duck detective review

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami Review – Hard-boiled Deductions

Take a gander at this mystery.

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami is about a down-on-his-luck duck hitting rock bottom as noir gumshoes often do. He receives a mysterious note from an anonymous client – someone’s lunch has gone missing from the work fridge and they want the services of Eugene McQuacklin to crack the case. But what starts as a simple missing lunch launches into a spiral of wonderfully written office-themed intrigue that lets you truly feel like you’re deducing your way to the bottom of things. Developers Happy Broccoli Games have produced a quick, self contained detective story that makes for a wonderful afternoon mystery.

Duck Detective takes place in a reasonably small area, spanning the rooms of a local bus transport head office. You’ll meet several characters and begin using your skills of de-duck-tion to understand their motivations, vices and relationships amongst one another. To begin your investigation you’ll be given a statement with actions, actors and motives blanked out. Investigation involves paying attention to your surroundings, looking in detail at objects of interest and talking to each character about their thoughts on the current goings on. Once you think you have a handle on what’s going on you can fill in the blanks and have your “Eureka!“ moment. This pushes the story along and gets you just that little bit closer to solving the mystery.

That mystery is wonderfully well-written and intriguing to the very end. Each character you meet has some involvement with the story, lousy with connections or motives you wouldn’t guess at first glance. Nothing is quite as it seems and the way Duck Detective is structured from a game mechanic and writing standpoint makes it thrilling to slowly unravel your way to the ultimate truth of the matter. The world itself is superbly realised too. Things like postings on noticeboards or messages on unlocked computer screens are used to add humour and flavour to the world, working in concert to subtly push you in the right direction and have you feeling like a top-tier PI. Humour is subjective of course, but Duck Detective had me regularly grinning to myself while I was unraveling the threads of intrigue laid before me.

Duck Detective’s visuals are cartoonish first glance, but like the mystery Eugene is sent to unravel hides detail upon closer inspection. Viewed from an almost isometric camera, characters appear like flat cardboard cut outs, waddling around the office as though it were a giant tabletop game board. This childish exterior belies the complexity of the world which is brimming with detail to investigate. The whole things plays wonderfully on Switch where I noticed nary a chug.

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Every line for every character is voice acted, which is much appreciated in a game where someone’s manner of speaking could be an indicator of their intentions. Each is voiced in a way that compliments their character. The music is of particular note as well, consisting of wonderfully written pieces that give that perfect noir detective mood. I couldn’t say conclusively, but I feel that the luxurious noir jazz increased my detectiving skills.

While I enjoyed Duck Detective for the most part, there were some moments I felt marred an otherwise fantastic little experience. Despite a welcome and generally well implemented hint system where Eugene will ponder clues and vaguely gesture at what might be useful to find out, I found one or two situations where I felt like a sap despite having found every clue and having had every conversation. Especially toward the end when the fill-in-the-blanks got longer and more complex, even if I had a good idea of what was going on, I couldn’t quite work out precisely the phrase the game wanted me to complete. Falling back to trial and error at times felt like I was fighting to prove to the game that I had worked things out. I’d have loved a little more nudging with the deduction sections to save resorting to trial and error.

duck detective review
Conclusion
Duck Detective: The Secret Salami sets out to be a quick, breezy mystery and at this it excels. It’s full of fascinating characters with interesting relationships, set in a world brimming with detail to inform your investigation and when at its best makes you truly feel like a detective on the case. While I feel it’s fill-in-the-blanks system could be a smidge more helpful, that’s a small blemish on an otherwise excellent little mystery title that’s well worth settling in with one afternoon with a cup o’ joe and a sleuthing mind.
Positives
Fantastic characters and writing
A setting dense with connections and clues
Charming visuals
Perfect length for an afternoon’s sleuthing
Negatives
Late game fill-in-the-blanks a bit finicky
8