Taking a break from the likes of Amos and Fun School packages, Europress Software get gamesy. But can they serve up anything new on the platform front?
What's that, you say? You have an overwhelming Dark Force called Valrog at the bottom of your garden, so to speak? And you need help? Fast? Dojo Dan's your man.
So you need a platform romp with beat-'em-up overtones, and frustration, inanity and a tired and detested Oriental flavour thrown in for good measure? Then Dojo Dan is... your man.
Dojo Dan sort of reminds me of The First Samurai, though I'm sure that's not at all intentional. Dojo Dan's not as much fun as The First Samurai, and I should point out here and now that I didn't actually like First Samurai that much anyway - I reckon our Stuart made a meal out of a snack.
My reasons for this lack of enthusiasm for Dojo Dan are many and varied, but it basically boils down to it being an uninspired mess. You want specifics? You got 'em (note: it might help to read the captions first)...
For a start, the restart points (activated by touching special icons) are rarely positioned in sensible places. It wouldn't be so bad if the levels were well-designed, but they aren't. It's a case of 'Oh God, do I really have to go through all that again' instead of the infinitely more preferable 'Uh-oh, I have to go through all that again'.
Take one of the first levels: Oakley. The route through the every-which-way scrolling cavern is basically upward. Fine, but at one point there are dozens of tiny platforms to negotiate, and falling and dying can prove a tad too easy. (And then, of course, you have to clamber back up to the place of your demise only to die all over again.) To make matters worse, darts are shot across the screen while your concentration is right at its peak. Nnnnnnng.
Yes, it would be dull if it was all too easy, but more often than not Dojo Dan is not so much tough as frustrating beyond belief. When you first play, you need to feel some sense of achievement, but there's very little in Dojo Dan to make you feel good about succeeding, and it doesn't take long before you feel like throwing in the towel. I didn't, and I then found, much to my consternation, that some sections are actually quite short and remarkably easy to complete. Huh?
I wouldn't mind slogging through the tougher levels so much if the basic control mode was any fun, but it's not. It's... well, 'wrong' basically. Dan's movement is sluggish and not particularly fluid (the animation is fine though). He slips and slides a little too much for my liking, and the fighting aspect isn't particularly rewarding. It doesn't help that the behaviour of the adversaries is uninteresting and (surprise) frustrating, especially the flying ones which serve only to interrupt the flow of play. Aaaeeeiiii.
Dan's a heavy chap. Every time he lands, an inappropriate, irritating and dense thudding sound is heard. Well, it is if you remember to change from music to spot effects during play. I hate that, but not as much as I despise the tedious whining Oriental-effect music.
Dojo Dan doesn't even look that nice. It's unimaginative all round, with its drab colour schemes (the graduated colour skyline is inadequate compensation) and abundance of needless detail.
Those are most of Dojo Dan's bad points. Surely it must have some good ones? No, not really. Not good ones. It does have plenty of average ones though (actually, there is a nice wibbly wobbly effect behind the high-score table). That said, I would recommend Dojo Dan if it was half the price, because for all its faults (and yes, there are many) it is capable of being playable (but not often enough). It has many unoriginal but potentially palatable features but they just aren't mixed together very well. The fact of the matter is, anyone can pop down to the supermarket and buy the necessary ingredients to make a top-notch Chinese scoff, but it takes a chef with at least a modicum of talent and imagination to serve up something worth digesting.
On The Other Hand
Matthew Squares: I found Dojo Dan playable, entertaining and interesting to look at - definitely up there in the high seventies. Come on Gary, get those tinted shades off or get some sleep, you've got to have something wrong with your eyesight to say Dojo's drab and doesn't look attractive. Okay, so maybe it isn't a classic but it's by no means mediocre. What's more, the non-standard levels, such as the moon buggy romp, provide extra scope and a novel respite from the main game.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: Ah... Mmmmmm... Well, it has its moments, but even those never rise above average. There's nothing more to say than that.
Downers: The mediocre mishmash of unoriginal run 'n jump elements is at best quite playable but too easy and at worst frustrating. It doesn't look or sound much better either.
A largely bland blend of platform pranks, beat-'em-up business and shoot-'em-up shenanigans which is only worth a look if you can pick it up for a budget price. And it's for one megabyte machines only.