Two Streams Diverged for a Yellow Duck

I was fascinated by the hyperlink stories we played in class this semester, but had always wondered if there were any similar games that used a comic format rather than text. After poking around on some e-lit archives, I found a hypercomic that was categorized for children. Being a child at heart who still thinks rubber duckies make bath time so much fun, I had to play A Duck Has An Adventure, written and illustrated by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey. The opening screen explains how the game/story works: “A Duck Has An Adventure is unique hypercomic adventure game that challenges you to discover all the different possible lives one duck could live. From adventures on the high seas to the halls of academia and beyond, every choice you make builds a new pathway along which to explore.”

The very first choice the player makes in the game. Each choice leads to different outcomes.

The very first choice the player makes in the game. Each choice leads to different outcomes.

I’m not sure if this counts as a game or a story; you as the player or reader makes decisions on how you’d like the duck to live, but there is a very limited and predetermined plot for every choice yoi make. The start of the game shows how simple this story is to follow: Small squares with illustrations represent different stages of the duck’s life, and square with black text show different branches. Clicking on the last square progresses the game, and the paths the squares take on the screen meander around as you progress. The very first choice allows the reader to decide between three possibilities for how the duck wants to live, and each life the duck could live is vastly different.

I liked the game’s mechanics. The game has two built in back buttons that allowed for easy navigation. At each branch, the player could click the straight arrow, the curved arrow, or the next sequential square to continue the game. The straight arrow brings the player back to the last fork before their current position, and the curved arrow brings the player back to the very beginning. You can use your arrow keys to navigate around all of the grid. There is a bar on the bottom of the game that tracks your progression. There are sixteen possible endings to the duck’s life, he can go into seven different professions that earn him various hats, and there are twelve achievements that the duck can accomplish. I appreciated having this progress bar, as it allowed me to track how many paths I had found.

You can either study art or science, and the game follows the same format for both paths by using ‘But’ before you make further choices.

 The game showcases how different choices one makes can lead to incredibly different lives. The duck can decide to go to college which then opens up the choice of being an artist or a writer, or the duck can become a pirate. He can devote his life to being single, or he can be dedicated to his wife and chicks. My favorite section of the game was the duck working his way up through the rank of a pirate ship to captain before eventually meeting and falling in love with a female cat pirate. Because the game had to tell its story in tiny squares, the plot for each of the paths is very simple. The duck does an action (such as inventing the duck equivalent of an iPod, writing a book, becoming a fisherman, who falling in love), but, then something happens. The game also frames some choices by asking ‘but’.

The game’s simplicity adds to its allure. Each square is really well done; the drawings are amusing and the plot is clearly explained in the fewest words possible. There are a lot of amusing pop-culture references, such as “cesi n’est past un canard” if becoming an artist, “We’re going to need a bigger boat” if a pirate, or inventing the dPod. I wanted to play through all the different possible outcomes so that I could see what other references I could find.

A map of the fully completed game.

A map of the fully completed game.

I am not sure what program this story was created with, but the full grid of the completed game reminds me of what Twine looks like while you’re working in it. Overall, fully completing the game took me about twenty minutes. That involved fully appreciating each picture and the humor required to create such a masterpiece. I loved seeing how small choices had such a huge impact on the duck’s life. If he chooses to retire when things get rough, he ends up sad and alone. However, giving his job one last day ends up with him much more happy and fulfilled. The game shows how our lives are filled with possibilities and that when all else fails, try to find the profession who gets to wear the coolest hats.

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