Monday, June 27, 2016

Donald Duck's Playground


We got a Commodore Vic-20 when I was three, and I've been a video game junkie ever since. One of my favorite games -- in my pre-Nintendo years -- was Donald Duck's Playground, which my cousins introduced me to when I was eight. It held my interest like no other game could, except for maybe Wheel of Fortune, and Winter Olympics ("Aw crud, my ice skater fell on her butt again")... and Clowns was insanely addictive, I loved that... but no game ever really held a candle to Donald Duck's Playground. Back in the olden days, we all called it DD's Playground. And before I go any further, I would like to take this moment to say that if you, the reader, were born after, say, 1984... your life has been oh, so simple. You younguns with your mice and your GUIs... I loathe-- er, envy you, yeah actually I do envy you a little, but I also feel sorry for you because you might not know about Commodores and how 
primitive cool they actually were.

Back in the days of yore, before there were mice (okay, before my family could afford a computer with a mouse), you had to issue commands to the computer via the keyboard. Perhaps you've heard about this phenomenon in your history classes, or CS101. And, mind you, if you ever have to take CS101 and they make you watch Triumph of the Nerds, sit through it, because there's an awesome Back to the Future reference in there and you get to learn all about Bill Gates and the Steves. More than you EVER WANTED TO KNOW. But anyway. 

DD's Playground rocked because it combined two of my favorite things in life: spending money and playgrounds. I love them both equally. (What, you thought I was going to say "Disney characters," didn't you.) All right, okay, I like Donald, too. I am a humongous Ducktales fan, but whatever, that's not important right now. I'm here to tell you all about this game, that is what's important. So I better start talking about the game before you get bored and gravitate back toward your X-Box. 


In DD's Playground, you are Donald Duck, and your purpose in life is to earn money by doing wacky tasks so that you can buy playground equipment to add to a colossal play structure you are building for your nephews. You can make money by working at one of the following: 



BECKY'S TOY STORE

I'm not altogether sure who this Becky woman is, but she's a real stickler for job excellence. She makes you, Donald, shelve toys. First you have to move the ladder to line up with the correct shelf, then go pick up the toy that's waiting for you, then put it in the correct spot. While this is going on, a timer counts down to 0. What happens when it reaches 0, you ask. Something terrible? Yes. An evil train rumbles by, shaking the walls of Becky's fine establishment and knocking toys to the ground. Luckily, Donald possesses the knowledge of how to prevent the horrible fate that awaits the toy bears, bunnies, and chess pieces. Before the timer gets to 0, if Donald flips the switch, a magical door will close over the toy shelves...



... and the toys will be safe! But if you're sadistic and stuff, you might enjoy NOT flipping that switch and then watching the toys fall down and go splat. Cuz it's funny...



Only problem with that is, you LOSE money when that happens. I told you Becky was a meanie. If any toys fall (due to the train coming, or simply your carelessness) she will subtract money from your paycheck and use it to support her various addictions. Or something.


Anyway, that's that for the toy store game. Next we have... 



THE AIRPORT GAME

In this one, Donald Duck has to pick up boxes with airport codes on them, and then turn around and dump them in the appropriate bins. The bins are being pulled by one of those little airport cars. Apparently the boxes = luggage, and this is definitely one of easier games because it simply doesn't matter how many luggage pieces Donald delivers. It just doesn't. He can deliver one or none or twenty-seven, and they will all be taken to the airplane and loaded and, after Donald's time is up, the plane will take off...



...while dozens of boxes continue to whiz by on the conveyor belt. What we can learn from this, folks, is that Donald Duck is to blame whenever the airline loses your luggage. Well... either Donald or incompetents. Take your pick. Next...?


AMQUACK RAILROAD

I love this one. It's like playing with toy trains, and there's no pressure... although you do have to use your brain. It's also one of the better-paying jobs available to Donald. In this one, you get assignments, like "Pick Up at Duckburg," and you must throw the right switchtracks so that the little train gets to the city it must go to. Then you have to get the train to another station so it can drop off the things it's delivering, and voila! You've earned some coins!


And, finally, there's... 


THE FRUIT-CATCHING GAME

When I was a kid, this one was my favorite game, and, looking at it now, it's kind of embarrassing to admit that, because this one doesn't really require much thought. All you have to do is catch fruit that's being chucked at you, and put it in the appropriate bin. No letters to read... the bins don't move... all you do is catch... and drop. And unlike Becky's Sweatshop, if you drop the fruit on the ground, nobody cares! Well, Donald cares a little... because dropping fruit makes Donald have a quacking fit...



...but this is pretty normal for Donald. The only downside to this game is that it doesn't pay much. But did I mention there's flying watermelon? It's fun times three!

Anyway, every time you finish a game, you are taken to a screen that shows you being paid...



I always loved this part. Money... oh beautiful, sweet money. I swear, they should have made this game center around Scrooge McDuck, not Donald. Well... except that Scrooge would have just hoarded the money and not spent it on...


AWESOME PLAYGROUNDS!!

After earning it, Donald gets to take his money to one of three small shops, where he may purchase playground equipment. Each store has different offerings. There are slides, ladders, cargo nets, rocking horses, swings, and so much more.



Sadly, whoever made this game thought it might be kind of nice to make it all educational for kids, in addition to being fun. Blah. So because of that, when you buy something, you have to count out your money yourself (okay, so this is how it is in the real world, BUT...) if you don't have exact change, you also have to get your own change from the cash register! This sucks. I mean, the store obviously has a cashier who's standing right there (hey, Goofy), why must Donald count it? (And no, you can not rob the cash register. I tried.)



Oh well, at least Goofy (or Minnie or Mickey, whoever is running the shop) is nice enough to deliver your piece of newly-purchased equipment to your playground structure. Now that's service!

At any point during the game, you can cross the railroad tracks...



... and venture over to your playground to work on it. But I only really like going there after I have purchased a lot of toys. So you get there and your stuff is there and you can arrange it any way you like, only you do have to put ladders in if you want to get to the second, third, and fourth levels of the structure. Once it's complete, one of your nephews comes and tests it out. You control the small duck on his adventure. You can have him climb the ladders, slide down the slides, and stop to play on any of the smaller items.



See? He's swinging on the rings! Isn't that adorable?

In the end, you're left with empty pockets, a kickass playground, and happy nephews. And you can't save your game, but you can stare at it for a long, long time and admire all your hard work. Or, you know, take screencaps of it and post them on your website, like a certain wacked-out individual whose name shall not be mentioned...




This article was originally published on my old website AlligatorJuice.com on January 2, 2005.

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