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Duck Detective: The Secret Salami review

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami review
Matt Aukamp avatar image

The only beef with this utterly delightful, bite-sized cartoon animal mystery is that you’re sure to want a bigger helping

We’ve seen it all before: down-on-his-luck detective late on his rent, fired from the police force, recently divorced, strung out on toast, hired to find someone’s stolen lunch, ends up embroiled in a sausage-based conspiracy. Or, well, we’ve seen some of that anyway. This is what Duck Detective: The Secret Salami from developer Happy Broccoli Games does. It takes all the ingredients of a standard detective story and whips them up with a heaping dollop of silliness, serving up an offbeat mystery game packed with charm and humor.

Duck Detective eases you in before you ever attempt to take on the game’s big central case. You, Eugene McQuacklin, find yourself in your office, trying to piece together the wild night you just spent all your rent money on. Using the keyboard, mouse, or controller, you move your cute little Duck Detective around the screen to various hotspots, indicated by orange-and-white circles. Each can be examined, triggering a little description from Eugene. The fantastic voice acting is paired with on-screen dialogue that has certain words highlighted (this will come up again). Once you’ve examined enough of your office, you’re called upon to make your first “deducktion.”

Deducktions, accessible from a menu with your map, a list of all your suspects, and an inventory of items you’ve collected or inspected, are like fill-in-the-blank puzzles, where you’re given a sentence with all the important words missing. You’ll see something like “[BLANK] is feeling [BLANK] because [BLANK] has [BLANK] her [BLANK].” You’ll find that all those words that were highlighted in your examinations are now available to use to fill in the blanks. Each type of word is color-coded as well, so you’re not grasping entirely at straws. Green blanks can be filled in with names you’ve collected, purple blanks with objects, blue blanks with verbs, and so on.

Once you’ve filled in all the words, the game will inform you if you have anywhere from three or more words incorrect to two or fewer words incorrect. It will not get any more specific than that range, which is useful to prevent you from just guessing words randomly. It doesn’t erase your guesses, though, so you can try new words in each spot to your hearts’ content! But once you get a whole deducktion correct, you get a gold “Duck Approved” stamp and the story will move forward, often with a short cutscene slideshow of colorful, cartoonish artwork.

If you’ve played other deduction-based games like Return of the Obra Dinn or The Case of the Golden Idol, this formula will sound very familiar. Duck Detective seems to adopt pretty direct influences from this growing subgenre but takes itself much less seriously. A game like Golden Idol is structured in such a meticulous way that, if you’ve truly paid attention, there could only be one answer to each question posed. Duck Detective is a bit looser, requiring you to take a few leaps of faith when arriving at your deducktions. Especially as you get further into the case and the mystery gets larger and larger.

This makes the game a little less rigorous intellectually and could perhaps even cause frustration in some more logically minded players. But it also makes this an ideal game to play with another person, discussing your ideas and theories as you fill in each deducktion. It might especially be a good opportunity for an adventure-game-loving parent to play with a child, though it does sometimes veer slightly into an adult sense of humor. Most of the adult references would likely soar right over the heads of young players, but they may cause more precocious children to ask some semi-uncomfortable questions.

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami

Duck Detective: The Secret Salami
Genre: Mystery
Presentation: 2D or 2.5D
Theme: Crime solving, Animal
Perspective: Third-Person
Graphic Style: Stylized
Gameplay: Investigative, Deduction, Cozy
Control: Direct Control, Point-and-click
Game Length: Short (1-5 hours)
Difficulty: Low

If you get stuck in detective mode, you can ask Eugene to ponder a detail and he’ll give you a hint as to where to look for the next clue. If even that level of deduction and mystery-solving is too much, however, there is a story mode that will help players through with a much heavier hand. 

At the end of the intro, you get called to your first real case and make your way to the offices of BearBus, an animal-run bussing company. Here the game slowly introduces you to some new mechanics. You still have the chance to examine most hotspots, but once you’re in the office and on the job, you’ll occasionally have the option to investigate things you see in the environment. Doing so brings up an enlarged version of the object that you can drag a magnifying glass over to search for remarkable features. Clicking on one such feature, indicated by a little exclamation point that pops up when you hover over it, causes Eugene to free-associate for a moment and pull a new word into his word inventory. For example, a hastily scribbled note might cause him to go from “note” to “hastily scribbled” to “anxious” and add the word “anxious” to his inventory. 

The Duck Detective can also investigate characters, scouring their person in Holmesian fashion for clues. You can also talk to any of the hilariously colorful NPCs, from the coffee-infused over-achieving cat in Customer Service to the sci-fi obsessed penguin janitor who can’t stop writing his co-workers into his novels. The talk option prompts very short and broad conversations, while an interrogate option brings up a menu of icons, allowing you to ask about various observations you’ve made. These interrogations are also likely to add items (and names) to your word inventory. When you feel like you’ve figured out a character’s name, you can add it to the Suspects menu, which you’ll need to do if you want to use someone’s name in your deducktions.

Over the next two hours or so, you’ll be analyzing handwriting, talking to witnesses, snooping through people’s computers, attending a birthday party, and generally doing detective stuff (except, I guess, for the birthday party) while the case keeps throwing new twists and turns at you. While short, Duck Detective feels like a tasty little treat of a game, holding your attention the entire way through and leaving you satisfied at the end. Its jazzy background music plants you firmly in the film-noir world, even as you’re looking at cute little animal character office workers instead of grizzled gangsters and femme fatales. The voice acting certainly helps with this, too, as the protagonist puts on his best Humphrey Bogart impersonation while everyone else in the office sounds like a character from a children’s cartoon.

The artwork is vivid and inviting, leaning heavily on its cartoon influences. You, Eugene McQuacklin, look like an adorable little sticker, toddling around simple 3D isometric scenes. The game accentuates its fun, ridiculous side at all times by giving you a dedicated button that has no effect on the game except for causing the Duck Detective to let out a loud, obnoxious quack. All the trashcans and various other objects are physically on the map you traverse, allowing you to clumsily knock over wastebins and kick wadded up balls of paper or empty water bottles around the room. Even the game’s loading screens are packed with jokey little duck facts like “Folding a duck more than seven times is theoretically impossible.” If what the game set out to do was to give players a good and memorable time, it succeeds with flying feathers – er, colors.

Final Verdict

So much fun and humor and character and charm are all packed into Duck Detective: The Secret Salami that it’s hard to believe Happy Broccoli managed to bring the run time in just under two hours. The time whizzes by with nary a second wasted and feels like the perfect helping of a delicious dessert. It will make you think, it will make you laugh, it will make you smile, and it will make you wish you could go on a toast bender and forget the entire thing just so you could experience it again.

Hot take


Duck Detective: The Secret Salami is just a ton of fun. It’s a perfect replacement for a family movie night, with two funny and endearing hours of lightly challenging mystery and engaging story.


  • Funny dialogue and story, filled with colorful, interesting characters
  • Adorable cartoony artwork
  • Terrific voice acting brings each character to life
  • Jazzy soundtrack perfectly sets that film-noir detective tone
  • Interesting mystery full of twists and turns


  • Ambiguous clues lead to some minor guesswork
  • Feels just the right length, but short play time might leave some wanting more

Matt played his own copy of Duck Detective: The Secret Salami on PC.


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