Monday 21 September 2009

Dangerous Dave's Risky Rescue

Remember Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion?... No?... Really? I mean it is freeware these days so there's nothing stopping you from playing it... oh well. This is the sequel.

Dangerous Dave's Risky Rescue, a.k.a. Dangerous Dave III. Despite Dave being a character created by industry legend John Romero, DDRR was made by an entirely different team at Softdisk, because by the time it rolled by in 1993, John Romero, John Carmack, Tom Hall and Adrian Carmack had formed id Software and were making things like Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D (and later Doom). Softdisk saw Dangerous Dave as a powerful asset so they made another two games without the Dave 2 team, this and Dave Goes Nutz!. Of course, I'm not entirely sure how powerful they thought the guy was, because despite wielding a shotgun and driving a pickup, the games aren't exactly Mario or Sonic beaters.

It's a EGA DOS platformer, just like its younger brother, but this time the game's supporting arguably better graphics, sound cards (though just for sound effects) and a slightly smoother engine. But despite all these improvements, Dave 3 still manages to score lower than Dave 2 (and in my opinion, Dave 4). Speaking of younger brothers, Dave is off to rescue his, who has been captured by the evil Dr. Nemesis (who also happens to be a villain from Softdisk's Catacomb franchise).

Whereas Dave 2 focused more on shooting zombies, Dave 3 throws in more platforming segments. This is nice, but there's a few problems. First, platforms aren't always obvious. Second, the enemies aren't always obvious. Third, the lack of ammo isn't obvious, especially since Dave 2 gave you an infinite amount of shotgun shells assuming you had the time to reload. But though it's obviously worse than the Haunted Mansion after playing it for just a few seconds, it doesn't mean it's a terrible title. In fact, because it uses the engine from Commander Keen Dreams, for the most part it plays rather well, and of course the death scenes are still in-tact.

There's definitely been some improvements in the graphics department, but you'd expect this after two years. Unfortunately, for 1993 it's not one of the better looking titles out there. Most DOS games by this point were dabbing in the VGA world of 256 colours, but Dave 3 and 4 only have 16 to play with due to Softdisk's policies of being nice to their EGA customers. It's a great concept when you consider the average computer of the day was two or three times the price of one now, but there are better looking 16 colour games too. There's no denying that it looks somewhat dated, but then again, having changed their focus to web development, Softdisk weren't trying to stay on top of the games market.

There's also been various sound improvements, including the use of digitized speech, but as said, there's still no music, despite the year of release being 1993. Plus, in order to hear the digitized sounds you need to sacrifice things like jumping sound effects. My personal preference is the Adlib or even PC Speaker setups for that reason alone - you can't have a DOS platformer without a jumping sound. It's not right.

The game is also ridiculously hard. The first thing that'll probably happen is you'll be choked to death by a spider, and it doesn't really get any easier. But I suppose that's half the fun.

Unlike the two Dave games before it however, Softdisk are still charging for this one. So you too can buy a sixteen-year-old game that won't run without help from DOSBox. On the plus side, Dave Goes Nutz! is a much easier and nicer game so you might have more fun with that, but that's not to say Risky Rescue isn't worth checking out, even if your morals demand you to wait for the inevitable freeware release, however far away that may be.

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