Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Rick Dangerous (Atari ST)

Rick Dangerous grinning on the Atari ST title screen with his hat, lit dynamite and a smoking revolver
Rick Dangerous has a reputation for being a total bastard of a game, but is it really so bad? Well I've played it before so I already know that it is, but let's pretend for 10 minutes that I don't know as I take a quick look at Core Design's very first tomb raiding game. Well actually their first game ever, released way back in 1989.

South America, 1945. Indiana Jones (here known as Rick Dangerous for some reason) has crashed his plane over the Amazon while searching for a lost tribe. But by a terrible twist of fate... he finds them! And they hate him.

I'm not sure what plan A was meant to be here, but seeing as all he's carrying is six bullets and six sticks of dynamite, I imagine things were going to go bad even if he hadn't crashed.

Rick you idiot, don't run into their temple! That's like hiding out from the cops inside a police station. Plus for all you know there's only one exit and you've just got yourself cornered in there. Also, boulder traps.

The music here is like the piano soundtrack to a silent movie, as if to say 'no, we're not ripping off Indiana Jones, we're paying homage to the 1930's serials Indiana Jones ripped off!' A bit out of place for a story set in 1945 though isn't it, considering that's over 15 years after the introduction of 'talkie' movies.

DOS
By the way you do have a bit of a head start in front of the boulder, so you don't have to stay THAT far ahead of it. Though if you don't, you might get instantly killed by falling onto the enemy instead. You'd think that in a high-speed collision between their head and Rick's boots, a Goolu tribesman would come out of it worse, but nope.

Rick Dangerous came out in the era when PCs were still lagging behind machines like the Atari ST and Amiga, so the DOS version isn't the best looking version of the game. Still, the gameplay seems identical. Pity you have to control it with the OKZX keys though, as it's a bit awkward.

These Goolus aren't the brightest enemies, they just tend to pace back and forth on their platforms, completely oblivious to me. There's no time limit so I thought I'd wait here and observe, trying to pick the right moment to make a run for either the ladder, or that treasure up there.

And then poor Rick was instantly killed when the guy came back over and walked too close to where he's standing right now. You can't even get close to these assholes.

I restarted on the same screen and decided to get rid of him first this time, with a swift pole to the gut. It was enough to stun him for a moment, but it turns out that a moment isn't a very long time, and so I lost another Ricky D.

Doing good here I think, I've lost two lives to the second enemy in the game.

This time I made it to the ladder! Then the enemy turned around and stepped on Rick's hat and instantly killed him.

Rick Dangerous high score name entry screen
'CONGRATULATIONS! You didn't make it past the second enemy in the game!' Turns out that there's no continues in this, so it's six mistakes and then you're out.

Oh by the way, Rick Dangerous came out on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, PC, and ZX Spectrum. And one thing those systems have in common... is that they all have a keyboard. So why the fuck can't I just type in my name here?


LATER, AFTER REPLAYING EVERYTHING FROM THE START OF THE GAME AGAIN.


Right, this time I'm doing much better. This is actually only one screen below the last one but at least I'm making progress, and I've even held onto a few spare Ricks this time. It turns out shooting enemies gets rid of them more permanently, though now I have only three bullets left.

Those faces on the wall spit out darts when I'm standing in a particular place so I need to be careful how I make this next jump or else I'll get one in the back of his head.

And then the screen scrolls down to reveal spikes directly underneath where I fell from the platform. Back to the last checkpoint again then.

You know, Rick actually controls pretty well, with fast, precise movement, and I can even steer him in the air. But none of that matters right now because there is no possible way to avoid these spikes once you're falling. You're given a choice here to jump or fall, so there's a 50/50 chance of losing a life through no fault of your own first time around.


A LITTLE BIT FURTHER ON.


Okay, getting past those enemies again cost me all my lives, but I've finally made it to the next screen down. Now I've got another choice to make. Do I go down the first drop with the spikes along the wall, or do I take the slightly trickier path on the right seeing as I've already jumped across?

Time to flip a coin, then take a leap and see whether I'm gonna have to replay the game from the start again through no fault of my own!

I chose... poorly. Instant spiky death out of nowhere. GAME OVER.


LATER.


Oh thank fuck! I was sure that black patch of ground was going to kill him. Also I got a checkpoint on the way in and there's a free box of ammo sitting over there! Why the natives are stockpiling weapons and yet not using them against me has not yet been explained.

Well there's no mystery about the right way out of this room, there's only one tunnel this time.

For fuck's sake...

It seems I was meant to pull left on the way down to avoid the spikes at the bottom. Well, at least there's a checkpoint up there, so I don't have much to replay.


HALF A SCREEN LATER.


THIS LEDGE IS NOT FOR YOU.

Haha, double kill! That'll teach them for guarding their own temple. Though it really is their own fault for chasing me in here. Also there's no room for hesitation or mercy here, these guys are absolutely deadly.

I mean I've lost like 15,000 lives to spikes so far getting down to this room, but these two come down here every day. They must be tough as nails! Though not as tough as bullets it turns out.

These dart-firing heads on the wall are tricky. It's impossible to tell exactly what's going to set them off. Sometimes they're just decoration and are perfectly safe, but I think I'll keep my head down here just in case.

SLIDING BLOCK OUT OF NOWHERE!

Yeah it turns out that it was a CUNNING TRICK, and I was actually supposed to run to the center of the room in time to jump over the moving block as it flew by. The fake dart spitter was just put there to set me up for a brick to the face.

Right, it turns out I have to run to the center of the room and jump over the block. Then jump over it again, and use it as a ledge to get up here, which then turns these spikes off. Running over where the spikes used to be triggers an invisible switch which turns the spikes on the right off, and then I have to run over the now deactivated spikes to get back on the block and use it as a ledge to crawl through the gap before it slides into the wall. Simple!


LATER.


Hmm, it seems that these guys are a bit smarter than the average enemy, and are able to give chase. Fortunately they still haven't mastered the art of climbing ladders. Or 'not walking into spikes like a lemming' either. You know, I'm starting to think these are actually the dumb ones.

Look at this jump though. Even when the game's playing fair, it can't resist throwing in one mean trick. In this case they've put in a low ceiling, so I'll crack my head on it and fall into the spikes below if I jump too soon. 

It's a relief to see that the designers aren't getting too creative with their asshole moves quite yet. Even I could predict that blowing up that perfectly normal looking block up there with dynamite placed on the right side would actually send it flying towards me.

Well I had to leap from the tiniest platform in videogame history, but I actually made it over the spikes! Please be a checkpoint...

Oh wait, I've only got the one life left now so it really doesn't matter. I've just got to make sure not to get Rick killed.

They'd put an enemy walking towards me at the start of the next room. I had a split second to react, but I couldn't remember that up+action fires the pistol in time. That was game over #8 in case you were curious.

Amiga
Here's what the Amiga version looks like by the way. Honestly, I really can't tell the Atari and Amiga versions apart. Maybe the sound's a bit different, but that's about all I noticed. They even scroll the same. It seems that no matter what Rick you play, you're getting the same game.

I made a hilarious mistake here by the way. I thought I was being a smart arse, crawling under the darts like this. But I didn't realise that Rick automatically stands up before he can drop off the edge...

I haven't got the faintest clue how I was supposed to make it past that dart face. I tried everything, jumping across to the block, trying to sneak across on those half-invisible handholds... though in retrospect I suppose I could have tried just timing it right.

But that's it, I give up. I just don't have the patience or willpower left to replay the entire game up to this point, again. (Even though it was probably only a quarter hour of gameplay).

Rick Dangerous Eygpt
Commodore 64
But fortunately for me, level one on 8-bit verions ends far sooner, around the room where you have to jump over and onto the sliding block. So on the C64 version I'm actually able to see what level two looks like!

So far it looks like bad puns.

Commodore 64
The moving blocks have a different colour on this version, so there's no guesswork to what needs to get blown up. Though to be honest I probably could have figured this one was a moving block by the way it nearly crushed me as I was climbing up from that other ladder on the right.

But I'm on to them again. I just noticed that this ladder's a literal dead end as it leads to a spike. I'm actually meant to go back to the other ladder and jump on the fallen block to get up.

Shame I didn't notice 5 seconds earlier though, as I could have actually made it up there without being hit by the block as it suddenly started moving again.

Commodore 64
Yeah... I can't figure out how to get past this brick so I'm just going to put some dynamite around and maybe blow myself up. Or just quit.


Rick Dangerous actually reminds me of something like Guitar Hero, in that basically it's a test of memory as much as anything else. You start the level with six 'get out of hidden death-trap free' cards. and the goal is to find and memorise as many safe routes as you can before your inevitable failure, without wasting lives on the avoidable enemies. And you know what... it almost works, on the same level as something like I Wanna Be The Guy. If you go into it expecting the game to be an asshole to you every step of the way and you're in on the joke, then it's actually not that bad a game. Mostly because they nailed Rick's movement, so by the point you know what you're doing, you're given enough control to pull it off.

But it doesn't work for me, and the main reason is that it doesn't have infinite retries. That's the magic ingredient that makes I Wanna Be the Guy and Super Meat Boy halfway bearable for me. I don't necessarily mind having to retry reasonably sized sections of a game, even if it's a bastard of a game, but when I'm wasting an hour dodging the same damn enemies over and over to get to the bits I haven't failed at yet, just because I ran out of lives, well it gets really old. Personally I don't give a shit about mastering a game and honing my skills so I can make a perfect run, I just want to get a level over with and move on. So now that's over with, I can move on.

But you can play what sounds like a remake of the Atari version yourself for free online right now at http://rickdangerousflash.free.fr. It even comes with an infinite lives option, for players that don't hate themselves!


As always if you've got an opinion on the game or all those words I just typed, or just the site in general, you can leave a comment below.

3 comments:

  1. That was one of the first games I ever played, on the glorious Amiga. I could do that first stage with my eyes closed now, that's how much I played it.
    I think I got to the last stage, or one to last, in the pseudo-nazis' base, where I got lost, not knowing how to progress.
    I still love the game.

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  2. Did you know there is a Rick Dangerous2

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    Replies
    1. I did know that, but I like to pretend that I don't.

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