Retail Price: £9.95 cassette, £14.95 disk
Author: Major Developments
The revolutionary 3-D graphics technique, Freescape, made its debut late last year in Driller, where an emergency mining operation was carried out in order to save Evath's distant moon, Mitral, from a Ketar-engineered explosion.
It's taken the Ketars 200 years to plan their revenge. This time they've constructed a giant crystal weapon, known as Zephyr One, on Evath's other moon, Tricuspid. Intended to harness the sun's energy and direct it at Evath, the huge crystal is linked to a network of energy collection devices (EGOs). If the EGOs are allowed to reach maximum power, Zephyr One fires and, with no chance to retaliate, your planet explodes.
The mission - to shoot and disable the EGOs- is highly confidential. You are dropped inconspicuously into a safe zone on the moon's surface with the minimum of equipment: space suit, jet-pack, quad lazers, a shield and a small supply of fuel.
Tricuspid has 18 sectors including the dark and light sides of the moon. In each, the 3-D landscape is observed through the viewing panel of the space suit. Buildings, trees, walls and walkways stand out from the regular surface of the moon. You can look up or down, rotate to view objects from any angle and tilt to the right or left.
Tricuspid is a moon of many secrets: strange symbols mark its buildings, tunnels are hidden beneath the ground and a range of places can only be accessed by deciphering a series of puzzles. The EGO network itself needs to be tackled strategically; a column linked to two other active EGOs regenerates immediately when it is shot, so only ECDs with a single working connection can be disabled permanently.
Powerporters (suspended slabs) provide instant teleportation. Restricted areas can only be accessed via a telepod, but for security purposes, essential telepod crystals have been hidden in various places around the moon.
Ketar defences click into action as you approach. Detector devices teleport intruders into prison while plexors break down your shields as soon as you come within range. However, dwindling power supplies can be boosted by walking into fuel rods or shield pentagons.
Allow your energy to run down, fall into the grip of the plexors or fail to complete the task in time, and Evath's fate is sealed. Persevere long enough to reach the final EGO on the moon's dark side, though, and your distant homeland might just survive...
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: super techniques and pixel accurate drawings make Freescape the leading graphics generation system currently being used
Sound: atmospheric spot effects, but no tunes
Options: Load/Save game
The impossible has been done! Incentive have taken the best game of 1987, improved on it, and made it one of the best games of 1988! There was no doubting the excellence of Freescape - the graphics generation technique used in Driller - but some criticised the lack of game content. This criticism could in no way be levelled at Dark Side; it's not just a fast action game (albeit only 5% faster than its predecessor) requiring accuracy and coordination but also a very strong strategy game - cartographers will love it! My favourite feature of Dark Side is the way you can enter a screen, turn on your jet-pack and zoom up to a great height, then look down on the screen you're about to encounter and plan your strategy. This and Cybernoid must reign among the best games of the year so far. When Dark Side came in for review I played it solid for almost a day, and I can't say that about many games nowadays!
Following the considerable success of Driller, the Freescape technique has once again been used to incredible effect in Dark Side (hopefully, though Incentive's next enterprise will use Freescape in a different fashion; it's such a brilliant system, I would hate for each successive game to become 'just another Driller variant'). Dark Side is an extremely captivating game, and after playing for only a short while it's possible to become totally absorbed in the proceedings. For the player, the world of Tricuspid really exists: movement within the alien environment is smooth and utterly believable, and the mission is all the more absorbing because of it. The urge to explore is incredibly strong. In fact, this high level of addiction proves to be the game's greatest drawback: cracking it won't take long, simply because you cannot drag yourself away! The useful save game feature is also a major conspirator to the game's short life-span. Either way, the experience is well worth the cost. If you want to lose yourself for a couple of days, see the light: buy Dark Side.
Dark Side is one of the best presents you could give yourself if you've just finished your exams. But don't buy it before - you won't get any revision done! The depth and complexity of the Freescape environment is bound to keep you glued to your screen. Hardly anything is as straightforward as it looks; there's always the chance of discovering a hidden tunnel or an unknown passageway. The 3-D gives you a strong sense of really 'being there': you can wander around, exploring buildings, searching passageways and fathoming the use of unknown objects to your heart's content. You alone determine the exact route around the vast and hostile moon. The numerous puzzles draw on the best elements of strategy, arcade action and adventure and can get quite tough but there's nothing like the pleasure of solving a problem that's had you stumped for several hours. If you've played Driller you won't be able to resist. If you haven't, rush out and make up for what you've missed.
If you were thrilled with Incentive's first 3D Freescape game Driller, you'll go potty over the new release, The Dark Side. Phil South dons his space suit and jet pack and checks out its added dimensions.
Many hundreds of years after Evath was saved from destruction by the imminent explosion of its nearby moon, Mitral, a new threat emerges from its leaden skies. Evath's other moon, Tricuspid, has been hijacked by the Ketars (Oo, painful. Ed) and equipped with a mega destructive laser device, called Zephyr One. With this fearsome weapon, the Ketars intend to destroy Evath, but the device must first be energised with enough power to destroy the planet. To collect the power necessary to destroy an entire planet, ECD towers (Energy Collection Device), have been built around the light side of the moon, with cables leading to the Zephyr One device on the dark side. The ECDs will take a certain amount of time to accumulate the energy, and so you have been sent by Evathkind to destroy the device before it turns Evath into a cloud of expanding gas.
You are a clandestine operative, trained to sneak and destroy. You have been dropped inconspicuously onto Tricuspid, and as is to be expected, you're armed with an Evath combat suit complete with jet pack and shoulder mounted quad laser weapon, which you can aim using the crosshair in heads-up display in your helmet. To prevent the destruction of your world, you must halt the collection of power to the Zephyr One by taking out all the ECDs on the surface of Tricuspid. And how do you take out an ECD tower? You have to find one in the network that's only connected by one cable and shoot the crystal on the top. If the ECD is connected by two cables, you see, then the crystal will have enough power to regenerate almost immediately, thus defeating the object of wasting your own energy shooting it in the first place. It's essential then, that you take out as many towers as you can quite early on in the game, as the speed with which the ECDs collect, depends on how many are still in operation. In this way the element of strategy and puzzles creeps into the game, as you search for the right ECDs to clobber, but in the right sequence and with a time limit. Phew! Enough for you to cope with? Good.
The Dark Side is very definitely a Freescape™ (and it really is trademarked, by the way), game, using the same brand of fast 3D graphics that brought gasps of surprise from everyone who played Driller last year. Although the views look similar to Driller, you view them through the Evath agent's helmet with all its displays, and this time the puzzles are even more fiendish, and the landscapes conceal even more secrets! it really is a game of many dimensions, and not just the three you get looking through your Evath agent's visor. either!
The gameplay is just as hard (if not a bit harder), as its forerunner. The first stage is mapping, getting to know the different planes of the moon's surface and filling in the squares in the plan view supplied with the package. Then, only once you have a decent map up and running, do you have the tools you need to plan an assault where you don't get killed. From then on it's up to you to look under and over objects, and shoot at everything to discover the right way to beat the Ketars. If you like your games hard, then The Dark Side is the only choice for you, bucko.
You like a big challenge. It isn't enough for you to climb one more ladder or zap one more alien. You need something big and chunky. You need Dark Side from Incentive. Driller, using the revolutionary Freescape 3-D graphics system, was generally regarded as technically fab, but short of variety in the gameplay. Dark Side, while using very much the same graphics, has much more pace, variety and action. The evil Ketars have constructed a giant projector weapon, Zephyr One, on the dark side of the moon Tricuspid (C'mon, that's a valve, isn't it? - GT). Aimed at the peaceful world of Evath, the weapon will wipe out all intelligent life (and people who watch Neighbours too) when it goes pop in a few minutes time.
Straws have been drawn, and you got the short one. You're dropped on Tricuspid, and your task is to destroy the Zephyr weapon. Because the moon is so big, you can't possibly get to it before it charges sufficiently to fire, so on the way you must knock out power collectors to delay the Big Bang.
The ECDs (Energy Collection Devices) contain floating crystals which convert solar energy. Knock 'em out to slow the rate of energy collection. The view from the helmet of your space suit shows the 3-D ECDs. teleport chambers, power points, Plexor guardian tanks, and, if you can reach it, Zephyr One. The major difference between Dark Side and Driller is that you now have the added thrill of a jetpack, with which you can whizz up into the air. Careful manoeuvring allows you to spot the Plexor tanks before they open fire on you. You can then press the space bar, so that instead of controlling your movement, you control the position of your gunsight on the screen Line up a Plexor's head, cut loose with the laser and watch as it collapses in a satisfying mound of rubble.
Using the diagram showing the structure of the moon's surface, you can make your way around destroying ECDs, hopping through teleporters and dodging Plexors. Don't run out of fuel while you're jetpacking, or its AAARGH SPLURG (as the message display puts it).
The most splendiferous thing is that you can go inside the many and various buildings, have a look around and pick up useful thingies like crystals which activate teleporters. Watch out though, some of the buildings are prison traps.
The screen is full of useful data readouts; score, number of ECDs active, your attitude (I mean which way you're pointing, not what you think about life), shield energy, fuel, angle, position, and direction towards Zephyr One. A small diagram of your little self shows whether your jet pack is active, your laser is firing and so on. The sound effects are OK, but there's no music at all. The backgrounds become more complex and fascinating as you progress through the areas, and although the Freescape effect isn't particularly fast or smooth, it's incredibly impressive considering it's on a Spectrum. Dark Side is a real goodie, and if Incentive's Freescape games continue to improve at this rate they'll soon come up with something absolutely awesome.
Author: Major Developments
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Incentive scheming in 3D.
Ultimate were the last software house to come up with a programming technique that took the games world by storm. Now Incentive are causing a similar ruckus with their Freescape system. It first made its appearance in Driller, and is now used for the sequel - which looks set to be an even more popular success.
The game is set 200 years after Driller and continues the battle between the Ketars and the Evaths. Your task is to destroy an energy grid which is powering up Zephyr One - a doomsday device aimed at your planet.
If you've seen Driller then you'll immediately recognise the stylish and distinctive Freescape system. It creates a 3-dimensional world which you can walk and fly into, over and under. Your freedom is considerably enhanced by being able to fly right from the start with the aid of a jet-pack. However, there isn't much fuel - so no joy-riding.
The view you're given is very versatile. You can look through a 180 degree are up and down, and also tilt the view. The movement capability is greatly enhanced by the jet-pack - which can go straight up and down - and the ability to crouch and crawl under things.
Interaction with the stippled landscape is conducted in one of two ways: either you can shoot things with your laser or walk into them. The latter can be a little dangerous because every time you walk into something you shouldn't it depletes your initially small shield supply. Both shield and fuel levels can be increased by walking into the right object.
Once you're familiar with the environment and your equipment, you can get down to the task in hand. It's more of an arcade game than Driller, although the puzzle emphasis is still strong. Destroying the energy grid is mostly a matter of exploration and mapping, with more and more puzzles introduced as you get deeper into the game.
The energy grid is a chain of towers linked by cables that run along the ground. The tower tops have to be shot to disable them. However, if two other working towers are linked to it the damaged tower will regenerate immediately. This is the crux of the game - finding the start of a chain of towers and wiping them all out. This isn't made easier by the fact that some towers are initially connected to up to five others.
It's easy to find a few towers early on that aren't in complicated, criss-crossing chains. This is important because the time limit depends on the number of towers operating. The more towers, the faster time runs out.
Naturally things aren't as easy as that because there are plenty of defences and puzzles to test your skills. The simplest are guns called Plexors which shoot when you get too near. They don't all behave the same though - watch out for reappearing ones and devious ways of getting rid of them. The puzzles mostly consist of working out ways to get inside buildings, and how to switch devices on and off. Rapid travel can be achieved using powerporters which teleport you from on spot to another. The telepod also teleports you, but to use it you have to find four crystals. Each crystal will take the telepod to a different place, and all four are needed to bring about a final victory. The first is easy to find - you'll encounter it by accident - out the other three are altogether much harder to get.
As in Driller, you have to watch out for the unexpected around every corner. There's a tunnel network which can get you into otherwise hard to get at locations. It's also used when getting out of the prison cell that the automatic defences can toss you into. You've also got to watch out for fatal drops when the jet-pack isn't on, and the killer satellites that appear above you and start blasting away at your shield.
There's a lot more urgency about the action than in the more sedate Driller. The time limit is a tough one and you've got to move fast early on if you're going to beat it. Having said that, it is easy to get into because although the first few games will end quickly, you'll still be finding out lots of interesting things in that time.
Its more absorbing than Driller, but probably easier to solve as well. You'll be completely enthralled by it until it's solved but after that there's nothing to come back for. At the reduced price this is even better value than the original. It looks like Freescape is going to be around for a lot more games.
Reviewer: Bob Wade
Ams, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Out Now
Spec, £9.95cs, £14.95dk Out Now
C64/128, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Imminent
ST and Amiga versions under development.
Predicted Interest Curve
1 min: 75/100
1 hour: 90/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 90/100
1 month: 70/100
1 year: 10/100
MACHINES: Spectrum/Amstrad/CBM 64
VERSION TESTED: Amstrad/Spectrum/CBM 64
Imagine an entire world in solid 3-D, through which you can wander freely. Imagine a terrifying threat, an implacable enemy, and a challenging mission. Imagine a series of baffling puzzles, and the heart-stopping excitement of trying to solve them under enemy attack. Imagine no more... Dark Side is here.
If you saw Incentive's first Freescape 3-D game, Driller, you'll know how the Major Developments team has brought solid graphics to a new high point. You can move around and into buildings and structures, view them from any angle, even take off and see them from above.
In Dark Side, the system is refined to on even greater degree, and the gameplay is pushed to amazing heights. It's the same old story: malevolent alien race (the Ketars) build giant weapon (Zephyr One) and threaten the home planet of the peace-loving goodies (the Evaths). Only one man can invade the moon of Tricuspid, knock out the Ketor weapon and save Evath. It's you, muggins.
The surface of Tricuspid is dotted with Ketar structures. Some serve no function, some can help you and some will attack you. Learning to recognise which is which becomes pretty crucial.
As you move through the 3-D landscape, your first aim is to locate ECDs - Energy Collection Devices. These solar energy units are feeding power into the Zephyr One weapon. Unless you disable them and slow down the charging rate, the weapon will fire and toast your home.
Many of the ECDs are hidden inside buildings, which you can only enter by locating doorways and shooting out the doors. This all takes energy, and of course you will snuff it if your power rating falls to zero. There are also more immediate ways of meeting a sticky end; Plexor defence tanks patrol the moon, and will open fire as soon as you are within range. Go into weapons mode, aim for the head and blow them away before they get you.
To knock out all the ECDs before the Zephyr One fires, you need to learn to use the map supplied, the location co-ordinates displayed on your instrument panel, and the teleporter pads, to cover the huge game area.
Your final weapon is your jet pack. Supplied with a limited amount of fuel, it allows you to soar over the landscape, spotting ECDs and taking out Plexors as you go. Energy convertor pods allow you to transfer fuel to your shield, and there are control keys to alter your orientation and make U-turns. You can also save a game part-way through.
If it isn't already clear from this really inadequate review, Dark Side is absolutely stunning.
The colourful interior scenes on the Amstrad and 64 versions, together with the impressive designs of the Ketar installations, make it a pleasure just to wander through the may zones of the moon. But in addition, the gameplay is absolutely absorbing.
Miss out on Dark Side and you might as well throw your micro out of the window.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Freescape makes its second appearance in the sequel to last year's blockbuster, Driller. The project has been masterminded by Driller's authors Major Developments and while the Freescape routine has been technically improved it runs just 5% faster than the Driller animation. The story tells of the continuing saga between the Ketars, a banished race, and their planned revenge on the people of Evath.
200 years have passed since Driller, and the Ketars have completed construction of Zephyr One, a powerful laser weapon. Situated on Evath's moon, Tricuspid, it is aimed straight at Evath intent on destruction. Zephyr One is gradually gaining power from a network of ECDs (Energy Collecting Devices.) Solar power is captured and stored in a crystal at the top of the tower-like apex of the ECDs. The energy - when at sufficient level - is to be sent along the power line matrix covering Tricuspid's surface to subsequently detonate Zephyr One.
Your objective is to patrol the 18 sectors of Tricuspid disabling the ECOs, and cutting the potential power supply from Zephyr One, achieved by shooting the collection crystal. However, if your target ECD is connected between two other active ECDs the shot crystal immediately regenerates. The whole planet is like an intricate Chinese puzzle.
As in Driller, each of the 18 sectors is viewed in first-person perspective and can be seen from any possible position. Dark Side offers the lonely adventurer no transport - it is mostly down to footwork with occasional help from your jet-backpack. The locations are displayed as if seen through a spacesuit visor - this also shows your instrument panel, useful for keeping tabs on direction whether you're standing, crawling or jet-packing and the amount of fuel and shield energy you have. Shields and fuel can be replenished by collecting power crystals. Other objects to be found on Tricuspid include the Tardis-like Telepod and Plexors - which appear as geometric tanks and act as Tricuspid's automatic defence system. However, most objects discovered are part of Dark Side's many puzzles.
HALF THE GAME
Disabling the ECD matrix is only half the game, there are a host of puzzles to deal with. Solving them is necessary if the game is to be completed: for example, discovering the entrance to the underground network of tunnels makes for easier exploration of Tricuspid.
Many of Driller's features have been incorporated; the adjustable step size, angle of vision, and the load/save facility.
To complete Dark Side, all the ECD crystals have to be destroyed (though not in any particular order.) Dark Side's game plan is more involved and demanding than that of its predecessor. Not so much addictive as engrossing, once you have broken into the game it becomes difficult to stop playing. The full potential of Freescape has been realised in Dark Side, whereas before step size and angle of vision were interesting, they now become essential parts of the game. Dark Side, quite simply, is top class and certainly the truest arcade adventure yet seen.
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