App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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The pitch for M.Duck is tantalizingly succinct. Billed as a roguelite about a duck that knows magic, this game has a surprisingly firm sense of what it is and what it offers, and it does a great job of backing up its claims with creative design wrapped around its small, endearing scope.
M.Duck is a dungeon-crawler where the protagonist is a duck with a magic wand. You control the duck using virtual buttons to move it left or right across the bottom of the screen and fire off magic bullets at enemies that appear in what is basically a shooting gallery arena.
The goal is simply to defeat every enemy in each wave without dying. If you do, you may be granted a selection of upgrades to your abilities that will help you with the tougher enemies ahead. If you don't, you can try again from the beginning of the game.
If this all sounds really straightforward and simple, it's kind of because it is. M.Duck really only complicates itself in one way: The controls are intentionally designed to make it so you cannot shoot your wand and move at the same time. The ramifications of this one change are pretty massive, though, as nearly all of M.Duck's enemy designs and challenge hinge on this single design choice.
The upgrades you earn as you progress through a run can certainly help you compensate for this limitation. For example, there are unlocks that let you move faster or fire more shots, but none of them sidestep the core restraint, and every level in the game is primarily concerned with forcing you to juggle and choose between dodging and attacking at all times.
M.Duck smartly presents a ton of different upgrade options, enemy types, and even randomized bosses to ensure that playing and replaying the game doesn't grow old too quickly. It also has a couple of different difficulty options and a boatload of achievements for you to unlock so you have a good chunk of goals to work toward, even after you've already completed the game.
That said, the game can get a little deflating if and when deep runs get cut short. Luckily, M. Duck isn't a terribly long game, and its skill ceiling is such that you don't need to rely on specific powers to do well. If you stick with it and its colorful dungeons long enough, challenges that once seemed incredibly hard start to feel more achieveable.
The bottom line
M.Duck's confidence and charm makes for a pretty compelling package. It has a great sense of challenge that doesn't overcomplicate things, while also never feeling like it's something that got watered down to feel manageable on a phone. It's just a really great dungeon-crawler that doesn't take itself too seriously.