If there's one thing you can surely say about an arch-villain, that is that the guy won't give up without a fight. If there's a sequel in the offing, your really suave super criminal won't be left languishing in jail when the credits are rolling.
And thank god for that, because if it wasn't for such incredible tenacity on the behalf of the Mekon, you wouldn't be able to cop hold of Dan Dare II, the Mekon's Revenge.
For those of you who were Dan Dare fans, this new game will cause no end of excitement. You may want to skip this paragraph because this is the boring background bit to fill in those silly people who've never even heard of Dan Dare, and that, she said, shamefacedly, includes myself.
The Mekon is a very unappealing (both physically and mentally speaking) alien of the obligatory green colour, and his main aim (the thought that dominates all other inside that little dome-shaped head), is to take over the earth. Last year, he was foiled by gold old DD, and this year, having spent quite enough time sulking thank you, he's back, and he's got a new plan.
(Welcome back all Dan Dare I fans.) The Mekon's new plan is to release a genetically engineered race called the Supertreens on to the earth and let them get on with all the rampaging and pillaging. Then he can snaffle up all the glory and rule Earth to his heart's content. Fortunately, DD is there to spoil his dastardly plans, and rescue us poor saps. And this is how he does it:
Armed to the back teeth with a sort of machine gun affair, DD rides his awesomely powerful jet-bike on to the Mekon's ship, with the express aim of nobbling all the cute little Supertreens, who are all asleep in little glass pods. (Ah, diddums.) Accompanying Dan are a few chums in need of a bit of exercise.
The opening sequence is rather stunning. A ship flies through space, beautifully detailed. Choose your options, controls and so on as usual, then decided whether you want to play DD or the Mekon.
I should point out here, that if you want to play the Mekon, there's no point in trying to kill the Supertreens, all you have to do is kill Dan and friends.
The interiors of the ship are also wonderful. Well detailed, with a good, almost comic book feel about them, well up to the first game's previous high standards. But then, after the backgrounds, things got a tad wobbly.
Anything that moves is naff. A bald statement (nearly as bald as the Mekon, arf arf), but sadly true. It's almost as if someone completely different put the moving characters on after everyone else had gone home. Spindly, flickery white sprites that all look alike, tear around the place like nobody's business. One of the big problems with Dan Dare II is that there are two separate things going on at once. There are members of Dan's squadron flying around (all looking like Dan), fighting members of the Mekon's forces (also looking rather like Dan). So trying to find your own piddly little sprite is very hard.
Not only is finding your sprite tough, but controlling the little beggar is a nightmare. The jet bike seems to have a mind of his own, and tears around all over the place. It's enough to give you treble vision and dyspepsia just looking at the thing.
Should you be a thoroughly intelligent person and be able to suss out just how to control your bike, you'll find the gameplay itself highly taxing. The ship is made up of four levels, each containing a certain number of Supertreens. Not only are the STs asleep behind glass they're protected by a force field that you have to work your way through. How to do it is tricky, and you've only got a certain amount of time to do it. Once your time is up, the security system will locate you and terminate you without so much as a by your leave. And just so's everything's fair, if you're playing the Mekon, you'll get mullered too.
Along the way there are things to help you, energy blocks to replenish your stamina come in extra handy. But watch out for the suction tubes which will deposit you outside the ship's along with all the other waste, the Treens who will try and shoot you, the security system and the numerous other alien horrors waiting to make life difficult for you.
Dan Dare II is a very hard game to get into. That's not to say it's a bad game. It needs patience and a lot of skill to get through it. If you have that patience you could find it thoroughly rewarding, spindly graphics or no. But if you want something that you're going to be able to sit down and play straight off, go for something else, Dan Dare II doesn't make life easy for you.
Label: Virgin Author: Gang of Five Price: £9.95 Memory: 48K/128K Joystick: various Reviewer: Tamara Howard
Some disappointments over the central graphics. The backgrounds are pretty but DD fans may be disappointed.