Funny how wrong you can be, isn't it? Reviewing Suburban Commando last month, I was wibbling on about how the Oceans and Gremlins and MicroProses of the software 'biz' don't get slagged off like Alternative and other similar publishers do for releasing budget-type games at full price, because they don't do it. Yeah, it WAS a great point, wasn't it? Anyway, times change. This month, seemingly in a blatant attempt to make me look stupid, Ocean have had a brainstorm. It's called Dennis.
Dennis is licenced from the film of the American cartoon which has, it says here, been 'making us laugh for over 40 years'. Which is a lie for a start. If they mean Dennis the American cartoon, then it's only been on TV over here for about two years, tops (and it's not funny anyway). If they mean Dennis The Menace, the ace Beano character (the US Dennis is also known as The Menace, apparently), then he's not in this game (indeed, he's got his own entirely different game coming out very soon, from - spook! -Alternative), and they should shut up about him. Sorry about this, but it's just a barefaced Stalinist lie and it annoys me. What next, David Vine introducing snooker matches by saying 'And now, Stephen Hendry versus the man who's been making us laugh for over 40 years - Dennis Taylor!'? Get a grip,
Ocean - just because they're both called Dennis doesn't mean you can get away with saying they're the same thing and not expecting anyone to notice, it's insulting.
Well, that's got that off my chest. Now to start getting annoyed about the game. Which isn't difficult, because it's the most dismal thing I've seen a respectable software house come up with in quite a long time. Where shall we start? Let's start at the beginning.
The first level is unutterably tedious. It's platform stuff, but to call it bog-standard would be a serious insult to bogs. The graphics are sparse and tiny, and most of the platforms seem, for no adequate reason, to be just too high for Dennis to jump onto, forcing you to take the most tortuously convoluted route possible to get anywhere. Useless stupid baddies litter the level, bouncing dumbly between two points or running pointlessly from side to side. They don't come after you or anything, but in case you're worried about being so unutterably crap that you might actually hit one and lose 10% of the energy in one of your nine lives (you can reduce this number via the separately-loaded options screen if you like, but there are so many 1UPs just lying around that you'll still have about 14 by the time you're halfway through the stage The manual also claims that you can make things trickier by choosing from 'Hard' or 'Easy' difficulty settings, but that's another lie), you can always waste it from a safe distance with a couple of shots from one of your pathetic ploppy weapons. It'll come back as soon as you scroll its start position off the screen, of course (of course), but you'll be long gone by then, and never coming back.
The first level is also where you'll find Mr Wilson. Dennis's béte noir in the cartoons. Mr Wilson, says the manual, is 'walking around the house, unable to sleep due to his traumatic day. If he spots Dennis he will give chase.' Oh dear. Let's be constructive here, shall we? Let's help Ocean out. Let's suggest how they might want to rewrite the manual for any forthcoming other versions.
'Mr Wilson is pacing backwards and forwards in a small room. No matter how many times you hit him in the bottom with your pea shooter, catapult or water pistol, he won't notice you're there until he turns round, at which point he'll chase you as far as the door of the room, although then he gets bored and turns back round and walks off.'
Great, eh? The only reason you'd want to go anywhere near Mr Wilson is that he 'guards' a switch in his room which you have to switch to access another bit of the level. The switch actually looks exactly like a light switch (and is placed in a very light switch-like position), but you can only switch it by hitting it with... your pea-shooter? Nope Catapult? Nope. Water pistol? Of course. I can just see all the little five-year-old Dennis fans running around their house now, shooting at all the light-switches with water pistols and then lighting up like a Christmas tree. That's just been electrocuted.
Anyway, after about five minutes of half-hearted aimless wandering through this level, you'll have stumbled across all the necessary collectables and reached the next stage - the Park level. This is actually quite a tot worse than the house stage, because it all looks exactly the same and it's got deadly holes in the floor which don't look like deadly holes in the floor (although, of course - of course - some of them aren't deadly holes in the floor and are actually secret bonus rooms, though there's no way of telling the difference), but suffer it bravely because the next level's more of the exact same As is the next one. After that you get the most insultingly easy end-of-level boss I think I've ever met, and then it's onto the Sewers, which are like the house only with much less impressive graphics. Things were getting tricky for me by this stage (well, it WAS only my first go), because I was down to my last 11 lives. Lots and lots of really long bits with loads of holes in the ground where one slip gets you killed and sent back all the way to the start of the level, you see. Ho ho. What a great game this is. What came after the Sewers? I hear you all cry. I'm afraid I don't know. I couldn't see through my tears.
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