Review: Detective Duck: The Secret Salami


I love detective games because for a brief, fleeting moment they make me feel clever. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me or how much I rub things against other things to try to make progress. Eventually I solve the case and outsmart the game that was designed to outsmart me.

Detective Duck: Secret Salami promised it in a robust, low-calorie snack. From the bullet points, it proudly states that it lasts 2-3 hours. I can stand it. I am often conscious for at least 2-3 hours a day. It’s, like, half Tangle Tower!

- Advertisement -
Screenshot by Destructoid

The story begins with our recently divorced hero waking up after a night of relapse into bread addiction. There may be some past glory there. He could have written a book. Much of this is mentioned in passing. Which you would expect from a game that tries to be as low as possible.

Oddly enough, the start is still snail-paced.

As Detective Duck, you have to collect clues. All of them. You wander around Bearbus’ office, performing every action on every well-marked interactive object. Once you’ve collected enough clues, you can open the “Deducktions” menu and start putting the pieces together. It’s a bit like Mad Libs, but you put evidence into all the gaps.

This process is so mechanical that it is extremely tedious when Secret Salami asks you to make a real conclusion or make sense of a petite change in the environment. I’ve played much more intricate investigative games, but I had to stop myself several times and remind myself that this isn’t Just collecting words and placing them in an album.

But it’s very tempting to play this way. Your progress is based solely on these deductions. It tells you how many clues you have on a topic, and when it’s full, you feel like you have to know everything. But then you switch and realize that it’s asking you to deduce something that wasn’t really directly indicated as essential. It gives you topics that you may not have even registered as essential. Sometimes these are things that are not Important. Ever.

So sometimes you’re faced with something that seems poorly defined or completely irrelevant. There’s no penalty for inserting the wrong words into a deduction, so you can just keep trying different combinations until the game lets you continue.

You do not need to do this, you can always ask for a clue, which takes the form of Detective Duck’s musings. Detective Duck at least it lives up to its philosophy. It really wants you to get to the end. There’s even an easier mode if you want more detailed guidance. It’s just a shame that all those safety nets were set up instead of consistently creating intuitive puzzles.

A good example is the early deduction where he asks what’s going on in the kitchen. It’s not that there aren’t any clues, it’s just that there’s a lot of confusion. You should be able to deduce that it’s a surprise birthday party, but it’s been established earlier that the character is depressed that everyone forgot. That was a mystery in itself. Okay, fair enough. It’s a surprise. However, there’s a poster in the kitchen that says the Halloween party’s been canceled, and it’s implied that it’s due to funding, and Detective Duck notes that office parties are a bad idea anyway. So why imagine that and then expect me to immediately figure out that the person standing in the kitchen with a whisk in hand is making a cake for a surprise birthday party? Like I said, there are clues, but it’s not intuitive.

But that doesn’t matter, because the deduction is only for progression. It’s completely irrelevant to the case. This is simply not the only case where this happens.

Detective Duck Secret Salami Lame Shoes
Screenshot by Destructoid

As for the story, it’s lacking in bite. I’d like to say it’s not very good, but I don’t think that’s exact. The story itself is good, even if it’s snail-paced to get to engaging details. However, the dialogue, characters, and worldbuilding are incredibly frail.

Bearbus’ office is at least well-realized. After a few years of working in an office environment, the relationships and frustrations between all the characters feel incredibly familiar.

As for the characters, again, it’s not like there’s a complete lack of development. The flavors of the story are given and do something to make the characters seem believable. However, very little of it ties into the case in a satisfying way. The motivation is poorly defined to the point that it’s challenging to care about anyone. In the end, it just feels really irrelevant. With the lunch theft being the focal point, maybe that’s the intention, but it doesn’t really lead to anything memorable.

The dialogue is occasionally entertaining, but rarely entertaining. The ones that made me laugh the most were the “facts” about ducks that appear on loading screens. The dialogue is never all that clever. Maybe because the characters aren’t built to be engaging or insightful.

In terms of worldbuilding, there is an attempt to create a sense of place. However, there is not enough effort put into it to make it truly believable outside of the office walls.

Detective Duck: Secret Salami Deduction
Screenshot by Destructoid

The art holds up much better. While the overall look of the paper is mostly serviceable, the art of the stagnant frame is excellent. This is most evident in moments when you look closely at a character or object in the environment. As you move your cursor over the image, the magnifying glass shows the same object in greater detail. You notice the fine lines, subtle facial expressions, and spots on the fabric. It is well done.

But other than that, Detective Duck: Secret Salami it executes its philosophy too well. It’s an straightforward detective game, sure, but its design feels just as casual. It doesn’t seem to reach its peaks very often. It doesn’t excite, it doesn’t provoke thought, and it doesn’t linger on your tongue. And there’s something to be said for a game like that. Not everything has to be a revelation. Sometimes you just need something to put aside after you sober up.

Related articles