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' do not get slagged off like Alternative and other similar publishers do for releasing budget-type games at full-price, because they do not 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 is called Dennis.
Dennis is licensed 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 it's only been on TV over here for about two years, tops (and it is 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 is not in this game (indeed, he has 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 is 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 are both called Dennis does not mean you can get away with saying they are the same thing and not expecting anyone to notice. It is insulting.
Well, that's got off my chest. Now to start getting annoyed about the game. Which is not 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 is 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.
It's just a bare faced Stalinist lie
They do not come after you or anything, but in case you are 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 will still have about 14 by the time you are halfway through the stage.
The manual also claims that you can make things trickier by choosing from 'Hard' or 'Easy' settings, but that is another lie), you can always waste it from a safe distance with a couple of shots from one of your pathetic ploppy weapons. It will come back as soon as you scroll its start position off the screen, of course (of course), but you will be long gone by then, and never coming back.
The first level is also where you will find Mr Wilson, Dennis bête 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 a chase'. Oh dear. Let us 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 are there until he turns round, at which point he will chase you as far as the door of the room, although then he gets bored and turns back round and walks off'.
The most dismal thing I've seen in quite a long time
Great, eh? The only reason you would 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 will have stumbled across all the necessary collectables and reached the next stage - the Park level. This is actually quite a lot worse than the house stage, because it all looks exactly the same and it has got deadly holes in the floor which do not look like deadly holes in the floor (although, of course - of course - some of them are not deadly holes in the floor and are actually secret bonus rooms, though there is no way of telling the difference), but suffer it bravely because the next level is more of the exact same. As is the next one.
After that you get the most insultingly easily end-of-level boss I think I have ever met, and then it is 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.