Bringing the tabletop card game to video game form but sacrificing much of the charm.
The revolution of tabletop experiences from titles like Carcassone or Catan has made family gatherings a heck of a lot more fun. Friends coming together to battle it out in dozens of different formats and one of these such experiences was a small, card-based RPG released in the early 2000s called Munchkin. In that game, a party of heroes delves deep into dastardly dungeons with charming humor and plentiful references to classic titles like Dungeons and Dragons. The basis of the game starts with cooperation through the encounters, but quickly allows the group to plunge into chaos as they try to backstab each other in order to win the game. This model has become something of a cult phenom, with tons of Munchkin expansions into other themes like vampires or Cthulhu in order to sustain this hungry audience. Now, the experience has jumped to the Nintendo Switch with Munchkin: Quacked Quest. Although this seems like a match made in heaven for couch co-op, the game loses hold of a lot of what made it incredible in the first place.
Beginning in a pretty bare bones room (cue the skeletons at the desk), you start by having your group of up to four players join up and choose races and classes. Four of each are available, from dwarf to elf and warrior to priest. Although at first glance this sounds like the makings of a deep RPG, the differences between characters are quite miniscule and don’t have enough of a bearing on how you need to play to allow for those differences to come to the forefront. A single special ability separates each class and the races only differ in health and speed. Coming from fairly robust RPG roots, Munchkin: Quacked Quest doesn’t have any in-depth systems or ways to satiate those looking for something closer to the card game in this manner. This is an entirely different beast that is focusing on quick set-up and fast matches.
Matches can be set to any length you wish, up to 99 minutes, but as Munchkin: Quacked Quest mentions, you really don’t have to play for that long just because you can, and you probably won’t want to either. As you complete the initial set-up, you will then line up and enter the matches themselves. You are dealt four cards, which determines the complexity of the randomly-generated levels, types of bosses, and overall difficulty.
Gameplay consists of your group (which can include bots if you are playing alone) being placed in these dungeons with an objective to work towards. These objectives include gathering the most ducks, beating the boss, or dealing the most hits to the doors between levels. There are a few different objectives to strive for, but with any sort of longer playthrough, you will see all of them very quickly and monotony is likely to set in, unless you have a rowdy group to keep things fresh. Since this title is more of a head-to-head multiplayer experience than the schemy RPG it started as, you will need to set yourself up with as many ways as possible to foil the other players.
You achieve your goals through basic attacks, a charged bull rush attack that launches and dazes enemies, and your special abilities. Otherwise, you are just doing your best to maneuver quickly through the stage to fulfill whatever objectives have been laid out for you. The bull rush attack will become your most frequently used way to stop your friends from grabbing that duck or landing the killing blow on the boss, but frantically swinging your weapon will be your default action.
Chests drop coins and floating cards that offer different types of weapons and armor, and although this offers a bit more depth, you can completely ignore these new pieces and be just as successful. Since so much of this game is based around speed, taking the time to swap out equipment could simply cause you to fail in your quest. The coins are the more crucial element that you need to pay attention to as they represent one of the final scoring categories.
The portion of this rudimentary experience that is the most disappointing, however, is the fact that none of what made Munchkin great seeps into Quacked Quest. References to the card game and its infectious humor are lost entirely on anyone who has never spent time with the source material. Cooperation is all but irrelevant, as everything can be done by a single player, and so the “backstabbing” here is actually just straight up jockeying for positioning the whole time, since you can’t backstab unless you actually work together at some point. Ironically, the game concludes by having more in common with Mario Party, as the matches come to an end and tally up the score in a few categories to determine the winner.
Munchkin: Quacked Quest is a disappointing experience for anyone who has spent hours with the original card game. There is a bit more staying power for those simply looking for a decent couch co-op game to play with friends over the weekend, but the monotonous gameplay will bore the group rather quickly. If you were hoping this would be the transcendent Munchkin video game experience, I am sad to report that you have something here more closely resembling Mario Party mini-games.