Duck Hunt is one of the two games packed in with the Nintendo Entertainment System (the other being Gyromite), and as such, it will most likely be one of the first Game Paks you will play. It utilizes the Zapper light gun, which is also included in the box. Simply plug it into controller slot 2 and power on the NES to start hunting some ducks. There’s a certain simplicity to Nintendo’s naming system. For many of the games you know exactly what you’re going to get. Football, Soccer, Baseball, and of course Duck Hunt are pretty accurate descriptions of what the games entail. In this case, you aim your Zapper at the television to shoot ducks that fly about the screen.
There are a total of three modes of play: Game A, Game B, and Game C. Game A is the easiest of the bunch, starting off nice and slow with only a single duck on the screen to shoot. It will only stay on the screen for a short time before flying away, so you’ll need to be quick. Oh, and you also only have three shots to kill it. The round will end once ten ducks have flown out the bushes. You will move on to the next round if you’ve bagged at least the minimum number of ducks needed to progress. Naturally the game becomes faster paced and more difficult as you add more ducks to your collection. If you have someone else sitting around and watching you play, invite them to pick up a controller and that player can control the ducks. It beats waiting around for you to finish.
Game B is identical to Game A, except the amount of ducks increases to two right from the start. You still only have three shots to hit them. This is a more difficult mode and for some reason Nintendo decided to not let a second person control the ducks. I enjoyed the increased challenge and intensity found here, and after a bit of practice I feel most people will gravitate to this more advanced level.
Game C doesn’t have ducks! I know, what a curveball. Instead it’s a clay shooting game. Two discs will pop out of the bottom of the screen and rapidly fly away at different angles. A minimum number need to be destroyed in order to move on to the next level, otherwise it’s game over. I enjoyed playing this, as it was a change of pace and featured different scenery, but would have liked more targets to shoot and more variety of locales.
Graphically the game is a mixed bag. The ducks animate well and have various different colors to them, each of which nets a different amount of points to add to your score. At the beginning of the rounds a big dog shows up to scare the ducks and looks great. He animates very nicely, but there’s not a lot of variety here as you see the same couple of animations every turn. There aren’t any moving backgrounds or variations in the seasons to make the game more compelling. The clay shooting is more basic looking, but the discs have a nice smooth animation to them as they seamlessly slide out of view.
Sound-wise the game is also pretty lacking. The dog can get annoying if you fail to shoot the ducks as he snickers at you. There’s no music that plays during the game other than the short jingle if you shoot all of the ducks. This can become repetitive very quickly, especially if you’re not the one playing the game.
The Zapper itself seems pretty accurate. Nintendo recommends sitting or standing about six feet away from the TV for the game to properly work. Some adjustment to the screen brightness may be necessary, but I found it to work quite well with no changes needed.
Duck Hunt is a fun and harmless game that will pass the time for a little while. It doesn’t have much longevity to it though, and I felt I had seen everything in an hour or so. It might be fun to come back to in short bursts or in a party setting to see who can get the highest score. If it wasn’t packed in I can’t say I’d spend $30 on it, but it’s fun while it lasts.