In the mid 1980's platform flick screen adventure arcade games were all the rage, and Dynamite Dan by Mirrorsoft (who released other good games on the ZX Spectrum such as Sai Combat and the excellent flight simulator Strike Force Harrier) was one of the better ones.
Released in July of 1985 for the ZX Spectrum, Dynamite Dan scored the coveted Crash Smash award and was one of the more succesful arcade games of the year.
The whole premise of the game was that a mad professor (Doctor Blitzen) has some secret plans locked away in a giant safe inside his huge mansion. These plans are for the ultra destructive 'mega ray'. You arrive as Dynamite Dan via an airship, landing on the roof of the mansion aiming to nab these plans from the safe.
In true platform arcade game style, Dan explored his surroundings by moving left and right and jumping over obstacles and up onto ledges, stairways and so on. There were a total of 48 screens to be explored, and the whole mansion 'wrapped around' itself, so moving left continuously would eventually bring you back to the right-most room of the house. Nice.
The usual bizarre nasties inhabited the house, bouncing darts, mutants scorpions and alien creatures. You began the game with ten lives - each life having an energy level. This energy level could be topped up by eating the plentiful food that littered the mansion.
Contact with a nasty or a fall from a great height would take one of your lives from you - and some screens were very tricky to negotiate. It was possible to gain extra lives by collecting test tubes - don't ask us why!
To make the game a bit different items such as trampolines could be jumped upon to achieve a 'super jump' and tightropes could be carefully negotiated. These added a certain element of fun and strategy to the proceedings.
To complete the game, eight sticks of dynamite had to be collected (so you could blow the safe and gain access to the plans) but remember, you only had to blow the bloody doors off!
If you lost all of your lives then you were treated to a cut scene of Dan being 'zapped' by the mad professor - very reminiscent of Manic Miner or Jet Set Willy.
The game made you want to explore in the usual way for platform arcade games, and the in-game graphics and sound effects created the right atmosphere.
Dynamite Dan was well recieved when it was released for the ZX Spectrum, with many praising the large and colourful graphics and nice menu music. It was probably Mirrorsoft's best game to date, and people enjoyed it enough that a sequel would be made a year later. It was by far from an original concept (borrowing heavily from Jet Set Willy) but it did surpass previous platform games, and this game coupled with Technician Ted set a new level of quality for flick screen games. It was good value for money at only £5.95 too.
It should be noted that Mirrorsoft also offered the first person to phone them with name of the music that played on completion of the game would be awarded with a ride in an airship. Not a bad prize eh?
The test of time:
We here in the land of Spectrum games reckon that Dynamite Dan still holds appeal. The house is nicely drawn and the touches such as the tight ropes and trampolines make it slightly different from other games in this genre. The playability is still there - but beware it's by no means easy. A very difficult yet classic game.
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware, but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Dynamite Dan. Alternatively you could try and play it online. Maybe it'll blow your socks off.
GENRE: Arcade (Platform) Game
RELEASE DATE: July 1985
RELEASED BY: Mirrorsoft
DEVELOPER(S): Rod Bowkett
PRICE: £5.95 - UK
Mart struggles to roll back the years in Dynamite Dan for Spectrum Games: