Qwak’s motto is “…-it’s all about the gameplay…-”, and this duck is chock-full of that!
Over 20 years ago, UK game developer Jamie Woodhouse released upbeat platformer Qwak for the 8-bit BBC Microhome computer. Later teaming up with Team17 to develop an Amiga version of the game that was faster, more frantic and included a two-player mode in 1993. The game was released to great reviews, receiving a 92% rating and the “Gamer Gold” pick from the Amiga Computing magazine. The game later made its way to Gameboy Advance (though never officially released), PC and Mac. The game finally made it’s debut to the App Store today.
In Qwak, you play as an egg-hurtling duck searching for gold keys to escape his ever changing dungeon. Every level in Qwak is filled with frenetic, increasingly difficult gameplay. Qwak features 70 levels across 6 different worlds.
Qwak’s motto is “…-it’s all about the gameplay…-”, and it is chock-full of that. The amount of gameplay elements in Qwak is almost overwhelming, but with an excellent tutorial and instructional page on their website, it doesn’t take long getting use to the effects of all the different items and power-ups in the game.
The main goal in each level is to collect all the gold keys in a level and make it to the exit once opened before almost certain death comes to you from above. This proves to be a difficult task as you are encountered with many “baddies” that attempt to take you out at every turn.
The gameplay consists of collecting fruit and gems for points, killing any bad guys along the way with your main weapon, the egg, collecting all gold keys and then promptly escaping before a spiky balls begin raining down on you, alerting you to the fact that you have taken too long to complete a level. Eggs are in limited supply, though at the end of each round all the fruits you have collected turn into eggs for use in the next level.
There is a excellent puzzle element in Qwak. Baddies cannot go through the crystals, fruits and other elements. Removing these elements will allow the baddies to escape and either follow a general pattern or chase you. You must be careful about removing certain pieces to avoid getting hit. Also, falling into a hole on the lowest level, means you will reappear falling from the top of level. You have to pick the quickest and safest way to your exit after picking up every golden key on the map.
Your duck hero can be clad in up to three armors: leather, silver and gold. Each hit takes away one armor, once the three armors are gone, your duck is naked and the next hit will cause you a life. The only exception is the skull mushroom, which kills you outright, armor or not. Each level of armor is obtained by picking up black potion vials.
To help you along the way, power ups are scattered through out the levels. Various color potion vials give you powers like invulnerability, flying boots, freezing, invisibility and more. Collecting egg power ups gives your throwing-eggs extra bonuses, like X2 damage, X4 and chocolate eggs, which make chocolate covered fruit burst from every baddie that has the misfortune of being hit by one.
Special items in the game generally clear a path or showers you with bonuses, and sometimes try to kill you. Gates and chests can be opened with matching color keys, trap door can be deactivated by pulling the same color levers. Umbrellas rain a bounty of treasures on you, for the exception of two- the white umbrella, which rains armor potions, flowers (10=+1 Life)and egg upgrades, and the black umbrella which rains spikes upon your head, so avoid them if possible. Certain items, such as sweets and chocolate fruit give secret powers when enough are collected.
What makes Qwak great is how smooth and fluid the gameplay is. Tested on my 2nd Generation iPod Touch, I did not run into single dropped frame or even a sprinkling of lag, no matter how many items or baddies were on the screen, and there were lots. My iPod is filled with Apps, to the brim, which causes some games to become lagged at times, and requiring me to restart my device. Not Qwak though, it performed beautifully under all circumstances. Perhaps due to the developers veteran status and obsession with speedy gameplay, Qwak runs a solid 60 frames per second through out.
How are the controls, you ask? Wonderful. Since Qwak doesn’t require you to look down or up those buttons are eliminated, using a simple right-left, jump-shoot button combination, obstructing less screen space and allowing a better view of the action. There are a few instances where my finger slipped off the right arrow and caused me to go left, which in a game like this could be the difference between winning and loosing a level, so perhaps the ability to space the controls out would not be a bad idea.
Taken directly from the Amiga version of the game, the soundtrack shines through with cheery and upbeat chimes that go hand-in-hand with the frenetic nature of Qwak.
The sound effects are clean and crisp, very effectively alerting you when you’ve been hit, unlocked a gate picked up a gem or a fruit, and most sad off all, the “quack!” when your duck is “cooked”.
Overall, Qwak is must-get for fans of the puzzle-platformer genre. With fluid and clean visuals, many levels, increasing difficulty, tons of power ups, and a catchy soundtrack, Qwak has the recipe for a platformer of true greatness, one that future games of the genre will be measured by. It is, however, not an easy affair. If you are used to laid back, take-your-time and enjoy the view kind of platformer, this will not be it. There is no easy mode here, as a matter of fact this is the only game I’ve played where you can fail and achieve “game over” in the tutorial! Which I will admit I happened to do, though only once.