Dan Dare II: Mekon's Revenge

by Gang of Five: Andy Green, Martin Wheeler, Simon Butler
Virgin Games Ltd
Crash Issue 49, February 1988   (1988-01-28)   page(s) 86,87

Dan Dare's nemesis, the Mekon, has returned. Having escaped Dan's earlier attempts to defeat him, the runaway Treen has been slaving away in his lab to produce a squad of SuperTreens who are at present contained within Plexiglass lifesupport bubbles in the Mekon's battleship.

Armed with only a blaster, Dan enters the vessel astride his jetbike and seeks to find these creations and destroy them. As soon as Dan blasts the first, however, a selfdestruct sequence begins. The time remaining until the resultant destruction of the battleship is shown at the bottom of the screen.

To escape a fiery death, Dan destroys all the SuperTreens on the current level - only then do the double blast doors between levels open to allow progress through the ship.

The SuperTreens and the spacefleet personnel are also involved in their own feud, and Dan can become caught in the crossfire. His vitality is reduced every time he's shot, and if his vitality reading goes down to zero, one of his six lives are lost.

There are four levels to be completed, and if Dan reaches the last, he finds a pod which is used to initiate his escape. Dan Dare II offers the option to play the role of either Dan or the Mekon, in which case the player must find, activate and eject the SuperTreens' life support boxes before the ship explodes.

Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: plenty of colour - but distributed without thought
Sound: pretty reasonable
Options: control of either Dan or the Mekon

'Dan Dare II isn't really an improvement over the original. If anything, the graphics are worse: the colour is still pretty bright, but the Mekon seems to have lost his greenness (maybe he's recovered). It doesn't actually lack playability or addiction, although the innovation of the predecessor is lost in this latest incarnation. If you have Dan Dare, I would think hard before rushing out to buy the sequel.'
MIKE ... 64%

'Dan Dare II is one of those games that only sees the light of day because the original was a hit. Fortunately there's variation in the gameplay to warrant its purchase, such as the option to play either character and the inclusion of some new hazards - being sucked into the ventilation system and so on. The action is a little more frenetic, and the graphics are of a similar standard to its predecessor. Unoriginal, but still enjoyable.'
NATHAN ... 77%

'This latest offering from Virgin is very similar in presentation and graphics to the first. There is, however, a new starting sequence with a well-animated space ship zooming through the sky, and you have the choice of playing Dan Dare or the Mekon. The screens themselves are very detailed and the game moves so quickly it's difficult to keep a track on the action. There are tubes that you can be sucked down and massive crushers to avoid so, there's no time to stop for a chat! Dan Dare II is a really neat follow up to a classic game - just the sort of thing you need to start the new year off with a swing!'
NICK ... 81%

Presentation: 69%
Graphics: 71%
Playability: 57%
Addictiveness: 63%
Overall: 74%

Summary: General Rating: Mixed opinions, but generally considered to be a decent successor, if not exactly up to the standard of Dan Dare.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 27, March 1988   page(s) 71

Dan Dare's back, and what a completely skill follow-up to the original. Just a couple games was enough to convince me that Dan Dare II is the first megagame of 1988. If it doesn't top the charts in the next few months I'll eat my pet hamster (lightly fried, with chips and peas)!

Dan's mission is no easier his first outing on the Spectrum. The evil and thoroughly green Mekon is still up to his diabolical tricks. His plan this time is to invade the Earth with an army of mighty Supertreens - a new race of green tinted super beings genetically engineered by the Mekon himself.

These creatures have been placed in protective life support capsules aboard a vast and powerful space ship. This ship is fast approaching the Earth and it is Dan's unenviable task to put his foot down with a firm hand, and show the green ones, once and for all. who's the boss.

The Mekon's ship is made up of four separate sections, each containing a certain number of Supertreens. Dan must search out and destroy all of the life support cells in each section before gaining access to the next. The Mekon has filled the space ship with traps, force fields, and all manner of bits and bobs designed to slow down any potential attacker (oh, and there is a time limit to beat once the first Supertreen has had its comfy nest blown to smithereens). The Mekon has also installed a generous helping of normal Treens, but to combat this threat Dan can call upon his own troops, scattered about the space craft.

As in the original, Dan can find objects to help him in his task. Extra firepower and energy are the most useful. Getting around the maze of tunnels could prove a bit expensive in terms of time, so in Dan Dare II our hero is fitted with a cool jetbike. The trouble with this is trying to handlle the 'realistic' bike movements! Precious seconds can be lost while you frantically try to squeeze into a new corridor, or pass over strong magnetic currents. Of course this is part of the game. It makes it frustrating and extremely addictive at the same time.

The graphics have to be seen to be believed. They are simply amongst some of the best I have ever seen on the ol' pregnant calculator. In my opinion they knock spots off the original Dan Dare game, and that was terrific! The game is choc-a-block full of brilliant little programming touches, such as the Supertreens thumbsucking animation, flickering backgrounds and computer panels, and refuse crunchers. Each a joy to sit and watch (if you have time!). Pop-up captions infrom you how you're doing, and a frightening explosion ends the game if your progress has been exceptionally bad.

If you are totally bored with playing the good guy all the time, there's an absolutely spiffing option that lets you play the Mekon himself. But beware - this makes the game so hard that it is best left to experienced (or heroic) players.

Everything from the loading screen to the end sequence has been lovingly crafted by the programming team, and it feels as though the game has had a pretty thorough play-testing. Action is non-stop and swear-inducing, and about as playable and addictive as anyone could wish for. Could this be the prefect Spectrum game? If not, I bet you could count better games on the finger of one hand!

I loved Dan Dare, and I simply adore Dan Dare II. I might as well go out and buy 100 gallons of midnight oil, because there is no way I am going to put this game down until I have beaten that dastardly Mekon once and for all! See you in about two years (if I'm lucky!).

Graphics: 10/10
Playability: 10/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 10/10
Overall: 9/10

Summary: Skillo follow up to the original classic. Flip screen arcade adventure at its very, very best. Destined to become a major hit.

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 72, March 1988   page(s) 62,63

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

Overall: 7/10

Summary: Some disappointments over the central graphics. The backgrounds are pretty but DD fans may be disappointed.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 5, February 1988   page(s) 41

Can Virgin do it again?

Great Scott, Digby! The Mekon's up to his old tricks again. He's poised to unleash his dreaded Supertreens on Earth in this new Gang of Five epic, with only the Pilot of the Future to stop his fiendish schemes. Can you don Dan's spacesuit and save the day?

On each of the game's four side-on view levels, your mission as Dan is to kill the Supertreens by wrecking their life-support capsules. It's a tall order, quite aside from the amount of jetbike-assisted exploration each level calls for. The main enemy is time: as soon as you start blasting Supertreen's you trigger a destruct sequence which will blow the entire level apart. Blast all the remaining capsules and reach the airlock to the next level before the countdown reaches zero, and you'll survive for another round of tougher exploration and wrecking: take too long and it's game over.

But there's plenty to stop you: forcefields block your path, airborne Treens blast away at you and tunnels suck you off course (possibly to your doom). Gun turrets, giant garbage compactors and conveyors also cause problems. Most hazards sap your stamina level - when this reaches zero your dead - but things like compactors lose you one of your six lives straight off.

Sick of being Mr Nice Guy? Want a tougher challenge? Then play the Mekon instead! Dan's already triggered the destruct sequence, the idea goes, so you've got no time for exploration or mistakes Dash round, switch all the Supertreen capsules on and then get in that airlock before the level blows. Manage that and the next level's timer starts immediately, so you really have to know your way round.

Reviewer: Andy Milton

C64/128, £9.95cs, £12.95dk, Imminent
Spec, £7.95cs, Out Now
Ams, £8.95cs, £14.95dk, Out Now

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 80/100
1 hour: 80/100
1 day: 75/100
1 week: 70/100
1 month: 60/100
1 year: 10/100

Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/10
IQ Factor: 5/10
Fun Factor: 9/10
Ace Rating: 814/1000

Summary: The game probably won't last you a month as Dan, but there's still the Mekon mission to tackle.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 77, March 1988   page(s) 54

MACHINES: Spectrum 48/128/Plus 2/Plus 3/Amstrad
PRICE: £7.95
VERSIONS TESTED: Spectrum/Amstrad

Heroes don't come more heroic than this. Dan Dare, clean-cut, square-jawed, stiff-upper-lipped, all British good guy who will never let you down.

He's the sort of chum you need in a tight corner - when the Mekon, evil scientific mastermind leader of the Treens, is threatening to overrun the Good Ship Earth with a genetically engineered race of Supertreens, for instance.

These Supertreens are kept in Plexiglass Life Support Systems throughout the four levels of the Mekon's spaceship. He must discover and explore all the levels, find all the Supertreens, sabotage their control boxes to activate the level destruct sequence.

However, the destruct sequence starts from the very first moment Dan blasts the control box. And that means he only has limited time to destroy all the other controls and escape to the next level.

If you don't want to play the good guy, you can take on the character of the Mekon. He also must locate the Supertreens and then activate them. Dan Dare's arrival in the craft has activated the destruct sequence, so he - or it - is also up against time.

The Mekon's ship is like a huge maze, filled with Treen guards on jetbikes equipped with lasers, forcefields, lasers and, of course, your own space pilot pals.

The Mekon vessel is shown in cross-section the main features of which are:

Ventilation ducts - used to circulate air around the spacecraft and the air currents can be used to help your progress around. Of course, trying to move against the air flow is a little difficult.

Force field - these seal off and protect areas of the craft. They are controlled by one of four forcefield generators.

Lasers - these laser cannons will rapidly drain your energy. Best to avoid them.

Air lifts - used to deploy Treen guard squads only.

Artificial gravity generators - although harmless they can make movement awkward.

Blast doors - these doors will open when blasted. But they will re-close within a few seconds.

Force field generator computers - these control current around the ship and can be destroyed.

Refuse crushers - designed to remove waste products from the ship, the crushers are very dangerous to pass.

In a straight head to head (rather unfair, I know) I plump for the Spectrum version as the victor. It's colourful and - although at times it was a little difficult to distinguish the good guys from the bad - it was more playable and I was able to get further into the game.

The Amstrad Dare, while quite nice to look at, felt a little "dead" on play.

Although quite playable in fairly unoriginal way, I still feel Dan Dare and the Mekons as a concept has a lot more to offer than this game achieves. Will there be a Dan Dare III?

Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Playability: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 3, February 1988   page(s) 49

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.95
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £12.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette only: £9.95


The cleverest move Virgin ever made with the 1986 Dan Dare (apart from securing the licence in the first place to one of Britain's greatest hero characters), was to provide each of the popular 8-bit machines with its own discreet game, thus avoiding invidious comparison and ensuring that each was a success in its own right. Now, two years later, Dan's back in a second adventure against his bitterest enemy, the Mekon, from Virgin's in-house programming Treen-team, The Gang Of Five.

Once again the evil Mekon, aided by his Venusian Treens, has turned his baleful attention towards Earth and its Spacefleet forces. The attack is under way. Inside the Mekon's new and sophisticated battleship the little green horror' has mucked around with genetics to create a race of Supertreens.

Supertreens, housed in plexiglass life support bubbles in embryonic form, are scattered around the battleship's four levels. The Mekon's plan is eject the bubbles from each level in turn - at which point the level self-destructs, providing the game with time limits - and scatter them into Earth's atmosphere, where presumably - the scenario does not make this clear - they will eventually land, grow into full-sized Supertreens and take over the planet.

Playing Dan Dare - spacepilot of the future, your objective is to explore the ship and destroy Supertreens when you find them. The countdown begins as soon as the first Supertreen control box is destroyed. Advancing a level can only be achieved when all Supertreens from the current level have been destroyed.

But if you prefer to be evil for the day, there is a second option to play the Mekon. The object is similar, with the important exception that you are releasing the Supertreen life bubbles to continue their evil mission, but the game is harder because Dare's incursion has triggered the destruct sequence, leaving with with much less time to complete each level and escape to safety.

Both characters are provided with the ubiquitous Mekontan jetcar which is tricky to control due to its high inertia. The Mekon has his supporting Treens for protection and offense, but Dan is not alone, a force of Spacefleet pilots has boarded the battleship with him. The laser crossfire, however, can become dangerously furious.

The continual effect of gravity, combined with the jetcar's inertia means that controlling it is tricky at first, and getting into tight spots can be frustrating. On the other hand, this in itself lends the game a first level of play, just mastering the machine and exploring the multi-layered decks of the ship's levels. It is probably best to get to grips with the ship's layout before attempting to k ill or rescue Supertreens because the time limit is tightly calculated.

Dan Dare II could have stood alone without the licence, but the Dan Dare characters help to provide an extra sense of depth to this fun blasting game. It should already be clear that Virgin have not followed their earlier scheme, and the Spectrum and Amstrad games, at least (the Commodore version is 'behind schedule), are identical in play except for the start screen positioning.

Overall: 76%

Summary: Dan Dare II makes a pleasing sequel, with plenty of appeal but somewhat less depth than the first one. The Spectrum version is a touch more playable than the Amstrad, mainly because the graphics (by Martin Wheeler who gave Virgin their first big hit with Sorcery) are a lot clearer, though not as immediately stunning. Colour has been well and liberally used without attribute problems and the sound FX are above average, even in 48K mode. A neat piece of programming with enough entertainment to make it a worthy purchase.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

All information in this page is provided by ZXSR instead of ZXDB