The game stars Donald Duck under the identity of an anthropomorphic duck detective named Maui Mallard, who adopts the name "Cold Shadow" when he dresses up in ninja garb. For the North American versions of the game, all Donald Duck references are omitted for unknown reasons and the main character is only known as Maui Mallard. Though the end of the game informed the player to look forward to Maui's next adventure, there have been no other appearances of Maui Mallard or Cold Shadow in any medium.
Maui Mallard is a "medium-boiled" detective visiting a tropical island when the mysterious Shabuhm Shabuhm idol goes missing. Shabuhm Shabuhm is considered the island's native guardian spirit, and unless the idol is recovered, the whole island will explode. Maui is put on the case, and his investigations lead him through a creepy mansion to a native village, where Maui is thrown into a volcano as a sacrifice to the native gods. Maui survives the volcano, and the islanders put him through the "test of duckhood", which Maui passes, gaining the natives' trust. The natives tell Maui that the only one who knows the location of Shabuhm Shabuhm has long since died, and Maui goes through the land of the dead to escort his soul into rest. Ultimately, the location of Shabuhm Shabuhm is revealed, and Maui goes head-to-head with an evil sorcerer over the idol. Maui is triumphant, and as a sign of their gratitude, the islanders name their island after their hero, despite their misgivings that the name "Mallard" has little potential for attracting tourists.
Besides typical platform game gameplay (running around, jumping from platform to platform), one of the game's most distinctive gameplay features is allowing to switch the player character's form to suit one's needs. The player begins the game as Maui, whose only mean of self-defence is an insect-launching pistol that can launch several forms of bugs, some of them combined for greater effect. However, once the player reaches the second level, Maui transforms into Cold Shadow, his ninja alter ego, who defends himself with short-range attacks using a staff. Cold Shadow's staff is also primarily used to explore the level further, such as climbing a narrow tunnel. After the second level, the player can switch back and forth between Maui and Cold Shadow at will, provided he has enough ninja tokens for the transformation. The amount of ninja tokens Maui or Cold Shadow holds determines Cold Shadow's strength — who can then chain more and more attacks as his skill improves — when played as him in the SNES version. On Genesis, however, Maui needs to collect red ninja tokens instead, the amount of white tokens being useful for metamorphosis alone. Some levels of the game, however, prevent Maui from transforming at all, as Cold Shadow cannot bungee jump on vines, for example, which forces the player to use Maui throughout the level.
It should also be noted that the 1996 PC version was an upgrade of the Genesis version. All tracks of Michael Giacchino's score had been fully orchestrated by Steve Duckworth, it had updated graphics and a few level enhancements (such as the straw plugs in Muddrake Mayhem).
- The music in this game was composed by Michael Giacchino.
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