Take a trip into another time and dimension, my friend. Journey with us into a world where good and evil are locked in eternal conflict: visit the planet Netherworld. Stay awhile - maybe even stay forever. All this good and evil beating each other around the head stuff is one thing, but when you get stuck in the middle it's just too much.
Escape from Netherworld can only be accomplished by one method, collecting diamonds. (No, don't ask me to explain the logic of that one: just do as you're told, OK?) These pretty rocks sit around the planet just waiting to be collected, although some do hide in apparently inaccessible places. Plenty of hostile bad guys lurk around and do their utmost to kill you.
Each level is made up of a large eight way scrolling playing area with an information panel at the bottom of the screen. This tells you how many lives you have left, diamonds still to be collected, score, level and time remaining to complete the level.
Before the game itself begins you're offered a choice of starting level: one, five or nine - a nice feature to stop you having to battle your way through screens you've done before just to get to the one you keep dying on. Instead you can go there immediately and die anyway!
On the first level your mission is to find and collect 27 diamonds within the time limit. There are spitting demons and mines to avoid and the only tricky part is finding the secret door into a horde of diamonds. To travel to the next level you then have to find and go through a teleporter. Later levels have rocks that must be converted into diamonds, spitting goats' heads (a very bad habit and definitely anti-social) and alien generators which produce shield-bashing aliens. Smashing through walls occasionally with the aid of a brick smasher (comes in handy, that) is also necessary.
Sometimes you'll see a bunch of question marks drifting around and if you take your chances and collect them one of four things happens. The two good are an extra life gained or invulnerability (the ship changes colour to indicate this). An uncontrollable ship or the controls being reversed are the bad effects. If you don't want to take the risk then don't pick up any question marks. It's just asking for trouble (sorry!).
Scrolling of the playing area is jerky, but it makes up for it in speed. The sprites are a little flickery, but not the sort of flicker that make you bang your head against the wall. A good continuous tune plays throughout the game, but not only do you have the option to turn it on or off, you can even adjust the volume of it. Sound effects can likewise be turned on or off, or have their volume adjusted. They're not as good as the tune, but still acceptable. It's better to have either effects or music because they do tend to clash at times. Go for music.
In many ways it plays like that old classic Boulder Dash: collecting diamonds, changing rocks into diamonds, having a time limit to do it in and loads of levels to complete. It has been refined a little to make it as good as if not better than Boulder Dash. There's plenty to keep you occupied and the levels get progressively harder as you get better at completing them. Start hunting for those gift tokens that Auntie Agatha bought you and head for the high streets.
Yeah! OK so the scrolling's somewhat jerky, but at least it's fast. And you do get a relatively gentle introduction, with a realistic mission to accomplish. Don't be fooled, though: it gets seriously tough a little later on!
Complete levels one to three.
P. Colourful sprites and background.
N. Some flicker on the sprites.
P. Excellent continuous tune.
N. Tolerable sound effects.
Grab Factor 93%
P. Starts off fairly easy...
P. And more expert players can start on tougher screens.
Staying Power 86%
P. Loads of levels and they get much more difficult
N. May get frustrating if you keep get-ting stuck on the same level.
P. Buy this and you'll never look back.
Alien Eggs: Scramble them if they get in your way.
Alien Generators: Produce little aliens that should be annihilated.
Demons: Spit acid bubbles that deplete your energy.
Goats' Heads: Spits acidic blood at you. Not nice!
Bounder Mine: Flies in a straight line until it hits something. It then turns 90° and continues.
Hover Mine: Moves vertically and is deadly to touch.
Scanner Mine: Moves around objects in a clockwise direction.
When Mirrorsoft released Boulder Dash all that time ago (it was reviewed in the first issue of AA: 93%), it was immediately hailed as one of the great originals - "an instant classic", as wise old Pete Connor described it. You controlled Rockford, a stick-insect figure with an impatiently-tapping foot, who has to collect jewels by running into them. The game got its name from its under-ground setting: you dashed along a cave avoiding the boulders that threatened to give you a first class flat top-head and all!
Along the way you encountered peculiar amoeba and magic walls. The former grew with time to encompass any surrounding earth, and if you dropped a boulder onto the magic walls it was transformed into jewels.
Of course, the real reason we're going on about Boulder Dash at such length - apart from the fact that it's a brilliant game, and Netherworld has torn a page right from its book - is that Chris Anderson, boss of Future Publishing (and therefore the bloke who signs our pay-cheques... eventually) is an absolute Boulder Dash freak. (Whaddya mean never mind the Boulder Dash?)
He even took time off from shouting at us to write a superb playing guide way back in AA2 (p.88). We timidly knocked on his door and asked him for his opinion of Netherworld as a Boulder Dash clone, and he said: "You're fired! Get out! Don't come back... Oh, what's that? Boulder Dash clone, you say? Give that here..."
And that was the last we or anyone has seen of him. Perhaps we'll be able to bring you a report next month...
Born 28 years ago in beautiful Finland and living in Tampere, 500 miles from the Russian border, Jukka did his National Service in the army before going to University. "Then I discovered computers were much more interesting!" he says.
His first full-length game was Octopolis, a platform game-cum-shoot-em-up.
The logical problems in Netherworld may owe something to Jukka's other chief interest: chess. He is 'addicted' to the game, he says.
He works with Jori "the Hubbard of Finland" Olkkonen, who wrote the excellent continuous tune you hear as you play Netherworld.
Among Jukka's other interests are horror movies and science fiction novels. "I even wrote an SF novel once", he admits: "But it was 350 pages of rubbish!"