Friday, 7 September 2012

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future - Sinclair Spectrum - 1986

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future is a game based on comic book character Dan Dare.  He was first seen in Eagle comic in 1950 and has also appeared in 2000AD among others.  His sworn enemy is The Mekon who is ruler of the Treens, a race of green skinned humanoids that live on Venus.  I am in no way a fan of comics so wasn’t aware of Dan Dare before I heard about the game.

In Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future, The Mekon has sent a large hollowed out asteroid on collision course with Earth.  Unless the powers that be agree to his demands (I couldn’t see these demands in the manual) the planet will be destroyed.  As Dan Dare, you must explore the asteroid to find the five parts of the asteroid’s self destruct mechanism.  There is a time limit of 2 hours in which to achieve the goal. 

Three down, two to go
The game is a flick screen arcade adventure played across 120+ screens.  The player can run left and right onto adjacent screens and can reach rooms above and below by way of lifts.  The asteroid is inhabited by Treens that you can easily dispatch with a blast from your laser. The laser has only a limited number of shots available with extra ammo pickups being very few and far between.  The Treens are similarly armed and you lose energy if they shoot or run into you.  There are wall and floor mounted lasers that also reduce your energy.  If you run out of energy or fall too far you are captured and put in a cell.  The cell doors are broken and you can walk straight out but will have lost 10 minutes game time.  Extra energy is available to pick up and is as sparsely scattered as the laser ammo.

The asteroid is split up into five sectors, each containing a part of the self destruct device.  Each part of the device has to be taken to the control centre in order - the second sector will only open once the first item has been placed in the control panel and so on. This makes the game linear which is one thing I don’t like about it. 

A closed door on the right leads to another sector.  Next to it is part of the self destruct device.

For a Spectrum game the graphics are excellent.  Each screen is very colourful and is cleverly designed to avoid colour clash.  An especially nice touch are the comic style captions that pop up at times.  The same can’t be said of the sound which consists of a pitiful amount of weak spot effects.  Overall though, Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future, is a very slick arcade adventure that still plays well today.

Same name, different game 

Unusually, Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future was a completely different game on the Commodore 64 and the Amstrad.  Although it looks good in static screenshots the Commodore 64 version is ultimately unsatisfying.  It has different objectives to the other versions and a 25 minute time limit.  Annoyingly, you are unarmed and have to have a protracted fist fight with each Treen you come across.
Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future for the Commodore 64 and Amstrad.  Neither is as good as the Spectrum game.
On the Amstrad you play a rather squashed looking Dan Dare.  The objective is the same as on the Spectrum but the asteroid layout is different and the graphics aren't as good.  Your initial enemy is The Mekon who you can kill, yet he reappears on the next screen.   As The Mekon is a unique being, this makes no sense.

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