Everygamegoing26th August 2018
Published in EGG #013: Acorn Electron
Dare Devil Dennis
Visions was a strange software house indeed. Its inlay described its own game of Snooker as a load of old balls, and the write-up for Dare Devil Dennis sounds similarly like it was written by a buffoon. Tongue-in-cheek humour might work if you're packaging up a game based on Viz or Monty Python but Dare Devil Dennis is an extremely simple platform game. The strange tenor of the instructions feels not just inappropriate but something that might give you pause over whether to even buy the game!
If you did (or indeed, do!) then the best way to describe Dare Devil Dennis is to say it's a platform racing game with hurdles to jump. Dennis himself is a stuntman and his objective is to make it from top-left to bottom-right and collect his wages. However, progress can only be made by accelerating and braking. It takes some time to build up speed, and braking takes some time to bring him to a halt. In each "scene", he's riding a bike, a snowmobile or a boat and the palette and sprites change to land, winter or sea-based obstacles to suit.
Typically, you'll see a house in Dennis' path and you'll increase the acceleration and then hit Space to jump over it, flying in a graceful arc that matches the velocity of your vehicle. If you get to the far side of the screen, you'll disappear and reappear 'one level down'. There are four levels in all. On the next level, there will be another obstacle to avoid. If you manage not to collide with any obstacle on each level, you'll collect your wages and proceed to the next sheet (or "Take" as it's described in movie parlance).
The trouble is that this doesn't really work as well as it should. The vehicle can complete the jumps satisfactorily, but when it comes to the other types of obstacle - i.e. bouncing policemen who block the way - it is largely uncontrollable. You can slow it to a stop in front of them, but it then takes time to build up speed. So long, in fact, that a bouncing obstacle will come down on your head as you try to manoeuvre underneath it.
The game boasts that it "automatically gets harder as you get better", but that's not really true. What actually happens is that obstacles get placed closer together, and that just means the "takes" seem to be impossible because you're expected to bob under a moving policeman and then leap a lighthouse just a few spaces apart. Surely, you're simply bound to hit one or another of them?! And, when you do, Dennis is hurled through the air, the bike explodes into flames and "You're fired!" is plastered across the screen.
Now I have to admit that I have a certain degree of impatience when it comes to racing games. Once my vehicle is flying along I have a real aversion to hitting the brakes, even though I know that a crash is imminent. I had a look at how Dare Devil Dennis was received on release and there were some juicy tips in there, advising that you can actually brake whilst in mid-air and later closely-placed obstacles can indeed be navigated successfully using such a method. But, pah, I am too impatient to care.
Overall, competently programmed but a little bit too manic to be enjoyable. It seemed to sell a lot of copies though and if you're looking for a physical cassette, you will probably find it for just £1-£2.