Known for its launch day multiplayer shooter Hover Junkers, Stress Level Zero has taken that finely crafted gun knowledge and turned its attention to a different kind of shooter, the wave genre. Obviously aware that it would need to come up with an idea that would set it apart from the hordes of other wave-based shooting videogames out there, Stress Level Zero has gone for a bit of nostalgia looking to recreate the 80s glory days of home consoles with an homage to classic Duck Hunt. Taking it one step further, the studio has included a story with a dark twist as well as loads of little things to find, and it’s these additions that make Duck Season a fascinating title.
As you might already suspect Duck Season is a duck shooter, where you have to kill as many of these flying feathered creatures as possible, with each of the eight levels featuring three rounds a piece. You’re armed with a single barrel pump-action shotgun which only holds six shells, so there’s no blasting away at the sky hoping to hit something, shots must be accurate or you’ll soon find you’re needing to reload mid round which could lead to some ducks getting away – there is an invisible wall they bounce off to give you a second chance.
The actual gun mechanics, shooting, aiming, reloading all feel sturdy and solid, especially as you have to pump each shell. And the visuals look good enough that you’d think Duck Season could almost pass for a shooting simulator. But even with decent gunplay and graphics the title is very short, and if that was all Stress Level Zero had to offer the videogame wouldn’t get a warm welcome from players.
So the studio has entwined a dark storyline along with plenty of little extras to keep players entertained. You play an 80s kid who’s mum has just rented the latest videogame, Duck Season, for his Kingbit Entertainment System. Whilst playing a dog regularly pops up during the rounds which you can shoot to no effect, as the levels progress that digital dog becomes a lot less virtual. Adding this horror element to proceedings certainly mixes up the entire atmosphere of Duck Season, making it far less mundane than it would be otherwise. However it’s not so pronounced that if you don’t like VR horror you wouldn’t want to play.
Then there’s everything else to look for and interact with. The living room begins quite neat and tidy, with magazines, books and VHS tapes on shelves. These can all be picked up and thrown around, but for those secret hunters, all the tapes can be played – with Stress Level Zero creating some amusing 80s parodies – as well as several mini-games. These again are based on classic titles such as Streets of Rage, not offering a full game rather a quick distraction from the main experience.
Duck Season really is a mixed bag of ideas, trying to build out a core experience that’s reasonably solid, it just didn’t have enough variety to be a sole title in its own right. Stress Level Zero’s additions are really just padding, stretching out the replay factor with seven different endings may only encourage a small number of users to keep going back. Duck Season does have a charm all of its own though, making for a perfectly enjoyable experience.