Having covered a ’90s indie title for my last article I thought we’d head even closer to the present this time with a much more current homage to Jet Set Willy and its ilk. Daves Day Out (yes, I know it’s missing an apostrophe but that’s how it’s spelled in-game) is a freeware title released this decade (exactly when I’m not sure, there doesn’t seem to be any copyright message in the game) for Windows-based PCs. It describes itself as a tribute to classic platformers such as Jet Set Willy and the Monty Mole games and, like a lot of recent tribute titles, tries hard to recreate the look and feel of the era.
The title screen consists of the name of the game in huge, blocky, letters and a few scraps of information about gameplay. Starting the game, you are confronted with a deliberately primitive-looking graphical display. Dave, the monsters and the backgrounds are all drawn in a blocky Spectrum-esque way with only the status panels and text being high resolution. It’s only the movement of the characters that gives the game away visually – everything is very fast and smooth and there’s an excellent use of particles when an object is collected or when Dave collides with a nasty. The monsters themselves are a competently-designed but not especially inspiring bunch; according to the instructions they have names like “Mad Chad” but I’ve no idea who is who, they’re all “Chunky the Bucket-thingy” and “Ronald Rollerskate” as far as I’m concerned.
Sound is a mixture of the old and new. Whilst the (sparse) in-game effects sound quite 8-bit there is a tune constantly playing on loop in the background which has a distinctively modern feel being a sample-based bit of electronica. Whilst this tune isn’t too bad I’m not sure it fits the game all that well (it sounds like it belongs in something a bit more aggressive and fast-moving) and it can’t be turned off which is never, ever a good thing in games. So a big boooo to that, basically.
Gameplay itself is pretty good. Starting in Dave’s flat, the player must collect as many flashing objects as possible from around various British towns and cities. The rooms all consist of a mixture of platforms and ladders and have been quite deviously designed with some of the objects requiring a little thought to collect and since Dave only has five lives and there are 400 objects to collect, skill at avoiding the nasties is crucial. Once Dave ventures out of his flat the towns also have rooms based around real-life locations which is a nice touch and adds a feeling of exploration. Dave also travels to the towns via a train link meaning he can choose to visit the towns in any order; this creates a non-linear and open feel to the gameplay which deserves a big yay. The only real downer in gameplay terms is that, depite being a recent game, there’s no joypad support. The excellent JoyToKey utility can deal with this, thankfully, but it’s still a major omission and so also gets a big boooo. There’s also a disappointing lack of a highscore table with the programmers instead opting for a rating based on how many objects you collected; better than nothing but an inadequate replacement.
Despite the problems I mention above, Daves Day Out is still a pretty-good, if tough, retro-styled platformer and it has enough little features of its own to be worth recommending in its own right. It’s just a shame the programmers couldn’t have added a few features whose absence is much-missed.
This game is freeware and it can be downloaded from this site here