When an early version of this game appeared on an Amiga Format Coverdisk (AF45), it was called Dong! and caused a bit of a stink with a major retailer, who was not having a game with such a lewd, suggestive name on their nice respectable shelves.
Young programming team The Hidden reluctantly agreed to change the name to Donk!, somehow resisted the temptation to rename the central character William and call the game an abbreviation of that name, and signed a deal with DMI... just before the company went bust.
It seemed that Donk! might never see the light of day, but Supervision picked it up, and here it is.
The hero of this platform performance is a duck. Not any duck, but a Samurai duck. The fact that he (or possibly she, I am not sure how you tell with ducks) is a Samurai, seems of little relevance because this duck does not kick things, throw spiky things or seem to have much interest at all in martial arts. No, this duck jumps on things, falls on things, collects diamonds and runs like hell for the exit when he has bagged all the gems and the screen goes red.
Got the idea? Right, let us just recap for the ones at the back. Donk! is a platform game in which you control a duck that leaps around various levels (there is a total of 112 of the bleeders) collecting diamonds and avoiding water hazards, green blobby things that fall from the ceiling, flying things, spikes, flames and suchlike.
You must also activate switches to open doors and make platforms solid. To help you in your task you have the ability to float, shield yourself, explode or jump higher than usual. When you have collected all the diamonds the screen goes red, the music changes from a happy bouncy ducky tune to a more urgent tempo and you must race against the clock to reach the exit.
If you reach the exit, you return to an option screen and select the next level. At some points you have a choice between levels and occasionally you must return to a level to find a hidden exit (with the help of a map). The 112 levels contain seven worlds and one fortress, which you can only enter by collecting a key.
Right, got the hang of that? It all sounds reasonably familiar, and at first glance Donk! seems a fairly average variation on the platform theme. But Donk! is a real grower and if you are not hopelessly hooked after three levels, you have got no soul. Donk! is an incredibly frustrating exercise, not because any one facet is particularly difficult, but because every aspect requires concentration.
Man with a bill
Just when you think you have got a level licked you get careless with a green blobby thing or make a complete mess of a jump you have disdainfully sailed across countless times before. It is at times like these that you may take some comfort by reminding yourself of The Duck Joke:
"Mummy, mummy, there is a duck at the door with a hat on."
"Don't be silly dear, it is a man with a bill."
Or if you get really annoyed you could, perhaps recite the following at the screen:
"How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? Put it in the microwave until its bill withers."
Feel better now? Anyway, in terms of gameplay and difficulty Donk! is just about right. What it lacks is that one element of startling originality that would put it up there with the very best platform games.
On the plus side Donk! has some neat touches, such as the self-enhancing AGA mode and the two-player option. If you are playing Donk!on an AGA chipset Amiga, just select that option and you get a version that takes advantage of the AGA graphic capabilities to create a jazzier background. The two player split screen is quite an innovation in Amiga games, and although it takes a bit of getting used to, is a strong feature.