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Duck Detective: The Secret Salami Review (Xbox Series X|S, Switch & PC)

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Duck Detective: The Secret Salami Promotional Art

I’ll be honest with you, the alluring thought of an amphibian in a turtleneck sweater hopping around on a scooter in Frog Detective has only just begun to feel like a fever dream, and not, for example, an actual thing that happened. It’s been a few months since that rather quirky and oddly bizarre journey drifted out to an adjacent pond, and so, in my mind, talking animals are no longer a part of my ongoing attempts to whittle down mysteries and intuitively solve otherwise daringly provocative cases. I say that, when really, there’s another pond critter standing on the other side of the lake as we speak, magnifying glass in hand, and staring at me as if to reprimand me for not joining it on another crime-filled exploit. I can’t say that I want to take its webbed foot, but apparently, Duck Detective: The Secret Salami is calling.

It goes like this: you are, whether you like it or not, a duck who goes by the name of—wait for it—Eugene McQuacklin. And if you think that’s a clever choice of words, then wait till you get a load of, well, just about everything else that solidifies a spot in Duck Detective: The Secret Salami. Did I mention that it was weird? Yeah — it’s definitely weird; it’s even as weird as, say, a frog on a scooter, sort of weird. And yet, I’m barely scratching the surface of this pond-centric wonder, so believe me when I say, there’s a whole lot more where that came from. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so allow me to rewind it back to the beginning. Care to join us as we bust this mystery wide open? Then let’s quack on. Sorry.

The One & Only

Eugene talking to potential suspect (Duck Detective: The Secret Salami)

As the title implies, you are, well, a duck—a no-nonsense detective with a high intolerance for criminal behavior and just about anything that’s even remotely close to being a stain on the justice system. But, there’s a catch: you aren’t quite on the same wavelength as, say, a vice cop, or anything like that, for that matter; on the contrary, you are, in spite of your best efforts, a crime detective whose sole purpose is to knuckle in on the peculiar cases that orbit the pond, so to speak. And when I say peculiar, I’m referring to things like a lunchbox being missing, amongst other unnoticeable acts that, for some apparent reason, have something to do with the overarching narrative here. Don’t ask.

It starts out with a question: what is the so-called Secret Salami, if not a totally irrelevant piece of meat that has literally nothing to do with anything whatsoever? Well, that’s just it; there’s a mystery circling the confines of a small communal allotment, and it’s up to you, a duck, to rifle through the characters (and potential suspects) that populate the four walls, and ultimately figure out what’s going on in this strange but oddly engaging domain. And to answer that, you will first need to vocalize your opinions, as well as take stern looks at crocodiles with coffee mugs for a hint of guidance and what have you. Did I say that it was weird? I did, didn’t I?

The Power of Deduction

Eugene studying a suspect (Duck Detective: The Secret Salami)

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami rolls out in a similar fashion as a lot of sticker book-like mystery games, in the case that, you begin your deep dive into the riddle with an open journal—a binder that contains all of the necessary information about the crime, as well as a series of potential suspects and victims. It’s your role, as the ever-intuitive soul, to question the details about the case, and use your fine eye for detail to separate the fact from the fiction, all whilst simultaneously documenting the clues in your trusty notepad. Needless to say that these pages don’t fill themselves out; in fact, in order to hone in on that information, you need to start poking around a bit—a task that involves asking all the right questions, and studying the faces of those who come into your reach.

In a typical scenario, you’ll find yourself confronting another character—a nervous insomniac, for example, who has an ulterior motive that makes them a liable suspect in the case. How do you go about finding such information? Well, for starters, you must apply that stern eye of yours to the suspect in question, and essentially take note of their expressions; if they’re being a little coy about the line of questioning, then chances are, they’re hiding something. Boom — that’s another few verses for your journal, and thus, the process of elimination begins to take shape. And that, in short, is what Duck Detective is all about: studying faces, and finding the facts needed to crack the code. Granted, there’s a little more to it than that, but I think that summarizes a solid portion of it.

Into the Pond

Eugene examining office (Duck Detective: The Secret Salami)

Duck Detective is just as much about its characters as it is its unusual premise, I’ll say that much. Aside from the titular protagonist, the game also features a slew of other quirky personalities, all of whom are fully voiced, as well as lumbered with their own attributes, motives, and standout moments. Truth be told, this is where I learned to fall in love with the weirdness of it all—in the clutches of the questionable dialogue and lore surrounding the story. It took me back to the Frog Detective phase, weirdly enough—an era that, while not entirely mesmerizing, left me with a barrel of one-liners and hilarious tidbits to last a lifetime. And that’s sort of what Duck Detective left me with, too: a collection of short stories that, while not entirely original, were oddly memorable for all the right reasons.

In addition to the occasional outburst from a passing critter of some sort, Duck Detective also paves the way for a solid gameplay arc that’s both intriguing and forever fluctuating, and, while it doesn’t necessarily require a genius to thread its clues together to generate a plausible climax, it does prevent you from drawing up your own conclusions without a sufficient amount of evidence to reinforce it. As far as all of that goes, the only way that you can proceed, truly, is to fill out the blanks in your journal, whether it’s by adding a new train of thought to your overarching ideas, or simply questioning the characters to rustle up a greater understating of how their minds operate. It isn’t anything particularly complicated, and it’s not something that’ll keep you from unlocking its finer details and what have you. But it’s something, alright.

Verdict

Investigation journal (Duck Detective: The Secret Salami)

If Happy Broccoli Games’ intention was to create a mystery game that would loom on my mind long after I successfully managed to solve the case and part ways with the beak, then all I can say is, you know, mission accomplished, folks. There’s a tremendous amount of fun to be had in this one, and while it isn’t the longest mystery game out there (three hours ought to be enough to see you through the vast majority of its world, to be fair), it does manage to provide enough material to be remembered. Could I have continued to hang around and stick my beak into other orders of business orbiting the pond? Absolutely. In fact, I could’ve happily spent another two or three hours in Eugene McQuacklin’s flippers — but that’s just me.

When all’s said and done, if it’s a quirky yet oddly unhinged mystery game that you’re searching for, and if you’ve yet to secure a fresh lick of paint to pave over the gaps that were left behind by Frog Detective, then take it from me: Duck Detective: The Secret Salami will certainly scratch that one itch, in particular. It’s a weird game, for sure, but if you enjoy talking animals—so much, that you could quite easily spend several hours glossing over alligators with amnesia and the likes, then I have no doubt in my mind that you’ll absolutely adore this unruly little treasure.

The Secret Salami isn’t the lengthiest game out there, so perhaps it would be wise to take it with a grain of salt before taking the plunge and absorbing its contents. With that said, for the relatively low admission price that it holds, I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say that it isn’t unworthy of your time, to be fair.

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami Review (Xbox Series X|S, Switch & PC)

Quacking On

Duck Detective emits a positive energy that’s as equally as hilarious as it is quacky, and therefore, if you’re on the hunt for something that lingers on all of the same wavelengths as, say, Frog Detective, then you’ll find plenty to adore in this unruly expedition.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.