From the pages of the past, ads of yesteryear – Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck 1986 ad

The poster had that big movie feel, but neither the film or the game were quite as inspiring.

Howard the Duck’s 1986 film adaptation is considered one of the worst films ever made but I have to admit a soft spot for it as a guilty pleasure.

It also had a game tie-in from Activision in the same year. Activision had tasted some success with their Ghostbusters adaptation two years earlier in 1984, despite being pretty repetitive stuff, so they were probably looking at doing the same thing with Howard the Duck — though were probably not expecting the movie to be shredded.

The game didn’t follow the plot of the film which, in turn, didn’t follow any of the Marvel comics it was supposed to draw inspiration from. It did, however, take elements from the movie as a sort of continuation. In this “expansion” of the movie, players would need to guide Howard across a tropical island jumping over obstacles and beating up random mutants with Quack Fu. All to get to an ultralight flier into a volcano where a Dark Overlord held Beverly and Phil as hostages.

Players could enter a name for “Howard” which would be used in the victory screen showing a medal and a score based on how much time was left in the game if they managed to switched the volcano off at the end. At the higher difficulties, players will need to fly back out of the volcano using the ultralight to succeed in their mission of mercy.

Howard can’t swim, so he’s got a jet pack that you need to gently button mash to keep moving over water. Oddly, it can’t help him fly over mutant slime which he’ll need to leap over instead. As for Quack Fu, it’s not that exciting — two pixels collide, button mashing ensues, and the survivor walks away. The game is also timed which substitutes as your score.

The game was ported to the Amstrad, Apple II, C64, ZX Spectrum, and even the MSX. It also had the subtitle “Adventure on Volcano Island” on the box and was said to be based on a cartoon of the same name, though I’m not sure how as the characters seem to have more in common with the film. The box for the C64 even had shots from it on the back. The only mention that I have been able to find that even mentions a tie to a comic called “Adventure on Volcano Island” is a review from the magazine, Your Sinclair, in 1990.

Even for the time, not a lot of reviewers thought too highly of the game or the price it was going at for how little it offered. It didn’t have a lot of feathers in its cap, but Howard didn’t do too badly in this iteration…especially when his adventure was considerably better than a few of the other movie-tie ins from the 80s such as the disappointing Big Trouble in Little China.

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