Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dalek Attack

Recently I've been messing around with DosBox and trying out a few old games available on abandonware websites. No one official bothers with these now and there's no support for them either. Dalek Attack was one memorable game from my childhood, released from 1992-3 on a spread of platforms, 8 and 16 bit, and each seems slightly different. At the time there were even adverts on TV. The poorest version was probably the Spectrum, being the most limited machine, the game was cruder in every way with fewer monsters. The PC was far superior, though I had the version for the Atari ST and they seem fairly equivalent. The Atari release had particularly good music as the machine was known for having a good quality sound board. The only annoying thing about this game is the manual. To prevent copying the game, as was common of this era, after the first level you are requested to find a word in the manual that comes with the game ("Type the word on Page #, Line #, Word #"). To prevent photocopying the book, all the pages are covered in faint diamond logos, but this also makes it difficult to read, and the text is very small. And if you lose it you are stuffed.

The game itself is an odd beast. It's not really very 'Doctor Who'... the Doctor leaps around the level scaling buildings and blasting baddies to pieces with his sonic screwdriver. In that respect it's very much an action platform game with very little regard for the source material. But on the other hand, I think it's rather fun in its own right. The game is colourful with rich textures and sound for its time. It might not feel like Doctor Who but there's plenty to identify from many sources.

Player 1 always has the Doctor, and you get a choice between the 2nd, 4th and 7th. Player 2 has either Ace or some big bloke in green that is supposed to be the Brigadier. Of all the characters, only he could really be seen blasting Daleks to pieces with such relish. Your main weapon is a weedy blaster that slowly damages weaker enemies but doesn't hurt daleks. You can upgrade to lasers which do kill daleks with several blasts but you need to keep collecting the powerups because it runs out. Also you can collect grenades which are effective against all enemies but the character tends to lob them making it difficult to get one-shot kills. And that makes all the difference when you die easily. There's the smart bomb which will kill everything on the screen, but once you pick it up you can't save it and use your grenades, you only get them once you use the bomb. So the opportunity to save it until much later in the level doesn't present itself. There are other power ups beyond lasers and health, but they seem pretty rare.

The enemies are numerous. As mentioned, in the spectrum release there is little variety, but in the better 16 bit releases you get a lot more. Ogrons and robomen (styled like the Peter Cushing movies) are commonplace, daleks less so... and thank god because they take some killing. Daleks come in various colours, grey in London, silver/blue movie style in Paris, Gold in Tokyo. There are also red daleks, daleks they fly on pads like the TV21 Comic and on Skaro there is on dalek baring a resemblance to the gold emperor of the TV21 comics and some Daleks resembling Ray Cusick's redesign that was in an annual in the 1990s and probably making it the only appearance in the fiction anywhere that I know of. There are also some other villains unique to each locations that aid the Daleks; gang members in New York, Ninjas in Tokyo, Paris has some evil mime artists striped jumpers and Egyptian mummies (?!). As I said, the game draws on a variety of sources, TV, comic, film and elsewhere..

That seldom seen Dalek redesign...

So you're probably getting a feel for the game now. But what I touched on earlier is the difficulty, it is an immensely hard game. The levels are London, Paris, New York, Tokyo and Skaro. I played it on and off for years and struggled to get to New York. Getting to Tokyo was a herculean effort. I never saw Skaro. There was no learning curve, you were thrown straight in with it being relentlessly difficult to survive.

The first level in London has a sort of pre-level in which you have to fly through the sewers. It's the only time you have to fly in the whole game, and it thrashes you. It's not an easy vehicle to fly, there are walls everywhere to run into, small gaps to fly though, drills coming through the floor and ceiling, poisonous slime dripping off the ceiling, mutants that leap out the water to damage you and if you don't fly though all this shit fast enough a couple of Daleks appear behind you and shoot you up, and you're not allowed to turn around and kill them. You just have to take it.

Then at the end of the level you have two bastard tough mutants to kill.

And you've not even properly started the first level yet!!

Is this a reference? It should be "Totter's Lane" rather than "Totter Lane", but here No. 76 is a pub so I'm not sure they are going for accuracy...

As you exit the sewers you get one of those smart bombs... which you immediately have to use in the next level because you start with three enemies around you shooting you up. This is fine, but if you die and have to restart, you don't get the smart bomb back so take a beating. Lots of stuff kills you, falling off a building kills you, walking in waist deep water kills you, giant rats in the underground kill you. All the time you enter a door or window and immediately there's an enemy shooting you, sometimes in the bad. You can't do anything but take the damage. It's pretty hard going but London is by far the easiest level.

In each city you have to explore to find some human hostages, when you collect all these, and thankfully they tell you how many you have remaining, you get access to go to the final boss.

All the final bosses are a bit different. This is the London one and looks like a super dalek with a mutant that comes out to spit missiles at you once you destroy the various other weapons.

Hope you have you manual to hand with a magnifying glass ready because you're going to be asked to input a word next...

Sometimes the Timelords will appear and offer you a free gift. And you really need these because you are taking a beating in the game. I think it's related to your score, because when I cheated and ran around blasting dalek I could find the Timelords popped up fairly regularly. Normally, you avoid the daleks, so simply don't get the timelords or the offer of the much needed powerups or extra lives. So it's a bit Catch 22.

Just a few quick pics of Paris and New York. You can tell he's French because he's wearing a stripy jumper and beret.

And in New York even the taxis hate you...

The game never lets up on the difficulty and the bosses are very fast and powerful. Eventually you will run out of lives and see the following screens...

But wait, if somehow you complete the four cities on Earth you are sent to Skaro to recover a Time Ring, and defeat Davros. Skaro is a hell hole. Most levels are a maze, but this takes it further with doors and corridors all leading you around in circles. The daleks are tougher and ther are trap everywhere. Just getting to the city is hard with mutants and pits of fire and spikes to fall in. Once you free all the hostages you get access to Davros and he pops in and out of various doors making him hard to hit let alone kill. I had to cheat to get this far in the game, I've never been able to do it.

Once Davros is finished you get a different end scene...

And Davros is frozen in an ice-cube for safe keeping.

The End!

Phew. Well maybe one day I will beat the game fair, but at least I've had the chance to see all of it, instead of spending all day just to get a few minutes of New York as I managed when I was young. The difficulty does pose a hell of a challenge, and it might be easier with two players, but you still have a job on. As games go I think it's got it where it counts. The control is all fluid and it looks and sounds great.

As a Doctor Who item, well it's not going to fit into the canon well... but it has all the icons of Doctor Who. It looks more obviously like Doctor Who than some of the cruder games that came before and frankly it's a lot more fun to play than Destiny of the Doctors. So it's worth a go if only once.

Anyway, to help others along, there are a few rather long winded cheat codes to type in.

JAMES BOND AND OLIVER REED WERE NEVER GOOD SINGERS - Infinite Lives (I can't get this to work on PC whether I hold down shift or not, as some suggest, but I know it works on Atari ST and I've heard it works on Amiga)


DAY OF RECKONING Skip London (Doesn't work in sewers)


TRICOLOR COFFEE SHOP Skip New York (may need UK spelling of 'colour')


No comments:

Post a Comment