Saturday 30 June 2012

Dun Darach - Amstrad CPC and Sinclair Spectrum - 1985

Dun Darach is an adventure game that was released in 1985 for the Sinclair Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.  It is a follow up to a critically acclaimed 1984 game call Tir Na Nog. This game uses the same engine, gameplay and character graphics as the earlier title.  I didn’t include Tir Na Nog on my list as I just seemed to wander around aimlessly with no obvious quest path.  The game was also quite confusing to navigate as it is viewed side on and can be viewed from either side of the character. You have to walk along each path twice viewing from each side to avoid missing anything.  Also annoying were these creatures roaming around which, if touched, would make your character lose his items and transport him somewhere else on the map. This was unavoidable if one of them followed you up a dead end.

Tir Na Nog - Same game engine, not enough game.

I approached Dun Darach with some trepidation as both games were highly praised when they were released and I wasn’t looking forward to more traipsing around getting nowhere.  I needn’t have worried as Dun Darach improves on these areas.  Firstly, it is set in a city rather than the countryside and each street has a name making it much easier to navigate. Secondly, there are more obvious things to do – within the first few minutes I found a (locked) secret door, came across someone who wanted to exchange a map for fur, and then had all my money stolen by a pickpocket.  Dun Darach was already looking more promising…

In this game you play a character called Cuchullain.  The aim of your quest is to find your friend Loeg who was captured by a sorceress called Skar in revenge for killing her ally Prince Amhair of the Connachta tribe in battle.  Your search leads you to the city of Dun Darach where you start the game with 2000 iridi (the local currency) and no clue on what to do.

I restarted after downloading a map which saved several hours as travelling around the city is quite slow (even using the portals located in each district). As you need money to make any progress I immediately deposited my iridi in a bank where it would earn interest while I explored the city.  Scattered around the city are shops, galleries, deposit houses, portals, temples, gambling houses, banks and a thieves guild.  The shops sell all manner of objects some of which I had to google to find out what they were.  Who off the top of their head knows what rue is? Or philtres? Or lasts from a cobbler and piles from a herald? A lot of these objects need to be bought and placed in the four galleries in accordance to the cryptic clues in the pictures – for example one gallery contains a picture showing +z meaning you would drop an adze on the table. Once all the puzzles in a gallery have been completed another object appears to help you continue your quest. Apart from navigation the only commands are pick/drop and offer so the tasks are limited to ‘find out what item goes where’ type quests.

This gallery was easy: lead, last, sting, hemlock....

....this one not so.  I think the the one on the right will be a broadaxe but the others will be trial and error.

Of the other buildings you can store items in deposit houses (for a fee) as you can only carry three objects at once.  I did notice each deposit house has a letter associated with it which may (or may not) provide a clue.   Each of the temples has a place to drop objects but I haven’t figured out what yet. The gambling houses provide the quickest way to make (or lose) money.  I used one of these to obtain the 10,000 iridi needed to buy licence from the thieves guild so you will no longer be troubled by pickpockets.

I am not a great fan of adventure games (mainly because I’m crap at them) so the fact Dun Darach is on my list in the first place must mean something.  It is a game I think I’ll persevere with, but can see it taking many hours to finish.

You need eagle eyes to spot secret doors - only a break in the brickwork gives them away..

Example gameplay [Amstrad CPC]


  1. PetrusOctavianus1 July 2012 at 00:41

    Ah, Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach were some of my favourite games on the Speccy.
    I replayed them last year, and they are among the few Spectrum games that are still playable for me. Other old favourites like Heavy on the Magic and Fairlight I had problems with the controls when using an emulator.

    Tir Na Nog seemed much smaller when I replayed it, but it still has a very good "atmosphere". The Sidhe are annoying, but can be killed temporarily with the right weapons/items.

    I really loved the Celtic flavour of Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach.

    I also tried playing Marsport for the first time last year, but it didn't really offer something new, and I quit about half way. Gameplay for all three games is ultimately rather limited and consists of moving items from A to B, and is made tedious (most so in Marsport since it's so big and more complex to navigate) by the fact that you can only carry 4 items at a time, and some of the slots will be filled by weapon(s).

    1. I have to agree with you on Marsport. I also played that for the first time recently and couldn't get into it. This one is definitely the pick of the bunch for me.

  2. Comment on the comments: I couldn't get myself into those titles either -although optically very appealing to me. Maybe because a friend introduced them to another of his friends while I was there so the three of us "worked as a team" through some descriptions, quests, navigation quirks...proved to be a lot of fun, but alas, we didn't meet but for one more time. And playing alone I felt all too isolated. But that could be a clue for the problems associated with gaming and kids, even today...
    Hey Wingnut, nice writeup again, you have a gift (it made me feel like i played it myself and now I'll read some more blogposts)