Saturday, 22 February 2014

Retro Review - Captain Dynamo (Amiga)


Budget Platform Action

Featuring possibly one of the least appealing protagonists I have seen (ranking up there with Lester The Unlikely), Captain Dynamo is another platform game offering from budget supremos, Codemasters - responsible for popular titles such as CJ Elephant Antics, Bignose The Caveman, and the Dizzy series. Released on a range of home micros in 1992, Captain Dynamo was a late starter for the 8-bit systems, who were now reaching the end of their long lifespans (sob). While the ZX Spectrum & CPC versions look very similar, aside from changes to the colour palette, the C64 appears significantly different, with a surprisingly drab and washed out look. It also features vastly tweaked level layouts, including one of the most irritating first screens ever to grace a videogame. One to avoid then, but how does Commodore's 16-bit machine fare?



Well, as one would expect, the visuals are infinitely superior, with large, bold sprites, and colourful and detailed environments to navigate. The visuals possess that classic 'Amiga' look, and are brimming with 16-bit retro charm. Thankfully, the hero doesn't resemble the horrific overweight old man on the cover of the box, instead looking more like SNES hero Plok in a suit of home made armour. Accompanying the action is a fairly bland tune that plays throughout, and never stops. There are also no sound effects whatsoever - something that, unfortunately, plagued many Amiga titles - killing off a lot of the atmosphere.


The platforming action on offer is of your standard, no-frills variety. All that's required of you is jumping up the vertically scrolling, single-screen wide, stages, hopping over hazards, jumping on the heads of the assortment of cute critters and collecting optional treasure items for points. That really is all there is to it. Pretty shallow stuff, I'm sure you will agree, but this doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing if the game is enjoyable (see Rainbow Islands for a perfect example). Captain Dynamo skirts dangerously near to 'fun' - there is some enjoyment to be had from hopping over spikes, bouncing off spring pads, ducking saw blades, avoiding electricity beams, and nabbing as many gems and coins as you can. Unfortunately, there are several major problems. Firstly, speed. Captain Dynamo clearly enjoys his pies, and waddles along with all the speed of an elephant on Valium. It turns what could have been an exciting vertical romp into a rather plodding and tedious affair, and it soon gets tiresome. Worse still, the levels are littered with annoying instant death traps that have extremely erratic movement patterns, as well as spikes placed above spring pads that you only see once you are hurling upwards towards them. This makes Captain Dynamo a fairly punishing game based on trial and error. It's also incredibly short, with only 7 stages to complete, but with only a small amount of lives to finish the game and no continues or passwords, it will take you a good while to beat it. I'm just not sure many gamers would be bothered to stick at it long enough to do so.


If it had been injected with a bit of energy - maybe offering the same nimble jumping and faster walking pace seen in games like Rick Dangerous - and had sound effects and more music, then I would have been able to recommend Captain Dynamo for a quick burst of platforming action. But as it stands, it is simply far too generic and irritating to bother with, so stick to one of the many superior Amiga platformers available.









Title : Captain Dynamo
Developer : Codemasters
Year : 1992
System : Amiga
Also on : C64, ZX Spectrum, CPC