Who Cares Who Wins?

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WE NOW salute Colonel Daniel MacGregor Dare, Manchester's most famous fictitious son. Graduate of Cambridge and summa cum laude from Harvard and The Roger Moore Eyebrow College. Date was to have been born in 1967. Does that mean that Dan Dare, epitome of all things English, is the child of a Flower Child? I think we should be told.

Dan Dare has been shot down by the dastardly Mekon (not to be confused with the very nice man who owns us) again. This isn't anything to do with being shot down over the Mekong Delta, which was in vogue some 20 years ago with USAF pilots. Too true.

For all the Mekon's hyper-intelligence, it isn't too smart when it comes to eradicating its thorn in the flesh numero uno. I mean, if I was the Mekon (which I'm not, since I'm the wrong shade of green) I'd zap first and gloat later. Which only goes to show.

Dan has escaped (surprisingly) and has found himself a spaceship to escape on. Hooray, say you, I've just spent nearly 20 sovs on the world's shortest game. It's a bit more complex than that - the ship requires 50 pounds of high pounds of high grade rocket fuel.

So off flies the man Dan, after donning a spacesuit which looks suspiciously like a purple and turquoise shellsuit. Tasteless, or what? I mean, just everybody knows that the colours to wear this days are orange and black.

You have to fly around the Mekon's ship collecting bits and pieces to trade for fuel. The actual bargaining is done by hacking the Mekon's computer, which runs Mekos 1.2. A few mutant Treens buzz about trying to stop you just by sheer blood-mindedness - they drain your energy faster than an Australian soap.

You need a key to get to the next level, and only the Mekon has it. You can get the key by gently but firmly knocking lumps out of the Big Green M with your blaster. The Mekon doesn't appreciate this, and retires hurt to the regeneration chambers, dropping the key en route.

Travelling between levels gives a bad attack of déjà vu. Sometimes déjà vu can be nice - Proust enjoyed the memory of dunking Madeleine in his tea, though quite what she had to say about it we'll never know.

This particular flavour of déjà vu isn't quite as tasty. Anyone remember Dark Star on the Spectrum? Flying between planets on that game required the player to run the gauntlet down a twisty rectangular wormhole in space. Dan Dare III features the same subgame - the graphics don't flicker, but it's still a convenient way to haven all your energy sapped before the next level.

And so it goes on. The early promise of the neat intro sequence with minimally animated frames backed by a samey but reasonable David Whittaker tune goes largely unfulfilled. And no, Mr. Whittaker, Professor Peabody would never have said what she says in your tune.

The gameplay could be a novelty for those who don't remember the spate of arcade adventures that there was in mid-1984. For anyone who does remember them, the gameplay and graphics are a perfect example of the genre. If you switch the tune off, the sound becomes quite authentic for mid 1984 too.

It is a pity that Dan Dare Ltd hasn't exercised a veto on this game, since it does nothing positive for the image of the good Colonel Dare. I guess the only Dare around this game is Virgin Mastertronic's own, since they dared to release it.

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The 18th of April saw the Eagle comic celebtrating its 40th anniversary, featuring the most famous space adventure pilot in history, Dan Dare. To celebrate this event, Virgin have released a third Dan Dare game.

The first game was very much a 'search and find' adventure, feating a comic style windowing system using many of the characters from the original strip. Digby was there, along with Dan's pet dog and the Treens led by the evil Mekon. The second made a departure from this format and plumped for the more standard scrolling shoot-em-u;, with Dan flying around a maze-like Treen complex.

Dan Dare III follows the style set by the second game, being a multi-directional scrolling blast with a fair amount of searching to be done. The game starts with Dan being held by the Treens and about to be tortured with all manner of dastardly implements. Dan manages to free his bonds and give the Treens a good biff in the face to make a dash for it.

After finding a jet-pack and a plazma-rifle, he heads off to the hangar to find a ship to make good his escape. Unfortunately the only ship in the dock has no fuel, so Dan must search the Treen complex, find enough fuel to fill the tank and blast off.

This is where you come in. You take control of Dan as he starts his quest in the Treen stores.You must fly around collecting additional weapons to take on the mutant forces the Melon has sent out, which include bouncing bombs, homing missiles, energy shields and even nuclear devices. The end of the stage has a large guardian, either a giant Treen or a gun emplacement, which when shot gives you a pod to gain access to higher levels via the large transporter in the main cavern of each level.

On the higher levels the guardians sit in front of fuel canisters, each of which contains 10 pounds of rocket fuel. If you manage to collect 50 pounds of fuel, then you can refuel the ship, return to the stores and start up the blast-off sequence. But hurry! Dan has an appointment and it would not do to be late!


Dan Dare's loading sequence starts with a series of colourful and well drawn comic frames detailing the capture and subsequent escape of our hero along with some well-sampled pieces of speech. The feel is very much that of the original comic, down to the style of the scenery. Unfortunately, this atmosphere is not carried into the game.

The sound is pretty standard, with blasting effects and a bouncy background tune, and the graphic are nothing to shout about. The sprites are small and rather flat-looking and lack the animation quality needed to bring a comic strip to life. Dan skates around the blocky scenery rather than running in a macho manner as he should. The appearance is, in all, dull rather than as exciting and vivid as the original strip.


The game is tough from the outset, killing you off time after time in succession. This situation is not helped by the fact that your weapons run out very quickly and treen forces take a lot of shots before they die. Progress is rather slow and frustrating - many players will give up in exasperation before the final objective is reached.


The intro sequence is full of character and gives the impression that you are about to embark on an involved interpretation of the comic strip. Unfortunately, the game is just a standard hunt and blast episode, with very little to justify the Dan Dare link other than the Mekon sprites at the end of the levels. If shoot-em-up maze games are your 'thing' then you may find some enjoyment in Dan Dare III, but if you just enjoy the comic strip character then stick to buying the Eagle.


The 40th Anniversary of Dan Dare has sparked off a lot of interest among the Science Fiction community. The Eagle has relaunched the character in the new look Eagle comic. Gone are the days of the peak-capped, pipe-smoking hero and in comes the new hgh-tech, weapon-loaded, green, non-smoking vegetarian soldier. Fans can visit the Dan Dare Exhibition in Southport, home of Dan's creator Frank hampson, and take a look at how the character has developed. Even a radio series has been broadcast by the BBC. If you missed it, do not worry - the stories are available on cassette.

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Die übliche Hintergrundstory, dazu ein ebenso einfallsloses Spiel - mit dem dritten Aufguß der Abenteuer des englischen Comic-Helden hat sich Virgin nicht gerade mit Ruhm bekleckert!

Der Oberschurke Mekon bedroht die ganze Welt mit seinen gentechnisch erzeugten Gruselmonstern. Sie sind darauf getrimmt, jeden Widersacher rücksichtslos anzugreifen. Aber das kann unseren Colonel Dare natürlich nicht erschüttern! Wagemutig begibt er sich in ein Labyrinth voller Metallwände und schrulliger Mutanten.

Was er dort tun soll? Darüber schweigt sich die Anleitung leider aus. Vermutlich muß er das riesige Gebäude durchsuchen, um dort irgendwann einmal auf Mekon zu stoßen und ihm den Garaus zu machen. Bei seiner Suche trifft er aber vor allem auf Mekons Monster, die ihm seine vier Leben klauen wollen. Die beste Taktik ist, bei einer solchen Begegnung sofort das Feuer zu eröffnen.

Munition ist zwar nur begrenzt vorhanden, kann aber, genauso wie Extrawaffen (zum Auswählen Stick nach unten), Schutzschilder und zusätzliche Leben über kleine Computerterminals nachgeordert werden. Ansonsten ist nichts los bei Dan Dare III: Ein bißchen ballern, per Compi Extrawaffen organisieren und durch die Labyrinthe düsen - das war's dann.

Sieht man vom gelungenen David Whittaker-Sound ab, ist das Game auch technisch daneben gegangen: Mickrige, ruckelig animierte Sprites, fantasielose Hintergrundgrafiken und ein überholtes Spielprinzip machen Dan Dare III zu einem Programm, auf das man getrost verzichten kann. Die witzigen Comicgeschichten aus den frühen 60er Jahren hätten wahrlich eine bessere Versoftung verdient! (C. Borgmeier)

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PRICE: £19.99

Dan Dare is one of the few 1940s comic strips still popular today thanks to the timeless appeal of the underdog hero. Dan is the Indiana Jones of the cosmos and has triumphed in countless adventures across space, yet it is only when he comes up against that antithesis of his beliefs - the Mekon - That Colone! Dare's mettle is really tested.

In Dan Dare III, Virgin's latest addition to the saga, Dan faces his toughest challenge yet. The Mekon has made things pretty rough for him.

Dare has been taken prisoner and moved to a satellite from where the Mekon intends to sublimate the entire race of the Earth thanks to his armies of Treens - products of his unsuccessful Treenisation experiments. What is needed is a human subject, and who better than Dare?

But Dan quickly escapes and finds a spaceship which should get him back to Earth. But before he can make it work, he must locate 50lbs of fuel in a catacomb of corridors, chambers and shafts.

Dan is initially armed with a plasma rifle, a single power shield and handy jet pack. If he can fight his way to the stores computer on the first level he can order from a plethora of weapons stock as long as his credit holds out including extra lives, nuke bombs, homing missiles. But all cost.

Once Dan is armed, he selectes each weapon by pulling down on the joystick, the current selection being shown by its particular icon.

The icons are clear and obvious, contrasting sharply with the small graphics of the characters and selection of each icon takes place during play so an element of real time swapping is inherent.

While the music is pleasant yet unmemorable and sound effects are too limited, the scrolling most certainly is poor. It jerky and slow.

Probe Software, who are responsible for the game, have a better reputation for graphics then this especially after having made such a good job on the Spectrum, Dan Dare on the Amiga is therefore an enigma - jerky scrolling coupled with reasonable graphics and underused sound make for a game which will be forgotten easily, unless you buy it in which case it will be remembered for its mediocrity.