Duck Hunt is the second game I played on my trusty old NES. Of course I booted up Super Mario Bros. on my dual cartridge first and played that until my fingers bled, but after flipping the coin and delving into the never ending fowl slaughter that is Duck Hunt, I was addicted to light gun shooters. It wasn’t the first, or even the best game of the genre at the time, but something of it’s on-screen dimension is stuck in my long-term memory now, locked up in my psyche. It would take a team of very good and dedicated psychiatrists to remove that canine-cackle from my thought processes now.
There was something cathartic after the abstract, psychedelic world of Mario and Luigi about just blowing the faces off of wetland wildlife. It drew me in the same way that Doom sucked my time away. It wasn’t hard until it got hard, but I could just reset if I was having a cruddy day and needed start over from scratch. Though, when the speed picked up and that dog began to laugh at my failures, there was also something of a challenge in that… Something that drove me to try to prove him wrong… Something that clacking the end of my Zapper against his stupid glass face and pulling the trigger couldn’t fix. I got very good at that game because of that dog.
The game is simple. You are a hunter (presumably) of ducks. You are behind your duck screen and all set up. You have cocked three bullets into your rifle and are ready to put them into the nearest skybound critter you see. The time is right, the stage is set. The tree on the left offers a dubious hope of salvation for the small-brained drumsticks-to-be, a hope that you are banking on. You let loose your hound to scare the nesting ducks into the great blue, and there! There they are, two beautiful, mated specimens of this majestic place gracefully arcing into the sky. You set your sight on one of them and your shot rings out across the soaked plains, missing it by an inch. You manage to sink your two remaining bullets into their sides. The spin to the ground, winking out before even hitting the ground. You have won, and your trusty friend has brought back your spoils in his paws, seeming to smile wide as he drops them at your feet.
Each level is exactly like this! Well, except with less drama and derring-do, but you get the idea. Flap flap, KERPLOW, beeeuuuuw, thud! There is also a clay pigeon mode which I never really played much, but was interesting in itself.
One thing about this game that a surprising amount of people don’t know is that it is multiplayer! While gaming with your friend, one person shoots down the ducks and 2P controls the direction of the birds’ flight with a controller. This was always pretty fun for a while when my friends and I got bored of Tetris and River City Ransom on our weekly Pixi Stix and Mountain Dew NES-time sleepovers.
Looking back on the game now, I realize just how crude the technology was and how simple the game was. I can still pick the game up and drop some canards sideways ganster style with that extremely satisfying PZZANG of the orange light gun itself. I can only recommend this game with sepia-coloured enthusiasm and vivid zeal. Get your redneck lean on and blast some innocent creatures to oblivion!