It’s no surprise to see Warner Bros.’ inhouse videogame unit tapping the studio’s rich library of Looney Tunes characters for a pair of new games. It’s only shocking to see how radically different they came out. ”Acme Arsenal,” which stars Bugs Bunny and all his pals, is a completely generic action game that’s shockingly devoid of any of the Looney Tunes’ signature zaniness. ”Duck Amuck,” in which players complete a series of short, funny games with the express goal of driving Daffy Duck crazy, is one of the most original and clever titles for the Nintendo DS to date. Latter could become a cult favorite among gamers of any age, while ”Acme Arsenal” is sure to disappear amid the dozens of far superior actioners on the market.
”Duck Amuck” is based on the Looney Tunes short of the same name, a post-modern classic in which Daffy is tortured by an animator who constantly changes the short-tempered fowl’s appearance, location and even his voice. Translating the cartoon to the DS, with its touch-sensitive screen and microphone, is an inspired idea, since it lets players harass Daffy in the same way, becoming a virtual Chuck Jones.
Goal of the game is explicitly to drive Daffy crazy via a series of short mini-games, most of which involve getting him blown up by dynamite. Though there are a few standard games like music simulations and mazes, developer WayForward came up with some truly original ideas. One involves closing the DS and pushing buttons based on Daffy’s voice instructions, while another has players blowing to extinguish his candle in a spooky house at just the right moment.
Game also captures Daffy’s character perfectly. Torturing him is fun not only because it’s a refreshing change from trying to make the main character of a vidgame win, but because Daffy responds with his trademark caustic wit, taunting the player with lines like, ”Confidentially, you stink.” He’s also fully aware that he’s in a videogame, commenting after one painful encounter, ”So much for the E rating.”
The Daffy from ”Duck Amuck” would surely have choice words for ”Acme Arsenal.” Built around a confusing and poorly developed story in which the evil Dr. Frankenbean tries to kill all of the Looney Tunes’ ancestors, it’s essentially about Bugs, Daffy, Taz and the gang fighting an endless stream of robots in historical settings like ancient Egypt and World War I.
Players expecting Bugs to dig holes, chew on carrots and crack wise will be sorely disappointed. Instead, he runs around poorly designed levels using a banjo — huh? — to beat up Dr. Frankenbean’s robots. Each level features two characters, which one player can alternate or two can control together, but the only difference is what weapon they hold. Daffy has a mallet, Foghorn Leghorn uses his fists, and so on. They can also pick up cartoon-inspired weapons, the titular ”acme arsenal,” such as an extending boxing glove.
As a standard action game, ”Acme Arsenal” is mediocre. Graphics are weak, goals are unclear, and levels end suddenly and without explanation. But as a Looney Tunes game, it’s a true disappointment, because there’s nothing crazy, zany or clever about it. As Daffy might say, ”That’s despicable.”