The eagerly awaited follow up to the Christmas Mastergame, Driller, has arrived. The setting this time is the other moon of Evath, Tricuspid, 200 years after the events of Driller. The Ketars have been planning their revenge for a long time and now they are ready. They have built a huge weapon called Zephyr One, on the dark side of the moon. As soon as the weapon is fully charged it will fire and Evath will end its days as a meteorite shower.
A lot of power is required to destroy a planet and this is obtained through a vast network of Energy Collection Devices (ECD's). The only way to stop the weapon from firing is to disable all of the ECD's. Time is passing... and soon your homeworld will be no more, unless you complete the mission hastily.
You arrive on Tricuspid armed with a laser and wearing a shielded spacesuit and a jetpack. The jetpack has a limited fuel supply, so care has be taken when using it. The shields will only take so many hits before you die. The screen represents the view from your space suit helmet and is split into two areas. The main area gives you a view of Tricuspid through the helmet and around it are various pieces of information. Your position, compass bearing and altitude are given, along with fuel and shield status.
Shields and fuel can be regenerated by finding power sockets and fuel rods respectively and walking into them. At the right of the screen is a binary counter that gradually creeps upward. Zephyr One fires when it reaches the top.
Initially the time shoots up very quickly and the ECD network is at 100%. Every time you disable an ECD, the network's power decreases by 4% and so does the rate of charging. All of the ECD's are connected to the Zephyr One by long cables running from their bases. Some have a single cable and they can be disabled at any time, but others have many wires trailing and they axe the tricky ones. An ECD is disabled when the top is shot, but if the ECD is connected to two or more other ECD's then it will regenerate. Because of the regeneration you have to plan very carefully and so strategy comes into play. You then have to follow the cables until you find an ECD that's only connected to another single ECD. In the first few games, you'll run out of time rapidly, but after that you'll be able to disable a large chunk of the network in a matter of minutes.
Tricuspid is not left unguarded though, there are killer satellites orbiting the moon, Plexor tanks wait in some sectors and there are sensors that throw you into prison if they detect you. Getting out of prison is a puzzle in itself and I'm not going to tell you how to do it. You'll solve it yourself - eventually. Outside the prison cell you'll find a network of tunnels that you can use to move around the moon as an alternative to surface travel. When you want to return to the surface, then you just find a trap-door in the roof and jet out through it.
Another way of travelling around the moon quickly is through the powerporters, which are large slab-like objects that teleport you around. The telepod does a similar thing but it has been disabled by removing the four telepod crystals that power it. Before you can use it you'll have to replace the crystals in their sockets. If you manage to disable all of the ECD's then the Zephyr One will go boom and if you don't, then you better start looking for a new planet to live on. Either way you'll get to see a graphical representation of the destruction.
The graphics are just as good as those in Driller and they are slightly faster. Sound is also slightly improved, but it's still not particularly spectacular. The playing area is a little larger than that in Driller due to the extensive underground network. Control is very similar too; the only change being that instead of placing drilling rigs on the moon you can switch on your jetpack.
Driller was an excellent game but it lacked one thing, panic. The pace of Dark Side is set much higher and as you watch that timer creeping ever upward you'll begin to get more and more nervous. Completing the task is not going to be an easy one. In fact, it will probably take even longer to complete than its predecessor. If you were put off Driller by the price, then you've got no excuse this time because it has dropped to that of most other games. If you enjoyed Driller then you'll find plenty to keep you occupied in this.
Congratulations to Incentive on producing another superb game. It uses many of the ideas first spotted in Driller, but introduces whole new elements of arcade gameplay to complement the puzzling. I didn't like the graphics as much - they're a little more sombre - but the gameplay is magnificently addictive and full of surprises. A must for any game-player.
Disable 50% of the ECD network.
You'll have no problems playing it in green.
P. Excellent perspective on the landscape.
P. Detailed and colourful objects.
P. Simple effects, but the jetpack sound is particular good.
Grab Factor 93%
P. The panic element adds greatly to the gameplay.
P. The first 50% of the game is quite easy to solve and it soon has you hooked.
Staying Power 92%
P. Completing the rest however is much more demanding
P. Plenty of intriguing puzzles to solve!
P. Driller was good, but Dark Side is even better because of the more logical problems and tighter time limit.
N. We haven't rated it as highly because this time round it's not as original.