My friends often lovingly mock me about my lack of comfort with game controllers. They have explained this is why I don't get far in Cuphead despite my having proven that playing the game with a controller makes my response time even worse. I would rather stick with the keyboard and remain imprecise. It could be that I am a Neanderthal compared to most gamers. Or it could be that by the time I was old enough to use our family's Nintendo system, it had started to falter. As a result, I'm more familiar with the keyboard. Neanderthal gamer here, and owning it.
As a result, all games that I played were on PC, and my parents would screen anything we looked at. This development also meant that I either played Storybooks or games deemed as "edutainment". It's why I love the genre so much, and try to find games that can teach me more. These days, it's harder to find such games because the market has shifted. Most edutainment games are either pay-to-play or obsolete, lacking the historic drivers needed to play on modern PCs. The same goes for Storybooks since there are updated versions for the iPad and other devices with less interactivity. You miss the nostalgia and the simplicity.
There are some things you don't miss, especially how hard some of the games were. They are meant for gamers that understand how to react with proper instincts, rather than panicking reflexes. Those like me flail and try to not go for the knee-jerk reaction. Usually, the player characters suffer from that reflex dodge. Maui Mallard was one such game.
How Maui Mallard Enters The Picture
Maui Mallard In Cold Shadow, also known as Donald Duck In Maui Mallard, is unique in that it came free with a Toy Story game, that we had seen trailers for on our many VHS tapes. My brother had discovered it on the CD-ROM, when we realized that one level was virtually impossible to pass, owing to the fact that the joystick we had didn't work. This is part of the reason why I don't work with joysticks. We also discovered one important fact: it was super HARD. I didn't play, but my brother did. He would try it out, and I would watch over his shoulder. Things were simpler then.
We had only gotten this game on a demo. I wasn't even sure if it was real, or if my childhood mind was failing me as I slipped into adulthood. I may have never begun my search if not for the unforgettable death screen -- an oozy hand grabbing the player character and dragging him into the abyss after he loses all of his HP. As more activities and games entered the fray, I may have forgotten all about it, but that image stayed with me. We had, after all, played a bunch of weird games back then, including a short game of airplane trivia. My lasting impression was that the game centered around Donald Duck's cousin going on ninja adventures.
Fortunately, Steam and Wikipedia had the answer with a bit of detective work. Googling "Disney video game with ninja duck" did no good. Looking through Donald Duck's video game history, though, eventually, I realized that we could identify the game, and locate it by the summary. Once that happened, I could run a search for the actual title. Unlike most CD-ROM games in the 90s that seemed to vanish as soon as the drives themselves disappeared from modern computers, this one was feasible to download and play. Thank goodness for updated drivers.
Steam happened to have a copy of Maui Mallard, priced at $6. Realizing this was a great chance to take a stab at nostalgia, I purchased it, downloaded it to a desktop, and asked my brother if he wanted to play. He was up to it, to see if it was as hard as we remembered.
A Duck Detective
I loaded the game up, and I realized something: there were little to no memories of the title screen, or the soundtrack. The beat is certainly catchy. You want to dance along, even if the theme doesn't sound like one that you'd associate with the Disney Ducks.
We did verify one thing, however: the game is pretty hard. You play as Donald Duck who is the character Maui Mallard, a detective that tries to go on vacation. Vacation ends up not happening when a great statue is stolen, and Maui Mallard is put on the case. He has to navigate past acid-spitting spiders and Tiki skulls to find this statue. Tourists never get sleep if they have Donald's perpetually bad luck and constantly-incinerated tailfeathers.
I'm not a platformer person. My brother is a little better, but we have a hard time dodging and rejuvenating for health. We at least got some relief that you only die if you hit 0 HP, and you get six chances before the game decides that it's had enough of you and sends you off with a sad funeral. The downside is that Maui makes a Donald-Duck-like sound of pain every time he gets hit. Sometimes, you don't see what damages you when it comes from the ceiling. The controls are also finicky. According to Wikipedia, the controls being like that is perfectly normal for the game. Players did complain that it was hard to help the duck dodge acid-spitting spiders and a few haunted butlers.
Save points are ambiguous when playing the Steam version. If you die, there are checkpoints where you can revive. I didn't see any point, however, where you could load the game. You would have to complete it in one go, it seems, and not die. That seems difficult given that the game is listed to have 23 stages. One would need a couple of hours and the use of the pause button to continue with finesse.
We may try to finish it if we have another few free hours on the weekend since my brother is doing business trips at the moment. For now, though, it's nice to know that a bit of our childhood was real.
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