From the mystical lands of celtic legend Gargoyle have leaped a few thousand years into the future to an Earth under siege from alien threat. Your task as the space-suited John Marsh - no greasy Cuchulainnish hair - is to being the counter-attack against the alien Sept in the occupied Marsport base.
The base holds the key to mankind's survival in the form of plans that will enable a strengthening of the force field protecting Earth and the moon. The plans are hidden within the ten levels of Marsport which is infested with the insectoid Sept and defended by M-Central, the computer installed to run the city and defend the plans against the Sept.
The game format is basically the same as Dun Darach but it takes place in a futuristic setting and presents the player with totally new problems. The screen is split into two sections with the top half showing John Marsh as he wanders around the various base levels and the bottom section providing information on status. Marsh is much more agile than Cuchulainn from DD walking in a more upright, nimble-footed manner.
As you move down corridors, the view can be switched through four camera angles at 90 degrees to each other so that both sides of the corridor can be looked at by changing cameras. Every now and then a junction will be encountered which can be turned into by switching views appropriately. So now you know how to move about you will want to know what to do next.
Most of the action involves various wall units, doors and aliens which have to be used, opened or killed respectively. Of course, it isn't that simple because there's the usual mass of objects with a complicated chain of events and actions needed for completing tasks. One of the earliest jobs is to arm yourself with a weapon. That's right, folks - this Gargoyle game features shooting, blasting, zapping, or in other words alien killing.
The gun isn't that easy to get because it involves using two of the lifts to get to it and a gun permit to open its wall unit. Once found you never lose it even if you die. It has to be charged every so often to keep those puffs of fire popping out, putting an end to the Sept warriors that patrol some locations. Those things are small spiky insects which are deadly when run into.
Other objects include water, flour and charcoal but what you do with them I don't know yet, but I strongly suspect they can make something that can deal with 'Warlords'. These are a much nastier proposition although they can't move around. They are large beasts with clicking jaws, wiggling feet and menacing abdomen - not a pretty sight. Get too close and a large, curly sting whips out of the abdomen and in gruesome fashion lets you have it - a sight which made my skin crawl. These multi-legged monsters are impervious to ordinary fire power and as yet I don't know how to destroy them.
There are eight types of wall unit which perform different functions, mostly helpful to you. These are the main source of objects and where they need to be used to complete tasks. Fortunately their uses are explained enough in the instruction manual to be easily used once you're in the game.
The bottom of the display shows your location, compass direction, inventory and a readout from any messages received from wall units. The instructions are wonderfully atmospheric with Gargoyle's vivid imagination put to work again. A background to the events (and even a future) is provided along with a chronology of events, playing instructions and a recommended reading list.
This is definitely not a game to be missed since it has all the successful elements of DD and a few more besides. I just can't wait for the other two in the Siege of Earth trilogy.
P. Fantastic animation.
P. Great background graphics and flesh-creeping aliens.
P. Devious tasks requiring plenty of puzzling.
P. Large playing area.
P. Excellent atmospheric instructions.
P. Shooting action as well as adventure problems.
N. The keyboard controls can be confusing.
N. Can be frustrating if you get really stuck.
My heart was about to sink when I saw what, at first sight, looked like a Dun Darach clone. But it soon became clear that this was a great step forward for Gargoyle, if not quite a giant leap for humanity. The vertical arrangement of Marsport means a different kind of problem in reaching new areas. The different wall units are perplexing, while I've yet to find out how to mix the ingredients on offer and come up with the right mixture. It's heartening to see that John Marsh walks rather better than Cuchulainn, and great to be able to shoot those revolting bugs. The only drawback I foresee is that you might need the cartographic skills of a Mercator to map this one out.