Before I go any further, let's make one thing clear. 3D Construction Kit isn't actually a game. It's a way of creating games. So don't expect me to go on about horizontal scrolling and the number of levels and whatever else, okay? Right.
3DCK (as I'll call it, even though it sounds a bit rude) uses a system called "Freescape", which anyone who's ever played Castle Master or Driller (or any of those other Incentive games) will know all about already. Quite simply, it's a way of creating a 3D world by building objects, then positioning them accordingly. For example, a house can be made up of a cube with a pyramid-shaped roof bunged on top. Chuck in a door (and windows if you want) and, voila, your very own bungalow! (Rather crap, I admit, but let's not run before we can walk, eh?)
In fact, it's all a bit like Lego. You start off with an area to build on, like those big Lego base-plates. This can be the inside of a building, a street, a universe - anything you want. Then you select a shape (a pyramid, say), and enlarge it in any direction, spin it round, stretch it or squash it. From the moment it (or any other object) is created it's given a number, so you can easily go back and change it later.You can also inspect your work from any angle, at any time, by simply walking or flying around the area it's in. You can add tiny bits of detail or get rid of things you don't want. In fact you can do pretty much anything at all, including saving and loading your areas (which is seriously useful). And you can have as many of these areas as you want, so it wouldn't be hard to invent an entire town, complete with the insides of every building. (It'd take an indefeasibly long time to do of course, but the option is there if you want to take it up).
Right, so it's all jolly good fun - but what exactly can you do with it? And this is where it gets seriously funky, Spec-chums - because you can actually write games with it! Blimey You see, as well as the 3D designing bits there's something called the Conditions Menu. This lets you access a special language in which you can control things, enter doors, pick up objects, display messages and so on, using a sort of customised BASIC. Take a simple routine like
IFHIT OBJECT 005 THEN VIS 005
for example. Here there's an invisible object (called 005 - could be big rectangle), which only becomes visible if it's walked into (giving the player a secret codeword or a key or something). It might sound a bit complicated, but there's a full list of commands in the manual and they all make some sort of sense. (It's certainly easy once you've got the idea.)
So, out of this simple language comes your 'gameplay'. Ideally you've worked out what you want everything to do beforehand, so it should all be dear, neat and logical. This is also the time to add any sounds (which you can choose from a special menu and fit in anywhere).
Right, once you've written your masterpiece. It's time to playtest it. Check out everything you can think of, and then make sure you haven't made any monumental cock-ups. If it all works okay, you can then save your game with the compiler provided. This allows the game to function separately from the program (which it obviously doesn't save) so you can give copies to your friends. And it'll be just like a real Freescape game, with a plot, goals and missions, whatever you want - they won't be able to edit or alter anything. (Actually, 3DCK comes with a game itself, showing all the aspects of the program and what it can do!)
What's more, if you've got a Speccy art package you can even design the info display screens with it, and then import them to make the whole thing look even more professional!
So what do I reckon? Well, take a guess. 3D Construction Kit is, quite simply, an absolutely incredible piece of software. It's not something you can dive into at first sitting (so shoot-'em-up fans beware), but, then again, it's not at all complicated once you've sussed it out. And, as the ads say, the only limit really is your imagination (and, ahem, the memory of our humble little chum! But even that's not a real problem because it's available, quite unbelievably, in 48K mode).
Of course, it's not technically a game, but since you can use it to create them I'm call it a Megagame anyway. It's £25, but it's worth every penny. So go out and buy it, persevere until you've created something really amazing, and then send a copy into us and we might just bung it on the covertape. (And then again we might not.) Hurrah! Either way, you'll feel as though you've really accomplished something and praise the day you read this review and decided to go out and buy it.
Amazing. Would-be architects, city planners, and everybody else should start saving their dosh now!