Diamond Dan: review

  • Format: PC (version reviewed), Mac
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Grendel Games
  • Developer: Grendel Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site: www.diamond-dan.com

The concept of Diamond Dan is a bit like something from a disturbing fever dream. The easiest way to describe it from first impressions is Indiana Jones trapped in a murderous game of Tetris. The goal is simple; get from the top of the shape shifting block tower to the bottom, avoiding traps and not getting crushed by the random lottery the shifting world provides. Simple, but bloody maddening.

The game appears easy enough. You start off as Dan navigating an Aztec temple, dodging the odd trapdoor and attempting to grab the map at the bottom of the tower before dashing for the exit. Get through a couple of levels and you unlock the second playable character, Ann. At this point we imagine most players will leave Dan to the cold mercy of eternity on the character select screen.

The problem is, whilst Dan can double jump and move blocks that have free space behind them, Ann has an axe that can eviscerate the concrete menace in an instant. It makes the lady tomb raider infinitely more useful than the titular Dan, whose only saving grace is that he can occasionally double jump out of trouble.

No need to worry about cascading water, just don't get trapped in the tank

Speaking of trouble, you’re in for a rollercoaster of frustration and desk chewing anxiety. There are five or so trap types that spring when you are within one square length of the dangerous side. They’re easy to spot, but can be so numerous that you’ll run through two or three of them only to get snagged by a subtly placed death block in your respite area. To top it off the blocks like to randomly shift around, often crushing you or raising a trap to your height at exactly the wrong time. This really is a masochist’s game.

Bizarrely, mid-level checkpoints are only introduced halfway through the game on level ten and seem like a real blessing until a few levels later, when you even start dying a lot between those.

The level of challenge – even on the normal difficulty – feels immense, but that is part of the charm of this game. Apart from getting from the top to the bottom, the game is also point driven, with various bits of treasure vomited out of wall sections along the way. Couple this with the globally tracked leaderboard and you have a definitive way amongst your mates to prove who the best at platform games is.

The game even acknowledges that it’s hard, with several achievements reserved for your many bitter demises. It’s hard enough just to finish a level, let alone go for all the random treasure littered about the place.

Coin showers - good, but lacking refreshment and hygiene benefits

This is one drawback to the game. There is so much emphasis on surviving the trap riddled gauntlet; it doesn’t seem like a practical point scoring adventure. If you really want to show off how much time you have on your hands then pushing your mates off the leaderboard is quite funny, especially if they are driven enough to try and reclaim glory. For the weak at heart though, one play through might be enough to swear them off of the experience for good.

Diamond Dan is a hardcore game in casual clothing. Even though it is more frustrating at times than attempting needle work with your toes or biting the inside of your cheek, it is strangely compelling to play. If you’re looking for a platformer to stretch your patience, smarts and reaction time, then this’ll hit the spot nicely. In terms of length it doesn’t outstay its welcome and has plenty of replayability with the persistent leaderboard.

Fancy winning yourself a copy? Check out our competition for more details.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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