Retro Rated: Rick Dangerous

Factfile
Developed by: Core Design
Released: 1989
Format played: Amiga

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Ruminations

Oh Rick, you devious scoundrel.

In more than one review I have referenced ‘Rick Dangerous style’ gameplay, a comment not intended as a compliment. But what does it mean? Who is this Rick guy and why is he so Dangerous?

Developed by British software house Core Design, Rick Dangerous was a shameless rip-off of Indiana Jones as the player took control of a hardy adventurer, plundering ancient tombs and escaping dubious stereotypes.

Viewed side-one, Rick can jump, crawl and climb his way around his environment. If things take a turn for the violent, he whips out his pistol to give the hostiles a dose of hot lead whilst pesky obstacles can be blasted out of the way with a stick of dynamite.

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Second Impressions

Graphically it is attractive if a little simple. Rick himself is a rather dumpy little guy but he kinda looks the part in his Indy-style outfit. Levels capture that ancient civilisation vibe nicely with the first stage’s rickety platforms, rope ladders and crumbling masonry aplenty. The angry tribe you spend your time escaping from are in questionable taste to 2016 eyeballs and lack somewhat for diversity.

Sound is functional throughout. A catchy little piece plays over the title screen and whilst there is no musical accompaniment to the levels, they are far from silent. Rick’s stomping footsteps accompany you round each locale, pistol shots ricochet off the walls and dynamite explosions leave the ears ringing. Death screams meanwhile are on shared duty; when either Rick or an enemy come a cropper, they all emit the same comedy ‘waarrgh’ noise before leaping off the screen.

There are four levels in total as you venture through ancient caves, Egyptian pyramids, a Nazi stronghold and eventually back home to Blighty.

It all sounds rather pleasant doesn’t it? Like Uncharted for the 16-bit crowd, perhaps. Alas there is a cruel underbelly to this pleasant veneer.

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Gameplay

Let’s take a walk through the first level. You start off at the top of the screen with only one way to go, right. As soon as you start moving, a dirty great boulder follows you, the first of many nods to Spielberg’s whip cracking hero. Sprinting your way along the path you soon run out of floor and have no choice but to drop into the void, finding safe ground. Don’t stop though because the boulder is still on your tail so off you go, to the left now, running across the screen until you get to another drop that you can’t see the bottom of. As before you take the plunge, only to land on a tribe member and die.

You restart, cursing you luck and repeat the sequence, this time avoiding the tribesman and making it to the next screen. Here you crawl through the tunnels until you find a patrolling tribesman and a rather fetching looking shield to be plundered. You drop and give the tribesman a belly full of lead then jump up to grab the shield. The moment you do, a deadly dart whistles out of a statue in the wall you hadn’t noticed before and you promptly breathe your last and it’s back a screen you go.

This time you avoid the deadly dart and head down the ladder to the platform below. More of the tribe await but they are easily dispatched and you soon get into a rhythm of descending ladders and hopping platforms. Another drop presents itself and you confidently step off the ledge…only to land on a set of spikes that you couldn’t see from the platform above. Back you go for another try.

And on it goes. Spikes that spring out of the wall with no warning! Leaps of faith down to areas that you cannot see and therefore cannot hope to skillfully navigate! traps hidden within the scenery so that you miss them until Rick is impaled!

You start with six lives which seems excessive at the outset but you’ll soon come to realise why they are so many. This is less a test of skill and more a sadistic memory test. Play a bit, die, remember the trap, play it again, get a bit further, die, remember the new trap, play it again, get a bit further. Play. Die. Try again. Repeat. It’s the gaming equivalent of that ‘mate’ who gets you pretend to smash an egg all over your face when they are actually hard boiled but then puts a raw one in the box ‘just for a laugh’ and takes great delight in watching the gooey mess dribble down onto your £100 Nike’s.

There are things to like about the game. Despite being incredibly frustrating it is still strangely addictive and keeps sucking you back in for one more go. And it’s certainly a challenge (there is a reason all these screenshots are from the first level). But it’s not long before your window has a suspiciously joystick sized hole through the middle of it, your keyboard lies in pieces and you sit rocking quietly in the corner clutching the smoking pieces of your monitor as you weep silent tears of bitter regret.

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Core Blimey

Not content with spreading it’s devious tentacles onto the various home systems of the time, a sequel would follow a year later, transporting our hero into an intergalactic battle with invading alien nasties, for some reason.

Core Design themselves were of course a prolific developer on the Amiga scene, their extensive back catalogue including titles as diverse as Heimdall, Chuck Rock, Jaguar XJ220, Curse of Enchancia and many others.

Perhaps most famously of all though, Core would revisit the ancient tomb motif of Rick’s first adventure for their most successful game series, the generation defining Tomb Raider.

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Bottom Line

My eight year old self would tell you that this an inventive, challenging platform game with great looks, great sound and gameplay that keeps you coming back for more.

My thirty s(*ahem*) year old self will tell you that this is one of the most spiteful, hate-filled, cheap-shot taking frustratathons that you could ever have the misfortune to play.

As ever, the truth lies somewhere in between and your own battle of tolerance versus nostalgia will determine where on that gradient you fall. Like a Bombay Bad Boy flavour Pot Noodle, I enjoyed it but I felt a little dirty afterwards.

Play it by all means but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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