Trio on Trial: The Dan Dare Trilogy (Virgin)

By St John Swainson

As far as I am concerned, there was only ever one comic worth getting. Forget your Dandys, Beanos and 2000ADs, none of them came close to Eagle. The reason for Eagleís excellence was all due to two characters.

Doomlord was a photo-story of a person who changed into a monster which used to absolutely terrify me. Dan Dare was the star of the show, though, as he went about saving everything that needed saving and generally being heroic. The perfect person, in fact, to star in his own computer game....

Dan Dare

I donít know what it is about these Classix reviews, but I always seem to be reviewing my favourite ever games. And this is certainly no exception.

Dan Dare starts with you (as DD, surprisingly) in your little space ship speeding over an asteroid. This is no ordinary asteroid though. It has been hollowed out by Danís sworn enemy, the evil Mekon (a little green geezer with a disproportionally large head who sits on a hovering platform). Inside, the Mekon has placed an atomic bomb and you can guess which planet he is going to send this deadly contraption on a collision course with. The only hope for the Earth is for Dan to enter the asteroid and detonate its self- destruct system.

The asteroid contains many rooms connected by platforms and lifts. There are 5 keys to collect in order to activate the self-destruct system. Once you find the first, you take it to a special room and a door to another section of the asteroid will slide open. Trying to stop you achieve this task is an army of Treens (the Mekon version of the Stromtrooper - incapable of actually shooting the enemy) and various other gun emplacements.

There is a refreshingly different system of Ďlivesí. You have two hours of real time to complete the game and only one life. Each time you run out of energy (after being shot or falling a long distance) you collapse and are taken to a prison cell. This takes up to 10 valuable minutes. Every level has its own cell, except the last, which is located near the entrance to that level. In effect, therefore, you have to complete the whole level each time you fall unconscious. Dan Dare is a huge game.

A map will come in handy, especially when you are low on energy or ammunition and need to find more, but is by no means essential. There is a great sense of exploring dangerous new areas each time you enter a new level and, coupled with the fact that every level has something different about it (eg enemies, obstacles, graphics), you always want to get that bit further every time.

Apart from the non-existent music, there is nothing bad about this game. From the cartoon supplied with the game to the colourful graphics to the addictive gameplay to the asteroid exploding sequence at the end, everything is first rate.

Overall - 95%

Dan Dare 2

In all my time involved with computers, this was the game I have most looked forward to being released. I couldn't wait for the follow up to my favourite game Dan Dare and after seeing the screenshots in the magazines, I began dribbling with anticipation. Unfortunately, I donít remember ever being so disappointed after buying and playing a new game.

Thatís not to say its appalling, its just nowhere as good as its predecessor. The reason for this is that the playability is simply not there. The idea for the game is good (you must kill new Super Treens in incubation on board a space ship), the enemy forces are nicely varied, the hovering buggy you fly makes a nice change from the norm, the problems you encounter are challenging and the graphics are well detailed and colourful. It should be a good game but it definitely isnít.

This has to be one of the most annoying games ever. The collision detection is so bad you can shoot an enemy several times and he still kills you. Your ship responds sluggishly (possibly deliberately) which produces the feeling you have died because of a lack of response to your commands. Worst of all, you can get stuck under an attribute square. This drives you mad when you need to escape down the passage quickly.

If just a little more time had been spent on this game, the problems could have been ironed out and all the good work that was put into the rest of the game would have been realised.

Overall - 34%

Dan Dare 3

This is a very easy game to review. All the normal things you look for in a game like addictiveness, playability, excitement, involvement, a challenge, decent sound and graphics do not matter. There is one insurmountable drawback with Dan Dare 3 - itís far too easy.

I completed it on my second go after less than two hours play. And donít forget that Iím a senior member of the Iím Crap At Games Society. What is the point in spending many hours and hundreds of pounds creating a game so easy that you will only ever play it once or twice? I feel sorry for anyone who spent £10 on this when it came out. Thatís £10 for two hours play. No game is that good.

Its such a shame because it would be quite a good game otherwise. I suppose at todayís car boot sale prices of 50p a game itís just about worth buying. But its still disappointing because you donít feel youíve accomplished anything by completing it.

Overall - 17%


Conclusion

So itís a bit of an odd trilogy, is Dan Dare. It could so easily have consisted of three classic games, but as it stands there is only one. Hopefully, the Dan Dare film that is about to go into production will bring some fame and fortune for Mr Dare and not be the embarrassment that other recent films of cartoon characters have been.

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