System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Review Written May, 2001
Like most people who bought an NES, I bought an Action Set. For the longest time I had only the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt game that was included in the set. I later got Castlevania 2, and again for the longest time I only had those games. You might guess that with only those games I might have become very bored with my NES. But, no, I enjoyed Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania 2 so much that I played them over and over, until I probably knew more about them than any normal person should. I certainly never got bored enough with either of those two games that I had to resort to playing Duck Hunt for entertainment.
Duck Hunt is played with the zapper, the light gun that came with the action set. It looks like a gun, and you point it at targets on screen and pull the trigger like a gun to shoot. The game has three modes: you can shoot one duck at a time, two at a time, or you can shoot clay pigeons which arc across the screen. At first you can miss a few ducks or clay pigeons and continue to the next round but eventually you are allowed fewer and fewer misses until, very quickly, you must hit every target. As the rounds go on, the ducks move faster until they reach their limit. Then the game continues endlessly as you try to get a high score. A second player can use a controller to have some minimal control over a duck in the first mode, but don't expect what that player does to have more of an effect on whether the duck gets hit than the shooting player's skill.
And that's it. I've described every detail of the gameplay. After the first few rounds, once the difficulty curve levels out, the game is just an endurance test. What will happen first: will you make a mistake, or turn off the game in boredom? There may be some pleasure in playing a game as simple as Duck Hunt. But I said Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania 2 could have kept me entertained for years. Even the possibility of having some simple pleasure with Duck Hunt is only enough to warrant taking the game out for a half hour of play, at most, every two or so years. Super Mario Bros. and Castlevana 2 got me hooked on games; if my only game then had been Duck Hunt I think I would have a different hobby now. I wish I could say more about this game, but what more is there to say about a game whose most memorable feature is a dog that laughs at you when you miss?
Perhaps I should give credit to the game for bringing a unique game experience home. There weren't many games to take advantage of the Zapper, nor have other systems had many light gun games, and Duck Hunt did offer a break from all the platform games on the NES. Also, the aim of the Zapper with the game seems accurate enough for the technology of the time. Consider this, however. Many people hate The Adventures of Bayou Billy. However, that game's light gun stages alone are vastly superior to all of Duck Hunt.