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Dan Dare

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Dan Dare

Virgin Interactive / EA (1986)

Synopsis

Dan Dare infiltrates the Mekon's lair, fighting Treens (the Mekon's guards) and solving puzzles in order to succeed against the Colonel's green levitating arch-enemy.

More tea, vicar!


Graphics

Pros:

Comic-book features and perspective just look wonderful.


Cons:

There's not an awful lot to fault, really!





Sound

Pros:

There is the sound of a river, which was passable.


Cons:

Sonics are otherwise quite poor though, and the sound of "Stripey" will annoy you.





Gameplay

Pros:

Various level designs and puzzle-action gives this version a breath of fresh air.


Cons:

It's not particularly difficult. Fighting element is fundamentally flawed.




Graphics

Pros:

The use of perspective is excellent.


Cons:

Graphical style never really changes throughout.





Sound

Pros:

Again, it's difficult to pick something from nothing!


Cons:

A few beeps here and there as the gun fires, and nothing much more.





Gameplay

Pros:

Good, easy-going game to breeze through.


Cons:

It shouldn't take too long to complete.




Graphics

Pros:

Scenery looks quite sharp.


Cons:

Orange, purple and green? Really? Dan also looks like he got hit on the head with an anvil.





Sound

Pros:

A few beeps and explosions here and there.


Cons:

But nothing else to write home about.





Gameplay

Pros:

Similar to the Spectrum, the game doesn't cause too many difficulties.


Cons:

Dan's movement is over-sensitive, hence you'll find yourself falling off of ledges quite often.



The Eagle Has Landed!




Early in 1950's Britain, Dan Dare became the flagship storyline for Eagle magazine, and it never looked back. Zip forward into the 1980s and, in all honesty, teenage me couldn't really get into the escapades of our intrepid hero. It appeared a little bit too grown up and stuffy to me, but then it was also a bit of an offbeat pairing for my liking with its protagonist, a military colonel, in battle with a green martian hovering on a disc.


Dan's passport renewal photo saw changes!

Alas, my choice of comic-fare between the 70s and 80s was Whizzer & Chips (I was a Whizz-Kid!), Beano, Dandy, Nutty and Cor!!. As you can imagine, I'm a man with supremely intellectual and challenging tastes! However, I did set out one day on a fateful journey to the newsagents only to buy an Eagle magazine purely because attached to the cover was a pair of 3D glasses (vintage red & greens, no less). I couldn't resist the lure of 3D even if the after-effects of using them was like having my eyes tattoed.


Gliding into 1986 and Virgin Interactive were on a nice roll with their recently lauded games, Sorcery and Strangeloop. The question was whether they could follow up this success by porting Dan Dare from the magazine over onto our home computers and give the, by then, 35-year old franchise an 8-bit update. I enjoyed the games that Virgin released during the home computing reign of the 80s, but I somehow missed out on Dan Dare during this time. Maybe it was because I didn't get into the Eagle magazines of the time but, now that I've had a chance to review the game, I can tell you that things are looking quite good!


Looking at each game side-by-side, it's clear that some of the styling is very much the same on the periphery, but look down deeper and the differences become more palpable. Displaying a comic-book style panel with speech captions to relay information, across the board, is a well executed approach. Also, each version has a countdown within which time you need to complete the mission. From here, though, there are some slightly noticeable differences.


Where's the snakes!

Enter the Amstrad, and the look is reminiscent of Strangeloop but shaded in gaudy purples, greens, and oranges, plus Dan looks like the South-African henchman from Lethal Weapon 2 after he got flattened! Spectrum and Commodore owners were lucky enough to receive a properly proportioned Dan, and a decent colour palette. Commodore 64 owners also have a completely different structure to their game in that Dan does not possess a gun. Instead, he uses his fists to do the talking, and has an alien called Stripey to assist him from time-to-time.

Dan looks like the South-African henchman from Lethal Weapon 2 after he got flattened!

Every now and then Commodore did things their own way and it wasn't always for the best (think Rolling Thunder). But with Dan Dare their initiative to transform the game into a puzzle-based action-adventure with a different storyline to the CPC and Speccy was a great gamble. In this version, you can encounter objects and make choices on what to do with them in order to further your quest, which is a really cool feature. Also, you will eventually enter a darkened room holding a torch, which lights up an elliptical section of the screen based on your position. This effect is such a totally brilliant inclusion, and a masterclass on how to break up any monotony within a game.


You might think that the Amstrad / Spectrum versions would offer more entertainment, being as you're able to blast away anything that moves with your gun, but the aforementioned monotony is what really kills it for these offerings. The Commodore screens change dramatically once you're fully underground, with some superbly drawn shadow effects providing excellent depth perception. On the other hand, even though they both play really well, the remaining versions have a familar look throughout, and you'll soon wear of the repetitive "enter room, shoot guard, use lift" cycle.


Well that told me!

Especially great about the Commodore 64 version is that you begin on the surface and enter into a base guarded by Treens (the Mekon's soldiers). Once you've navigated this area then you get to use a giant laser to blow up the Mekon's computers, which can only be done once you've set up a fairly complex array of mirrors to direct the beam. Then from here you get to have it out with the Mekon himself. On the CPC / Spectrum you go from room to room to find five separate pieces of an explosive device, which you assemble to bomb the base... and that's it!


Strangely though, as empty as the CPC / Speccy versions feel, they aren't the worst games in the world. It's just that they're a little bit dull, and frightengly cold in the shadow of the Commodore's rendition. Yes, there are fighting elements on the C64 that are a complete shambles in all honesty, but otherwise it's not a massive complaint. On the whole though, Dan Dare is a straightforwardly playable game with some winning touches that hark back to the comic-book sensibilities of the 50s.




Graphics

Commodore 64 owners get some brilliantly varied visuals. The Spectrum also has some nicely drawn perspective effects.


Sound

Sound effects are limited. "Stripey" clearly suffers from flatulence as he trumps wherever he walks. It's actually quite off-putting!


Gameplay

Again, a nice varied experience for Commodore owners. Our protagonist runs like a sped-up Benny Hill on the Amstrad though, and is quite difficult to control.


Overall

Dan Dare is a surprisingly good game (movie/comic book tie-in standards used to be notoriously poor), but there's a clear difference between the Commodore and remaining platforms. Commodore takes this one with flying colours!



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Comments

Platform Winners

Overall Ranking

62

15th Place

Our 2nd best game of 1986

Our lowest rated action adventure game

Screenshots

...click here to enlarge

ROMs

Amstrad: download
Commodore: download
Spectrum: download

Video Review

Pixel8Games'pick of 1986

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