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Daredevil Dennis

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Released: 1984

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: BBC Micro

Publisher: Visions

Developer: Simon Pick

Submitted by: Retro Gamer

Simon Pick’s Daredevil Dennis proves that you don’t need overly complicated controls to create a fun game. You just need a really good idea and the ability to execute it well.

Indeed, just three keys are the key (ho ho) to success in Pick’s surprisingly addictive stunt-fest platformer. Shift accelerates you, Return brings your vehicle to a stop and the Space Bar launches you majestically into the air. By manipulating these three buttons you can weave your way past a number of hazards to earn as much stunt money as possible.

Starting at the top of the screen (which is divided into four parts) you simply race through each stage, avoiding the onscreen objects that stand in your way. Initially you’ll be presented with little more than annoyances – a static house here, a slow policeman there – but you’ll be given an insane amount of obstacles to clear on the higher difficulty levels. Add in the fact that constantly moving hazards like ambulances and helicopters are gradually introduced and you’ll need nerves of steel and the reactions of a hyperactive mongoose just to clear the first wave of Ace mode, let alone the entire screen.

The beauty of Daredevil Dennis, though, is that the tight controls and nigh-on-perfect collision detection ensure that you never feel that the game is punishing you for your mistakes. After Dennis has finished comically waving his legs in the air after each crash you’ll simply get on your bike again, utterly convinced that you’ll finally clear that last hurdle.

A Commodore 64 version also exists, but despite sharing the same name it’s actually a sequel (as shown on its title screen). While the core elements remain the same, a backstory has been added – Dennis’s Oscar has been stolen by his cousin and he has to retrieve it – and there is an additional stage, which involves Dennis running through a meadow and bursting balloons, set to some amazingly twee music.

While it’s an acceptable sequel, it’s made difficult by falling packages of Oscar pieces that Dennis needs to collect while avoiding the hazards. Stick with the BBC original as it feels purer and is a lot more fun.

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