoiler - click to show)(a point awarded for putting the poodle into the correct object so that it can be smuggled past its owner), such that the correct command will result in no score increase the second time it is tried. The combination of bugs creates an unintentional (and extremely irksome) last lousy point scenario.

5. Some actions must be repeated multiple times in order to trigger progress, even though the response to earlier attempts are failure messages that logically discourage additional attempts. This is particularly problematic in the game's opening vignette, in which the PC must try to >CATCH DUCK no less than four times to cause it to fly away, which allows the PC to leave the farm. (This was, incidentally, the first circumstance prompting use of hints -- an ill omen.)

6. In one miniature scene, the PC must select one of several items being offered by an NPC (Spoiler - click to show)(the gnome wizard). In reality, only one of the items can actually be selected, though choosing an "incorrect" one results in what seems to be a YES/NO prompt to confirm the choice. There doesn't seem to be any gameplay purpose to the frustration created for the player here; the scene would work just as well if the NPC just handed over the only allowable item.

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