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 3D game, Driller, who'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 an 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 Ketar 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 3D 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 defences 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 otientation 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 Site is absolutely stunning.
The colourful interior scenes on the Amstrad and C64 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.