You have journeyed long across blasted plains, through the ruins of old cities, and past the salt dunes, remnants of the oceans. Now your destination is at hand.
Mutants have trailed you for many days but you have always managed to keep one step ahead of their grossly radioactive bodies. As you neared the plains of ash, the tall ventilation shafts began to appear, the dark towers rutting from the black ash like a and, clutching the granules of dust drifting through other, unseen drowned fingers.
Exploring tentatively, you found the ventilation shafts to be derelict, or sealed. Then, on your fourth day on the plains, the metallic hammering which had accompanied your journey so far and which you had come to investigate... ceased. Suddenly a terrible earthshock moved the plain, throwing you to the ground, dust rising in the air all around.
You approached the nearest shaft and found the tremors had sent the shaft seals crashing down, leaving a small entrance hatch open. Piles of debris and rubble at the base of the shaft formed a small step up to this doorway, and you nimbly climbed up hoping to shed some light on the mysterious hammerings from below.
Now you stand finally at a low door into the tower that hangs above your head, blotting out the blood-red eye of the sun, the dust clouds of ash rushing in as if seeking shelter.
Stepping in and lighting your lamp reveals a small ledge above a dark, deep shaft. There is no way downward, the Stygian darkness revealing no secrets. Edging forward you notice the ledge crumbling as your weight bears down upon it, small chunks of masonry set loose and falling away into the darkness.
You swing the lamp out to hang over the prt and illuminate the darkness below, and the hammering suddenly begins again. Startled at the sheer volume of the thuds funnelled up the shaft, you step back in surprise onto part of the ledge, which crumbles under your weight.
At the same moment, a gush of air is sucked into the shaft, extinguishing your lamp - and the last sight you remember is the ledge collapsing, taking you down with it as the thin stream of daylight recedes above you.
In a straightforward text-only game such as this you're bound to dwell on plot and how well the descriptions read. The location descriptions are indeed long, and reasonably atmospheric.
Following the skeleton's outstretched hand, which points you in the right direction, you chance upon this description: 'You are on a small ledge that borders the eastern edge of the pit. Ledges border the shaft here, and run west, north and south. An odd pile of fallen concrete and rubble is piled in one corner. As you watch, small clouds of dark dust fall from above and drift slowly through the shaft, caught momentarily in the glare of your lamp, illuminated by the light as if alive, they disappear and are gone, spiralling down into the stifling darkness.'
Here EXAMINE RUBBLE brings up nothing, but SEARCH RUBBLE reveals a thin plastic strip, without which you won't get to see the location-description I'll come to in a moment. Taking care not to fall down the shaft, you'll soon learn how to operate the cradle with the yellow-and-green buttons taking you up and down in stages.
Off to one side is another atmospheric description: 'You are in a small side room once used to store all forms of tools needed for the task of pit maintenance. Once full of all types of electronic devices, it is now empty. A twisted metal door shattered by some great impact long ago, hangs off into the darkness of the shaft to the west, where a swaying maintenance cradle can be seen. Your attention is also caught by a yellow card.'
The readable redesigned character set is light against a restful dark background, and the sparing use of colour livens up the odd passage or two. But slick presentation is left to the input line, where two towers part to accept your input.
After about ten frames Earthshock's main trump card comes up. Whereas most adventures have but one solution pathway and ending, this game offers three different subquests which subtly alter the endgame. A tribesman from a group that captures you on the plains outside the shaft gives you the choke of a sword, a key, or a hoop lying atop a wooden shrine.
Each choice leads to a different mini-adventure, after which you're returned to the main stream. Scoring in each subquest runs along the same lines.
Earthshock is a text-only adventure, as far as 1 could tell, despite the mention of a graphics man on the loading screen. The three subplots add variety to the game and allow it to be played three times. Its good, lengthy location-descriptions add a great deal.
Earthshock is available on mail order from Eighth Day at 18 Flaxhill, Moreton, Wirral L46 7UH.