Dan Dare III: The Escape

by Probe Software Ltd: David Perry, Nick Bruty, Simon Butler
Virgin Games Ltd
Crash Issue 73, February 1990   (1990-01-25)   page(s) 39

This is the third game in the Dan Dare saga, and whether Virgin are going to leave this as a trilogy will be interesting to see, because this offering is every bit as good as cass, its predecessors. The Mekon’s evil knows no bounds: in his attempt to take over the Earth he has carried out a series of cruel ‘Treenisation’ experiments. All have failed, leaving the unfortunate victims as twisted mutations of their former selves. What he needs is a human subject to experiment on, and that human is... of course Dan Dare.

Ol’ green bonce’s minions kidnap the good Colonel in his sleep, and Dan wakes up In a Scientific Satellite in orbit around Venus. Uttering ‘Never say die...’ he’s up and about before you can say ‘Mekon is Master of Mekonta’ and intent on escape. A ship stands ready to whisk him back to Earth. The only problem is it needs refuelling, and so braving the mutated creatures Dan, armed with a pulse rifle, scours the satellite’s levels for the 50lb of fuel he needs to escape. Travel between levels is via teleport.

As in R-Type the longer you hold down the fire button the larger the energy bolt Dan’s rifle kicks out. Ammo is limited, but can be picked up along with other weapons from a handy computer terminal in the store level. Depending on your power level, which increases with every alien shot, you can pick up ‘Nuke’ smart bombs, bouncing bombs, extra lives (to a maximum of four) and of of course extra ammo. Fuel can also be found for your jet pack (which needs constant replenishment), as well as for the escape ship. The Mekon and his clones are heavily in evidence, and Dan will need all the firepower and cunning he can muster to make his getaway.

The first two parts of the Dan Dare saga were excellent, and I’m glad to say the third is just as good. Colourful sprites abound, and with as near as damn it zero colour clash. The plot is as involved as before and the action is just as hot. Fans of Dan Dare, and count me in, should take a look at this game.

MARK ... 92%

'Dan Dare was good, Dan Dare II wasn’t bad but Dan Dare III, wow! The last time I saw that much colour on screen at one time was on Cybernoid. Pretty impressive don’t you think? Yup, but it can get a little confusing when you’re blasting away lots of aliens and all you can see is COLOUR! Some of the graphics seem to have suffered though, Dan Dare must have had a face drop instead of a face lift! He’s swopped his detailed features for a pixel for an eye and a blob for a nose. All the other characters in the game are quite detailed though, especially the Mekon. The game is deceptively simple in plot, but very playable. The warping sequence between levels is also pretty impressive, but hard on the eyes. Flying through a trail of squares on a starry background - phew! Dan Dare III is one of the best games this issue, have a look for yourself.'
NICK ... 90%

Presentation: 86%
Graphics: 90%
Sound: 85%
Playability: 86%
Addictivity: 88%
Overall: 92%

Summary: Even without the faithful Digby, Dan Dare is as big a hit as ever.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 50, February 1990   page(s) 87

Ever had to wait a long time for something? Perhaps it was long trousers at school (especially in winter)? They took ages, but were worth it all the same. Or maybe exam results kept you on tenterhooks? Or then again, perhaps it was losing um, your... er, another thing. (Ahem.)

Anyway, whichever it was, you'll know just how I've been feeling about Dan Dare III. I've been waiting for it for blooming ages! Y'see, the basic game (but without the Dan Dare bits) has been knocking around in the bowels of developers Probe Software for nearly a year! The first I heard of it was when Duncan came running back from visiting them in Croydon, all fired up about this new project they'd developed on the side, but hadn't found a publisher for yet. "It's brilliant.' he burbled excitedly. "It's really, really colourful, the explosions are fabby, it plays really well... and I don't remember what it's called." Oh brilliant, Dunc. Try. "Um... It's Crazy Jet Racer or Unicycle Racer or something." he eventually offered. Since then we've kept a bit of an eye on it waiting for a big company to pick it up. Finally Virgin did. and the rest is history.

So was Duncan right? Well, yes, I'm happy to say he was! Dan Dare III is really, really colourful, the explosions are fabby and it plays very well indeed. It's perhaps a bit thin, so you might complete it rather quickly, but everything that's here is choice stuff.

First, there's Dan himself. In his green space fleet uniform and peaked cap he looks a little stunted, but more or less exactly as a Pilot of the Future should. He can't walk, but flies along with his little jet pack, floating down to earth whenever you stop propelling him forward. This is handy, because it frees up the Down control to flick through your inventory of weapons. There's a plasma rifle with three levels of firepower, bouncing bombs (which can be sent out in a train in front of Dan to clear any narrow passages) and smart bombs to clear the screen. The baddies are perhaps even more impressive, but disappointingly un-Dan-Dare-ish. You can't really complain about the Mekon who looks the splitting image of his original comic namesake. Except! It's not the Mekon at all, but merely a series of giant size projections of his image which act as end-of-level guardians (which may explain why he's about 16-feet tall, instead of Jackie size like he was in the comics). As for the rest of the baddies, they're apparently the mutated failures of 'treenisation' experiments that the Mekon has been playing about with, and take the form of fat, floating fish, purple pod things and various other bug-eyed monsters. All very colourful and tricky to kill!

The game itself is your standard 'fly about a bit, explore the tunnels, collect fuel, open doors and collect keys to operate the teleport to the next level' shoot-'em-up. In between levels (or on the way to the shop where you can restock your arsenal) you have to go through that old chestnut the 'time tunnel', whizzing through space trying to stay inside a series of boxes. Tricky stuff! So here's the weird bit and it's obviously a remnant from the Crazy Jet Racer days - Dan seems to have gained a tail or, um, 'thingie' between his legs!! Blimey! It must have started life as a unicycle or something, but why they haven't removed it now I don't know.

So, what's the verdict? Well, it's funny, but our reaction is more or less the same as it was to Tintin On The Moon last month. I mean both feature classic comic characters, both were done by Probe, both have running-about-collecting-things gameplay, both have into-the-screen scrolling flight bits between levels, and both are corkendously colourful! Blimey! Kissing cousins, or what? But the similarities don't end there! They're both just too small, and don't take too much trying to complete, it's a real shame because the size stops it really being Megagame material.

Still, it's pretty darn spanky! It might well be the prettiest, most colourful game ever seen on the Spectrum (if not it's pretty damn close) and although that play area may be a bit tiny it's still an excellent game.

Life Expectancy: 73%
Instant Appeal: 94%
Graphics: 96%
Addictiveness: 85%
Overall: 89%

Summary: So close to a Megagame, but not quite close enough, Dan Dare III has gorgeous graphics and great gameplay but there's not all that much there. Shame.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 95, February 1990   page(s) 62,63

The Mekon is back. Yes, the extra terrestrial with a head the shape of a tefal superbrain (or Barry Norman), is out to end the career of the Indiana Jones of the cosmos - Dan Dare.

The evil Mekon's greatest wish is to conquer the Earth and to these ends the mutant mastermind had carried out a series of horrific Treenisation experiments. Well, our gene juggling genius, he ain't so clever 'cos all the creatures he tried it on came out as twisted mutations so he decided to get a human subject and who better than our space hero Dan Dare? So, Dan is kidnapped whilst he's asleep and wakes to find himself onboard the Mekon's huge satellite. Dan makes an escape and finds a jetpack, a laser rifle and a ship - just the thing to get him back home - but first he needs an extra 50lbs of fuel to get him safely to Earth and in the absence of a BP station he must fight his way through the satellite to find it.

This is where you come in. You must guide Colonel Dare around the satellite and find the fuel whilst avoiding or blasting the mutated results of the Mekon's horrific experiments.

There are 5 levels to Dan Dare III and you start off in the store which contains a booster for your jet pack, a teleport pad and a computer terminal from which you can buy more ammo, smart bombs, bouncing bombs and even extra lives. Access is jealously guarded by the Mekon and you must first shoot him to bits, forcing him to teleport to the next level and leave behind the teleport pod you need in order to get to the next level.

Your weapons are all displayed as icons when in use. The laser rifle has three levels of power. Rapid firing gives the least effective bolts but by holding the fire button, the rifle builds up power which is released by letting go.

Selection of each icon is by nudging down on the joystick until the correct icon is displayed. Pressing fire will then activate or unleash the current weapon.

To move from level to level (or back to the store), shuffle onto the far right edge of the teleport, select the correct icon and then pull down. The screen then changes to a Master of the Lamp type of affair where you try to steer Dan through the tunnel of squares. Each time you miss a square. Dan receives the equivalent of 10,000 volts up his trouser leg and looses the appropriate amount of energy.

Dan Dare III is a superlative game. The colour graphics are unquestioningly brilliant and the game itself is a masterpiece of design. It merely remains to say that anyone not buying Dan Dare III is several jam butties short of a picnic.

Label: Virgin
Author: Probe
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter

Graphics: 94%
Sound: 84%
Playability: 91%
Lastability: 93%
Overall: 93%

Summary: Superlative colour graphics and a thought provoking gameplay make it a must. Utterly fantastic!

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 100, March 1990   page(s) 43

C64/Spectrum £9.99

Having defeated the evil Mekon in his previous two exploits, Dan faces the Big Greenie once again - only this time, the Mekon has got wise.

Dan's basic aim is to collect enough fuel to escape the Treens' domain, but the only way he can travel between levels is via a teleport. And who's got the teleport key? The Mekon. Or rather, giant holographic images of the Mekon, which act as and of-level guardians to defy daring Daniel: the bogey-coloured alien chief is too cowardly to fight Dan in straight combat.

Our hero flies around in a jet-pack, armed with a trusty three-level plasma gun to kick alien ass: contact with baddies drains his energy. If he accesses a terminal, however, he can buy more goodies, from extra lives to a smart bomb. Once he's plundered a level of its objects, daring Daniel travels to the next via a Master of the Lamps-style fly-through-thesquares teleport system.

Graphics: 94%
Sound: 79%
Value: 80%
Playability: 86%
Overall: 83%

Summary: The only thing wrong with Dan Dare III is its simplicity. The graphics are among the best I've seen on the Spectrum - very colourful, with some superb explosions and neat animation - and the sound is OK, basic effects mixed with occasional jingles. Some of the aliens (apart from the inflated Mekon) don't look very Dan Dare-ish, varying from bug-eyed fish to misshapen armoured blobs - but that doesn't detract from the game's appeal. The gameplay itself, though, is pretty basic, like its immediate predecessor: shoot baddies, collect fuel and weapons, and defeat the Atekon to finish the level. Dan Dare III is full of nice touches, and is worth a look just for the graphics - it offers plenty of short-term fun but doesn't have the depth to keep you playing for weeks.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 31, June 1990   page(s) 39

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Atari £19.99
Amiga £19.99
PC £24.99


It's been 40 years since Dan Dare first appeared in the Eagle comic, and since then he's spawned three games - the same as Batman! Yet, surprisingly, Dan and the Mekon have never appeared on the silver screen.

The story starts on a satellite orbiting Venus, with the evil Mekon trying to create henchmen Treens (native Venusians) from a variety of races. But the experiments go very wrong and the resulting mutants are a failure. The Mekon decides that a human 'volunteer' is needed; the perfect specimen being who else but Dan Dare. Dan is kidnapped and taken to the space station and held hostage. But such things can't hold Dan for long, he's soon making a break for it.

Sadly, our hero has only one method of escape: the trusty, but out of fuel, rocket ship. Luckily, there's 50lbs of fuel hidden in the complex. Armed initially with a meagre pulse rifle, you must overpower the numerous guards (some holding transporter passes) in the complex and escape before the Mekon catches up with you Killing a baddie will sap their energy and transfer it to you. As with most planets, energy is a valuable commodity.

Transport, provided by a jetpack, is fuelled by strategically placed pumps in the corridors. Also throughout the maze are computer terminals, Log-on to one of these and you'll be able to access extra lives, smart bombs and shields in exchange for energy.

If Dan fails to escape, the Mekon could, once again, start an attack on Earth. Is this the end of life as we know it?

Overall: 80%

Summary: The game is colourful, although unlike the original, it also contains some colour clash. But the playability is luckily undiminished, with the character sprites nicely drawn and the puzzles creating a great challenge. Sound is also good with a pleasant title tune and atmospheric effects.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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