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Nintendo Switch Just Added the Funniest Puzzle Game of the Year

I’m not putting a duck pun here because I have self-control.

key art from Duck Detective
Happy Broccoli Games
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It's a great time for puzzle games. Just in the past month, we've seen Animal Well and Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, with sci-fi detective thriller Between Horizons earlier in the year. Between all those games, you have obtuse platformers, dense math puzzles, and neo-noir investigations, but until now, one thing has been missing: duck-based puns. Fortunately, Duck Detective: The Secret Salami is here to provide that pillar of the detective genre on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Duck Detective stars Eugene McQuacklin, the titular duck detective, following the kind of case any investigator dreams of — someone's been stealing lunches from the break room of a crappy bus company, and he's there to put a stop to it.

Duck Detective lets you solves crimes and be a silly little guy all at once.

If the name didn't give it away already, you're probably getting the idea that Duck Detective is a very silly game. I wouldn't say that video games are always bad at being funny, but I can count on one hand the number of so-called comedy games that have actually made me laugh, so I approached Duck Detective with a little bit of trepidation. So I'm happy to report that, yeah, it's pretty funny, with the good sense not to hammer its jokes into the ground, resort to cringey meme references, or overstay its welcome. You can easily beat Duck Detective in a single sitting and have a rollicking time the whole way through.

A lot of Duck Detective's humor comes from the fact that it stars a duck who is a detective. I don't know what else to tell you — that's just funny. The game opens with some broad neo-noir parody, with McQuacklin hanging moodily around his office trying and failing to get over his ex, who recently divorced him. His self-serious detective persona is played straight, which makes it all the more humiliating when he arrives at the scene of his latest case, only to find that no one present could give less of a crap what he's there to do.

The most relatable character in gaming.

Happy Broccoli Games

That incredibly important case takes McQuacklin to BearBus, a bus company with a worryingly small staff of adorable anthropomorphic animals, one of whom has taken on the mantle of the Salami Bandit. This nefarious criminal is stealing their coworkers' lunches while leaving taunting notes in their place and just generally being an absolute nightmare of a colleague. But while the case starts out as a joke, the plot escalates to a much more sinister conspiracy by the end of the game's roughly two-hour runtime, all without losing its goofy charm.

Cracking the case takes a simple but satisfying combination of investigation, deduction, and good old-fashioned police— uhh, guesswork. Strewn around McQuacklin's apartment, then the BearBus office (where the majority of the game takes place) are clues for the player to interact with. When examining a clue, you get a close-up view which you can sweep over with a magnifying glass to uncover hidden details. Each of these details will add a word to your notebook, which you can later use to solve cases. For instance, spotting that a character has tears in their eyes gives you the word “sad.” More straightforward details like character names and objects also get filed away.

You also use your notebook to crack the case. The answer to each mystery is spelled out in the journal, with blanks you need to fill in. _____ is _____ because _____ _____ his/her _____. Collect the right words, slot them into the right blanks, and the day is saved!

It’s like mad libs, but for crime.

Happy Broccoli Games

Cases start incredibly simply, just requiring you to figure out what's got that sad character down or remember the names of everyone in the office. Before long, though, they start to ramp up in difficulty, requiring more careful thought and clever guessing. It never rises to the level of something like Return of the Obra Dinn or The Case of the Golden Idol, but it captures some of the feeling of those excellent deduction games in a friendlier package. One somewhat unsatisfying element of your investigations is that collecting words is often separate from the real details of the case. You might pick up the word “surprise” in one context and use it in a completely different one, so the thread of evidence doesn't actually add up. That makes it feel a bit like an old point-and-click adventure game where the solutions to puzzles don't always make logical sense, but this shortcoming doesn't come close to spoiling the experience.

More than the detective work itself, it's the combination of whimsy and mystery that really makes Duck Detective work. It never tips so far into absurdity that the cases stop making sense, and likewise never gets so bogged down in the crime's details that it loses its personality. Duck Detective: The Secret Salami keeps a great balance of humor and brain-tickling puzzles the whole way through, making it the perfect chill puzzle game to test your wits over a single laid-back evening. Quack, quack.

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

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