The Game Gear Directory: (Dr-Dy)

Roguelikes get a look-in on the baby Sega

Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (1993)

A fabulous port of a fabulous game, this version of Puyo Puyo may be decked out with Sonic accoutrements but it is an extremely pure experience, the pared-down visuals perfect for Game Gear. It's so simple and the graphics are so easy to read that this may be comfortably my favourite game in the entire series. You've got all your modes here - Scenario (vs CPU), Exercise (Endless) and Puzzle, not to mention Gear-to-Gear multiplayer. It certainly isn't flashy, but it's brilliant fun. The "Scenario" mode is shockingly challenging even from stage one, but you get a password after every victory to make things far less arduous. This is an absolute belter of a cart and exactly the kind of thing the Game Gear feels made to play. Top tier! *****

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1994)

Ah, this is a frustrating one! See, a lot of people would definitely write this off as horrible thanks to fairly stiff controls, but I think it's alright - taking control of the Brucemeister himself, you make your way through levels based on the totally forgotten film, kicking the shit out of all sorts of big lads. It's fitfully fun, with a strange control system that sees you holding Button 2 and pressing the D-Pad to execute different moves, of which there aren't many. Pressing both buttons together performs a flying kick, which is probably your best line of offence. The enemy placement is quite clever and the level of challenge is quite compelling, but the major issue here is how samey it all is. There are multiple different worlds, yes, but they all feel pretty much identical, and three acts per world makes the game feel stretched out. The complete lack of in-game music also adds to the tedium; I can't even begin to fathom why there isn't any. It's a shame, because this could have been a lot better. **

Dragon Crystal (1990)

This is an arduous little roguelike, the sort of game that's ten-a-penny these days but may have seemed quite novel at the time of its release, along with the Mega Drive's Sword of Vermillion. Roguelikes, of course, kick ass, so I immediately found myself having fun with this game. When it wasn't brutally stomping me into the ground, that is. My first run ended in a starvation disaster as I was completely unable to find the single hidden square that housed the exit, but after that things improved. The game is far from afraid to spawn you among a cluster of stun-locking enemies, which is exciting if you manage to get out but deeply frustrating if not. Being "fair" does not seem to be in Dragon Crystal's repertoire, but the simple controls and compelling randomness of it all stand out to me. Is it actually a good game? Probably not, honestly. Did I like it enough to give it four stars? Well, let's find out. ****

Dropzone (1994)

And here's the late Archer Maclean with his non-Snooker experience, Dropzone. Now, I really want to be nice to Dropzone because of my affection towards Maclean's work, but I can't. On Game Gear, it's almost intolerable. Bullets are absolutely miniscule, your own lasers are so unreliable they're barely worth firing, and the game has a nasty habit of spawning enemies directly on top of you, instantly ending your run. It's a shame, because this shameless biting of Defender's style could have been quite an enjoyable time; it's just not a great fit for Game Gear. Fitting both the HUD map and the game area into a screen this small, and choosing to utilise a player character sprite as big as they have? Sadly, it just doesn't work in the slightest. *

Dynamite Headdy (1994)

It's the Mega Drive classic, but cut to ribbons, essentially. It is quite impressive just how much stuff from the original game has been crammed into this little baby version, but there's no reason to play it if you have access to the real thing. It's also probably worth noting that this was the first game in the Directory to date that made my hands hurt to play it, so reliant it was on awkward mid-air diagonal attacks and unusual movements. If you're a big fan of Headdy this is certainly worth experiencing to witness a classic game in such a bizarre form, but overall it's a very middling sort of thing and I find it difficult to get enthused about it; sloppy, slap-dash and totally unnecessary. **

(Next time: E)