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.