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D.N.A. Dilemma

Author: Jim Waterman (website) Machine Type: Spectrum 16K
Submitted on: 4th of April, 2020 Download or play online

Jim Waterman sends us this entry, which, contrary to the action-packed biological thriller promised by the title, is a bog-standard sliding puzzle game. D.N.A. Dilemma casts you in the role of a researcher at a genetics laboratory, who, after having missed an opportunity to not wrap the lines of the text, must reassemble their work which has been knocked over by a clumsy colleague. This game is a short preview for Jim’s big 128k program, Corona Capers, which will be reviewed on this site very shortly. This sliding puzzle mini-game was originally part of that game, but was rejected for being too crap (huh?), so it was released separately because, as the author puts it so gently, “I HATE WASTE”.

The game itself is how you would expect – it’s a sliding puzzle game. I’ve always found these frustrating, as I just find myself aimlessly shifting the blocks around, hoping for a good outcome. However, in the interest of fairness, I was going to see this game from start to finish, so I looked up the technique. The trick is to solve from the outside-in, so as to gradually reduce the size of the unsolved portion of the grid. I found myself actually trying to enjoy the game, and indeed I would have, if it weren’t so slow. By hooking a machine code routine into the BASIC listing to profile it, I found that each move takes about 66 frames (1.32 seconds) to execute! It might not sound like much, but trust me, it gets more painful the longer you play.

The graphics aren’t too spectacular, being almost entirely made up of text characters, but they’re sufficient for the game, if a bit boring. The sound is also quite spartan, but at least it is used sensibly, instead of being written to deafen us with high-pitched squeals.

So, we just shift these blocks around, trying to match the pattern on the left whilst wondering how long we have left before the game is finally over. When we do succeed, we have our hopes dashed yet again, as we are informed that our prize (75p and a packet of Rolos) has been withheld. But don’t worry, as we have the option of having another go in order to improve our score! Sigh…

All in all, D.N.A. Dilemma is an excellently rubbish game, with a unique quality that I haven’t observed in any of the other entries so far – it makes you feel genuinely disappointed in yourself for having the gusto to play it. Not many other games can aspire to such soul-crushing heights, so brilliant (i.e. bad) work, Jim!


Graphics Sound Gameplay Innovation TOTAL
30% 31% 25% 16% 26%