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Dirty Den – Review


Title: Dirty Den
Programmer: Vakis Paraskeva
Publisher: Probe Software
Year: 1986
Language: English

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Review by c16guy

Q: What do you get if you cross a vintage platform game with a once popular British TV soap villian?
A: Plagiarism.

Why Vakis way back in 1986 decided to title the game and main character after the then current original Queen Vic pub landlord in fictitious drama Eastenders remains a mystery. There’s absolutely no resemblance between the two whatsoever that he may as well had named him Ronald McDonald although Probe Software really would have had a lawsuit on their hands.

Anyway, Den’s lovely maiden (Angie, Sharon or Michelle?) has been captured by Nasty Nick, ahem I mean Nikita the nasty wizard (OK I’ll quit with the Eastenders jokes) and hidden her within the maze of his castle grounds guarded by his equally nasty creatures. Den having every right to be is none too happy about this and so has set off to rescue fair maiden. However he must also collect all the chocolates on each of the 12 single screens to give to the maiden when he finally rescues her in the hidden room. Yes you read right, she’s expecting bloody chocolates as well.

So, moving on… What we have here is a classic platformer very much within the realms of Manic Miner where once you have collected everything, the exit then unlocks for you to proceed to the next screen along with any bonus points which you’ve accumulated. Three noticable differences is that apart from the far larger graphics, you are armed with firepower to dispose of the creatures. However many of them are also armed too. Fortunately unlike Manic Miner there is no time limit so you can take your time to plan your strategy and timely pick them off. You also get points from walking along any untread ground which will then light up. You get no extra points if you walk along the same ground again. You start the game with 5 lives, and every 10,000 points you achieve will award you with an extra life, but you cannot exceed the maximum of 5.

As I said there are 12 screens which doesn’t seem a lot, but the game is pretty tough to compensate this. It’s a fair old challenge. In fact sometimes it’s unfairly so, particularly at the beginning of level 11 as bullets fly randomly meaning that sometimes it is impossible to avoid certain death, maybe more than once at that particular starting spot which can lead to frustration.

The monochromatic graphics aren’t that much to boast about but they are quite nicely defined and animated. However the game tends to slow a little when there’s a lot happening on screen but this isn’t to distraction. The sound just about suits the graphics, functional yet also nothing to boast about.

The game uses both keyboard or joystick and displays the current hi-score underneath. As I said the game is tough, and some levels are very tough. However all of them are beatable with devious level designs to seriously test your reflexes, it’s clear to me that Vakis has done plenty of playtesting. I have a hunch though that there is a maximum hi-score which can’t be exceeded. I have beaten the game with a final score of 75950 and I defy anyone to do any better.

This is a fun platformer of moderate to high difficulty, one which may keep you coming back with more determination than ever, that you just know you can beat it if you persevere enough.

Overall it is a nice well thought-out little game, and the castle is still far safer to tread than the streets of Walford. Oh damn, I did it again.

Presentation: 5
Joystick & Keyboard control. Hi-Score.
Graphics: 6
Large and well defined although monochromatic. Nicely animated.
Sound: 5
Fair amount of spot-FX to suit the graphics.
Playability: 7
Instantly playable enough to seriously test your reflexes.
Lasting Appeal: 6
The learning curve will have you coming back time and again until you finally beat it, depending on your patience that is.
Overall: 6
A fun challenging platform game of the classic genre which may prove a little too frustrating for some.

Longplay video of my final score.


Categorized as: Games | Reviews


One Comment

  1. MIK MIK says:

    Nice review. 🙂

    Cool little game, the likes I wish we had more of. Great you got past that level which made me give up as I kept losing lives on it, you know the one lol.

    Shame it doesn’t have more levels though, I guess that was the price we had to pay for using such large character graphics. Cool though, 28 years later some one finally beats it! 🙂

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