Dynamite Dan - Florinthedwarf reviews a ZX Spectrum game from 1985

Explosives?! Probably not what you want in a zeppelin.
Oh, Dyamite Dan. Why are you so difficult but also so damn beautiful? My god Dan, I just can't stop touching you, looking at you and hoping that one day I may be able to see more than three screens of your glorious game. I wish I knew how to quit you.  

Death looks pretty imminent down there...ooh, ice cream!
Dynamite Dan was one of those games that I never got to play in the glory days. By glory days, I mean back in the eighties when the Speccy was first in my house. It was one of those games my dad would bang on about but the only copy he had wouldn't load. You know, one of those. So after growing up and playing Speccy games for decades, this one passed me by. Just my dad telling me how great it was didn't really explain what type of game it was, what it looked like, what you had to do, etc. so I never had the inclination to find out. But, being a member of several random (well retro) Facebook groups throws up a lot of games from the past. Surprisingly. DD was one of the games which popped up a few months ago and I thought 'What a beautiful looking game! I need to play you!' So..... I did. And from that day forward I've been both infatuated and frustrated in equal measure.

Now, the birds I can deal with but that yellow thing with multiple arms - you can go your own way, thanks.

You see, Dynamite Dan is one of those games that you will marvel at just by looking at it. You don't even have to be any good at it (which is a relief) to be sucked in to its majesty. The graphic detail, the simple but effective sound effects, the animation, the ugly though beautiful creatures, the colours, the crispness of it all - I would be doing it a disservice to say it's just an acheivement in Speccy programming. It's more than that. This is one of those games that defined the genre - I'd go as far to say it is one of those games that defined the Spectrum. I know I'm gushing a bit, I'm sorry - I'll stop now I promise. Let's just have a look at the game and I'll leave my drooling for when I have some time to myself. Let me just wipe the drool from my chin (after I've picked it up from the floor) and get on with it. OK, I'm ready. Let's go.

Are they giant spiders? AARRRRGGHHHHH!!!! Ooh, a cup of tea!
So why has top agent Dynamite Dan landed his zeppelin on top of this building full of interesting, though ultimately frightening, creatures? Well, he's here to scupper the dastardly Dr. Blitzen's (along with his assistant, Donna) plan to create a Super Psychon Mega-Ray (sounds scary) which requires our hero to locate the evil Blitzen's secret safe which contain the plans for the aforementioned ray. Of course, this won't be a case of simply locating the safe and twisting the dial a few times whilst listening its inner workings with a stethoscope. No, Dan here needs dynamite (oh, now I get it) of which there are eight sticks scattered around Dr. Blitzen's remote clifftop retreat which will be used to blow the safe, grab the evil one's plans and then make his escape via his Zeppelin which is waiting for him on the roof. A simple plan? Well, as far as plans go in trying to scupper someone's plans for world domination, I guess it could be but, as with most games of this type, there's always someone or something in the way. Or things, in this case.

I hope that boat isn't going to move any time soon. I hear Dan can't swim. Uh-oh.... Ooh, ice cream! (yeah, I know I've already done that one)
I guess if you're that evil, you will make sure your hideaway is suitably protected and what better way to protect you lair than with equally evil creatures? Here you'll find, spiders (big ones), indescribable beings with multiple arms and legs, giant centipedes and toy soldiers amongst other things trying to thwart your quest. Dan moves with just a left, right and jump which is all you need in this type of game though, it can be a bit of drag if you want to climb down a ladder. Sorry, not happening - time to walk all the way around my friend, and watch out for that spider or three whilst you're at it. You may have also noticed the lack of a fire button which means avoidance is your only weapon against falling foul of the many, many nasties walking around the place. Time to start practising those pixel perfect jumps! 

Seven screens? Woo hoo! Must be a record! Time for a lie down.
Strewn around the lair you'll also find various items. Those of the food variety will help keep up your energy levels whilst the others will add to your points tally. Of course, if you stumble across a stick of dynamite then that's part of your quest completed too - double bonus! Actually collecting the items on the other hand is where I'll go back to talking about how frustrating this game can be. You'll notice you get quite a lot of lives to start off with - ten, if I'm correct - but you'll soon see there is a good reason why you get so many. And if you're anything like me, then you'll be shouting that there's not enough. Ten lives not enough? Surely not? Yes. Definitely. I mean, you can collect more lives but it's still not enough, well not for me anyway. You see, getting past the nasties really takes some doing. They're quite large in comparison to our hero Dan, and whilst he does have a quite a large jump on him, it sometimes isn't enough. This is probably just down to my lack of skill (I mean 99% probability here) but this ranks very, very high on the tricky scale. The plus side to landing or walking into an enemy is that they disappear never to be seen again (whoop) but on the negative side, it does mean losing one of your ten (not enough) lives (un-whoop). The first time I played Dynamite Dan I think I managed to get past three screens - I think my record is now about nine, this is one tough game. For me, it's so hard that I know there will be zero chance of completing it, there is no way I will ever breach more than ten screens. An acheivement for me was finding Dr Blitzen's safe though alas, it was the last thing I saw before I saw the light at the end of a tunnel. I really should give up, but I can't. I can't do it...it's just......it's so beautiful. I can't take my eyes off it.

Ummmm...yeah, I'm not even going to bother going in here.

It's not just the lovely graphics and sound, it really has that something special, the nice touches, the challenge - everything you want and need in a game. Look at the colours above, jaw dropping. I love Dan's hair - it's fantastic. I love the way the water does a little splash when you fall into it and subsequently die. I love that fact that you can pick up a cup of tea to get energy. Dan uses a zeppelin to get places - how cool is that?? Plus, there are teleport stations... I mean, the awesome-ness just keeps on coming. In terms of quirkiness, you could say that this is up there with another Speccy classic JetSet Willy, especially looking at the very odd and myterious creatures (though there are no terrifying clowns here - thank goodness!) though besides it also being a platformer, that's where I'd say the similarities end. Dynamite Dan has that little added extra - sure, it's not as big and you probably don't have to collect as many items but, the game is perfectly designed. With just enough rooms to keep your inner explorer happy, it has a finesse and accomplished feel. Plus it has boiled eggs that you can collect - it just goes up and up in the epic stakes.

Make no mistake, as amazing a game this is, it is a real challenge. I mean, you probably already know this as I'm probably the only person out there not to have played this game since the 30 years it's been released but if you're like me and you somehow missed out, well, it's time to get your dynamite on. My advice? Just don't fall in love, he'll only end up breaking your heart.

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Also, (insert shameless plug here) I shall be publishing a book of my collective ramblings very soon so keep an eye out if this is something that interests you. If you do think you may want to see what it's like, you can follow its official Twitter account @florinZX where you'll find regular updates! Thank you! 😀

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