Hardcore Gaming 101: Donald Duck

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Page 1:
Mickey & Donald
Donald Duck's Speedboat
Donald Duck's Playground
Donald Alphabet Chase
Page 2:
Donald Duck
Lucky Dime Caper
Donald The Hero
Page 3:
Quackshot
World of Illusion
Deep Duck Trouble
Page 4:
Donald Duck no Mahou no Boushi
Magical Quest 3 Starring Mickey & Donald
Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow
Page 5:
Magical Tetris Challenge
Donald Duck: Goin' Qu@ckers
Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows
Page 6:
Life of D. Duck
Duckburg P.D.: Donald on Duty
Donald Duck Quest
Donald Duck Quest 2
Life of D. Duck II
PK: Phantom Duck
Page 7:
Al Lowe discussing Donald Duck
Darlene Lacey discussing Disney
Cameos & Appearances

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by Audun Sorlie - 6/2/2011

Donald Duck is probably a character that doesn't need any sort of introduction, but it may be important to place some perspective on his fame and popularity in this world. Donald was created by Walt Disney due to the fact that his most famous creation, Mickey Mouse, had simply gone soft. Disney needed a character with an edge to him, and one that could be a trouble maker, as Mickey had become a dearly loved character and role model for children all over the world. Since appearing in "The Wise Little Hen" in 1934, Donald has starred in over 130 cartoons, has his own comic book, has been the mascot of a university and appears in most of Disney's promotional merchandise.

Donald quickly became the underdog of Disney, always coming up short due to his anger issues and clumsiness, yet deep down he showcases lovable qualities, making him a deeply loved character for both young and old. His fame is almost at the level of Mickey Mouse, in places even exceeding it. In Scandinavia, the Donald Duck & Co comic has been released every week for over 50 years and still remains the most popular comic book in stores. Donald's fame is in fact so huge and vital in Scandinavia that a real scientific term has been created to describe the fans and hardcore followers of his mischief - "Donaldism". Popularized by Jon Gisle, the term refers to a scientific study of Donald Duck, the surrounding characters, culture, behavior and everything in between. The organization for Donaldism was established in 1968 and with the book "Donaldismen" in 1973, it became public knowledge. In the book, it is described as such:

Donaldism is a description partly on the scientific stage, partly in the materials in which this research orientates itself with. The last part describes all the comics that is released signed the Disney corporation. The first part describes a part of comic book research that specializes specifically in the study of Disney production. -Jon Gisle, 1973

It's safe to say that Donald is extremely popular all over the world, with some treating him like near religion, and his image synonymous with fun and games. When video games became the hottest thing in town, it was only a matter of time before Donald would star in his own video game. Since 1983, Donald has starred in several of them, as well as having a cameo in nearly all of the Disney oriented titles which features ensemble casts of their characters. Here, we'll take a look at the games where Donald is in the driver's seat, being the lead character and focus of the game. Out of all the Disney characters that have gotten their own games over the years, Donald might have what is the most interesting history.


Walt Disney and Donald Duck


In Scandinavia, the majority of the magazine racks in super markets and grocery stores are made up of Donald Duck related weekly magazines, pocket books and spin off comics.

Mickey & Donald - Game & Watch (1982)


European Cover


Pocketsize Cover


Casing

The very first appearance of Donald as a playable character in a game is found in Nintendo's 1982 Game & Watch series. Titled Mickey & Donald, the little handheld game puts Mickey, Donald and Goofy in the midst of six story inferno, as the firefighters who must save the building before it turns to a pile of ashes. The game is loosely based on the 1935 Disney short, "Mickey's Fire Brigade".

Like all the multi-screened Game & Watch titles, the action takes place across two vertically aligned screens and the player is required to stay on his toes at all times, keeping up with the dangers on both screens with no time to relax. The unit has two d-pads, one for Mickey and one for Donald. Mickey and Goofy run the pump on the bottom screen, and Mickey has two responsibilities - first, he must keep Goofy encouraged to work faster and pump the water steadily, but at the same time he must also climb the ladder and plug the leaks in the less than stellar hose that the brigade is using.

Donald is on the top of the building alone, and depends on Mickey and Goofy down below to supply a steady flow of water for him to drop on the rising fire. The fire rises at three different paces, and the ultimate goal is to put out the source of the fire at the very bottom windows, which stops the fire from rising. Each fireball put out is awarded with 1 point, while a completely extinguished fire awards 15. If a fireball reaches the top, Donald will burn his tail and evacuate. Three misses and it's game over. The unit offers an Game A and B option, with A being for beginners while B dramatically ramps up the speed of the fire and overall difficulty. A bonus mode appears when you reach 300 points, in which the game will play a special fanfare and all misses are cancelled out. If you reach 300 with no misses, each fireball extinguished will award double points. This ends if Donald misses a fireball or when the hose starts leaking.

Mickey & Donald is simple in premise and excellent in execution. The game offers a really fun and interesting challenge in having the three characters work together through very simple means. The only minor complaints that can be given to Mickey & Donald is the quite sudden jump in difficulty it can present at times, with fireballs all of a sudden doubling their speeds midway through their rise to the top. Also, despite being the hero of the story, Donald does not actually reap the fruits of his labor at the end of the game. Mickey takes all the glory and gets his kiss from Minnie, while it's clear that Donald was the one who risked his life so valiantly on top of the burning building.

Like all G&W units, it also has a clock and alarm feature, where Pluto will appear with a bell on the top of the bottom screen if activated. Nintendo made two pressings of the game - the first which featured a manual leaflet while the second did not. A rare pocketsize edition was also released in 1983 which is quite an expensive find today.

Manual Leaflet



Mickey & Donald (G&W)


Mickey & Donald (G&W)


Mickey & Donald (G&W)


Donald Duck's Speedboat (A Lancha do Pato Donald) - Atari 2600 (1983)


Cancelled US Cover


Brazilian Catalog Ad

Donald's very first video game console appearance was to set sail in 1983 with Donald Duck's Speedboat on the Atari 2600. The game was announced and shown in several catalogs throughout late 82 and early 83, and was initially announced under the title Donald Duck's Regatta. However, due to the slow sales of the children's games lineup on Atari, the title was quietly cancelled much like the other Disney titles scheduled, Snow White and Dumbo. Despite its cancellation in the US and Europe, it was licensed out and released in Brazil by Polyvox.

Donald has entered the Duckburg boat race and has taken to the sea with his speedboat. The objective is to steer the boat away from the obstacles along the way to the finish line and do so as fast as possible without losing pressure on the throttle. The game takes place across multiple screens which each presents its own obstacle patterns and challenges.

The game is completely high score based, and points are awarded by holding down the fire button to throttle. The faster the speed, the faster the score count increases. If Donald crashes into any of the obstacles, he loses all his momentum, and has to back up before going onwards and building up speed again. Obstacles range from anything like rocks, shallow waters, cyclones, streams of swimming mackerel and Huey, Dewey and Louie surfing around. There is no game over so any danger merely stops you dead in your tracks, but you are free to continue as soon as you back up a little.

For what it is, it works relatively well, especially with the younger demographic it is intended towards. There's little in the ways of challenge, but even older players can find some amount of fun in the high score aspect and figuring out the best route. It's just not a game which many would see much reason to come back to after having figured it out, and that is done within mere minutes of playing. To many, the fun will probably wear off pretty quick due to the small number of screens and lack of variety within them, not to mention the lack of music and sound effects except the throttle and crashes. When put in context of its contemporaries it probably holds up a bit better, but today it feels awfully limited and short.



Donald Duck's Speedboat (Atari 2600)


Donald Duck's Speedboat (Atari 2600)


Donald Duck's Speedboat (Atari 2600)


Donald Duck's Speedboat (Atari 2600)


Donald Duck's Playground - Amiga / Apple II / Atari ST / Commodore 64 / DOS / Tandy Color (1984)


Commodore 64 Cover


Tandy Color Cover

The first Donald Duck game to be released on a widespread platform is also what is probably the most fondly remembered title of all Donald Duck games. Though Sierra On-Line would go on to become legendary for their adventure game series with the release of Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, they were most famous for great Disney licensed games during the early parts of the 1980s. These titles were often angled to have an educational value to them but still remain fun for all ages. Mickey's Space Adventure and Winnie The Pooh were light hearted interactive novels while Black Cauldron is an adventure game which shows the early signs of a genre where Sierra would eventually reign supreme. With Donald Duck's Playground, it was clear that things needed to be different in order to make the game interesting and stand out on its own. The responsibility of this task was given to an up-and-coming programmer at Sierra who had worked on the previous Disney titles in varying roles. That programmer was none other than Al Lowe, creator of Leisure Suit Larry.

Al had contributed art and music to Mickey's Space Adventure and Black Cauldron, and he developed Winnie The Pooh on his Troll engine. Now however, he was working by himself on all aspects of the Donald title and it was all up to him to make a game that could be enjoyable for all ages while at the same time teach the youngest a thing or two. This time around, a storyline and narrative was not needed and everything would be dealt through gameplay. The end result is a mixture of educating and small arcade mini-games. It was initially released on the Commodore 64 in 1984.

Huey, Dewey and Louie are bored and want to go out and play, but for some reason Duckburg is missing a playground for the kids to go play at. Being the loving uncle that he is, Donald decides to build a playground for them with all the best toys stores has to offer. But buying toys is expensive, and he doesn't have that kind of money floating around. It's therefore up to the player to help Donald in working long shifts at the four different jobs in Duckburg in order to raise the money and build the best playground there is. After picking the difficulty, the game starts out in the middle of town, with the left part of town being the various shops, while the right side of town leading to labor.

All the jobs revolve around recognition and timing. You control Donald left and right to fetch items and are told to put them in its designated space in order to earn money. Before every job session, you have a choice of how long the session will be, and the longer you work the more you earn. Each job also pays differently depending on the difficulty.

Fruit Truck
At this job, Donald works as a sorting boy for fruits going to the grocery store. There are three kinds of fruits to sort out: watermelons, pumpkins and cantaloupes. These fruits are thrown off the truck so Donald has to be quick on his feet to catch them, and then put them in the right basket. If you miss or manage to misplace the fruit, he will yell and bicker at the screen. For each fruit placed correctly, you earn 1 cent and it's the least paying job in the game.

Becky's Toy Store
Here, Donald has to place the toys at the correct place on the high shelf by using the ladder and aligning it with the correct item. If he places it wrong, the toy will fall and break. The toy store is unfortunately right next to the Amquack Railroad, so every few minutes the Amquack Special pass by, leading the whole store to shake and toys dropping to the floor. That's why he must also hurry over to the window lever and close the shop up before the train passes by, or else he will be deducted in pay for all the broken toys. Each toy pays 5 cents.

Amquack Railroad
At the Amquack Station, Donald takes control of the Railroad connection panel and must guide the trains to deliver goods to the right town in time. There are six levers which each correspond to a connection point on the map shown behind him. Each train arrival pays 15 cents and is the highest paid job in Duckburg.

Duckburg Airport
At the Duckburg Airport baggage belt, Donald must again correctly sort the items and put them in the right container. A transporter will drive by with four containers, each with their individual three letters that corresponds with the luggage passing by on the belt in front of him. When the transporter has completely past by the screen, it will take the luggage up to the plane which takes off when loaded up. Each properly sorted item pays 3 cents.

After the job is over, Donald is paid depending on his performance. It's now time for him to buy some playground toys at the local shops across the street. These shops carry different items which all go directly to the playground. You'll be greeted by some familiar faces at these stores, as Minnie Mouse runs the 5 & 10 store, Mickey runs the Hardware store and Goofy... well, he runs the Junk store. The price differences between these stores aren't that much overall so it comes down to what toys you really want and not so much any entry point as far as prices go. The prices on the toys do change depending on what difficulty is picked at the beginning at the game however. Once you pay for an item, you must also calculate the correct change and work the register for a small math based challenge.

At the playground, you have the choice of either modeling the playground or play around with Huey, Dewey or Louie. There are 15 spaces which each can hold one toy each, and in order to reach the upper floors, you must purchase some kind of climbing item to place in a space. While the playground doesn't really serve any real purpose and has no effect on the rest of the game, it's fun to play sliding down the slides and swinging on the gymnastic rings, especially if you're a kid (or a kid at heart).

Donald Duck's Playground is a game that really got it together and offers exactly what it sets out to deliver - fun for all ages. Graphically, the game looks wonderful with clear details and good use of colors. Donald's sprite is one of the most memorable on Commodore 64, especially the yapping Donald, who barks at the player if he drops the fruit. The music is all done by Al Lowe and is great in its simplicity, with a peaceful tune accompanying Duckburg while a more upbeat ragtime tune plays while in the playground area. Small details such as Donald looking at each direction before crossing the tracks also adds to the overall charm to the game.

There are some things that keep it from being the perfect time killer it could have been. For one, the game has no high score and no end whatsoever. Basically, once you have bought the toys and played with them for a while the novelty does wear off pretty fast. While you can pick your difficulty at the very beginning, it just serves to spike prices rather than making the game itself harder which doesn't really help to prolong the lifetime of the game. Still, while the fun lasts, it is a wonderful little gem. It won several awards after its release from various magazines, such as Best Educational Title.

After the initial Commodore 64 release, there were several ports, some which have some significant changes made. The TRS-80 CoCo version is more or less a direct port, but with a severely gimped color palette, giving the game a lot of black backgrounds, but enables a bit more details on the characters and backdrops. Two years later, the Amiga, Atari ST and IBM PC got their own version. This version has a multiscreen layout and much more detail and colors, with the town and playground having several screens. The playground especially benefits from this, and you can now purchase a much wider variety of items to play with, including sky stretching, spaceship shaped slides. The music and speed really suffers however, and it loses some of its small town charm that is found in the C64 version. Out of the three enhanced versions, the Atari ST is the most playable due to Donald moving slightly faster. This version also features a tutorial if you wait at the title screen.

MP3: Download Here

Main Theme
The Playground


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)


Donald Duck's Playground (C64)

Version Comparisons

Commodore 64
Atari ST
Tandy Color
Commodore 64

Atari ST

Tandy Color

Commodore 64
Atari ST

Tandy Color

Commodore 64
Atari ST

Tandy Color

Commodore 64
Atari ST

Tandy Color

Donald's Alphabet Chase - Amiga / Amstrad CPC / Apple II / Commodore 64 / DOS / ZX Spectrum (1988)


DOS Cover


Amstrad CPC Cover

Disney's properties have always been and still are something that remains heavily guarded, and what you can do with them is fairly limited. In the 80s, parents and watchdog groups were keeping a close eye on the relatively new medium in order to make sure kids wouldn't get "hurt" by any foul imagery or indecent behavior, especially from something as beloved as Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. So it's no surprise that the majority of the early Disney titles including Donald would be simplistic educational titles. What's a better teacher for our children than an angry duck in a sailor outfit? This game was part of the Disney Software educational lineup which consisted of 4 other games, Goofy's Railway Express, Mickey's Runaway Zoo, Mickey's Crossword Puzzle Maker and Mickey's Colors & Shapes. It was also later packaged with Goofy's Railway Express and Mickey's Runaway Zoo as the Mickey & Friends Fun Pack.

Donald's Alphabet Chase is for the very youngest of gamers, those aged 2-5 as the box art explains. It was developed by Westwood, who would eventually revolutionize real time strategy with their Command & Conquer series. This was also the first appearance of producer Darlene Waddington, who would go on to produce many of Disney's video games. The objective of this game is extremely simple - once a letter comes onto the screen, push the corresponding key on your keyboard. If you hit the correct key, an animation will play where Donald catches the letter and throws it to the top of the screen. If you hit the wrong key however, Donald will stumble and fall while chasing them, and once they escape his grasp he'll start bickering in true Donald fashion. The letters will run past you, hide in cabinets, behind the TV, in the grill out in the yard, just about everywhere you can think of. There is no other interaction with Donald in the game however, simply press the right key and wait for the next letter to appear.

Now granted, these kind of games aren't meant to be played and judged along the same lines as, say a platformer, or even point and click adventures...they are simply educational and meant to teach kids the valuable ABC in a fun and inviting environment. In that case, the game works well and with the colorful, detailed and well designed graphics in the game, the letters are easy to spot and have a touch of personality to them with their rowdy behavior. Donald also is instantly recognizable in his appearance and behavior.

Its only big drawbacks are the slow speed and lack of sound. Donald moves slower than a one legged dog. One might think speed isn't necessarily a big issue in a game where you don't even take direct control over the main character, but Donald has to reposition himself constantly to activate the animation for either catching or fumbling around the letter he is chasing. Games in the 80s moved at a slower pace due to processors and lack of power so it's understandable, but kids usually don't harbor the greatest of patience. The only real music in the game is the Alphabet Song, which is safe to be said not the most interesting song, though apropos. Kids will still love all the different animations and small little details that pops up here and there. Adults will probably discard it as too childish, but like a pop-up book, even though you are too old, you end up pulling all the pieces and opening all the windows to see what's underneath.

Donald's Alphabet Chase was ported to most of the home computer systems on the market, with all of them being virtually the same game with graphical changes depending on the strength of the hardware. The Commodore 64 version, which was released as late as 1991, looks especially good for a game on the platform and runs at a much more comfortable speed. The CPC version features language support for up to five languages, though the game has actually very little on screen text so it's not the most useful feature. An Apple II port is believed to exist and Waddington herself seems to address it specifically in some web chats she has had over the years, however there are really no traces of it to be found so chances are it was either shelved or is extremely rare.


Donald's Alphabet Chase (DOS)


Donald's Alphabet Chase (DOS)


Donald's Alphabet Chase (DOS)


Donald's Alphabet Chase (DOS)


Donald's Alphabet Chase (DOS)

Version Comparisons

DOS VGA
DOS CGA
Commodore 64
ZX Spectrum

Amstrad CPC


    Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Mickey & Donald
Donald Duck's Speedboat
Donald Duck's Playground
Donald Alphabet Chase
Page 2:
Donald Duck
Lucky Dime Caper
Donald The Hero
Page 3:
Quackshot
World of Illusion
Deep Duck Trouble
Page 4:
Donald Duck no Mahou no Boushi
Magical Quest 3 Starring Mickey & Donald
Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow
Page 5:
Magical Tetris Challenge
Donald Duck: Goin' Qu@ckers
Disney's PK: Out of the Shadows
Page 6:
Life of D. Duck
Duckburg P.D.: Donald on Duty
Donald Duck Quest
Donald Duck Quest 2
Life of D. Duck II
PK: Phantom Duck
Page 7:
Al Lowe discussing Donald Duck
Darlene Lacey discussing Disney
Cameos & Appearances

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