Your Sinclair1st January 1989
Published in Your Sinclair #37
Pure pleasure, this. I was just hanging around the office in my "any games you want reviewin', guv" mode, when lo! the new Freescape game from Incentive came through the door and I was the first to get hold of it. Ya ha! Try getting it back now, suckers!
After Driller and Dark Side whizzed us off to galaxies far away, Total Eclipse brings us right back down to earth (and I don't mean Evath). In fact, Egypt is the setting, and you, sho' nuff, are an Egyptologist (Come again? Ed). Let's hit some history here.
(Deep voice with huge echo). It is written that in the days of ancient Egypt the High Priest of Re, the God of Sun (I thought Re was a drop of golden sun, myself, but never mind), placed a curse on his people because he'd lost at poker or something (our ancient documents are a little sketchy on this point). So, being a quick-thinking sort of geezer, he instantly had an enormous pyramid built, and in the topmost chamber a shrine was installed to Re, the aforementioned deity. The curse was that if anything ever blocked the sun's rays during daylight hours, it would be destroyed.
Trouble is, 2500 years later, you've just discovered that there's going to be a total eclipse of the sun in, well, two hours. If the moon is destroyed, all sorts of terrible things will happen - tidal waves, new ice age, and another series of 'Cheggers Plays Pop.' Yup, you've got to save the world.
How you do this is by finding your way through a reet fiendish maze of rooms, chock full of puzzles and treasure and the occasional dart-throwing meanie? The treasure is of course there for the blagging, and the success of your mission is measured by how much you grab as well as whether you save the world or not. (It's a mercenary life, isn't it?) You're equipped with your trusty revolver, with loads of bullets, your wristwatch (to tell you when the world is going to blow up), a water bottle which you'll need to keep topped up (thirsty equals dead in this game), and a compass, which comes in remarkably useful when you're trying to make a map. 'Cos, believe me, you will be trying to make a map from the first moment you load this up...
Yes, Total Eclipse is a mappers' paradise, more so even than The Dark Side. Each room has several exits, but some are high beyond reach and others blocked off. Some blocked doors can be opened with Ankhs, which lie around the place and can be easily picked up. Others need a more ingenious approach if you're to get past the block and through the door, and no, a blast doesn't usually work. Water troughs slake that deadly thirst, while sarcophaguses are usually more perilous than meets the eye.
As always with these games, there are a lot of keys to memorise, but somehow you get used to it. As well as just walking and turning, you can look up, look down, crouch and then stand up again, do a U-turn and even change your step size. Pressing R makes you rest a while - useful, this, as it helps calm your heart - you don't want to have a coronary, do you?
The idea in the end is to rise to the top of the pyramid through the maze. It's reet tricky - I've been playing this for hours and I'm nowhere even close. Height above the ground is measured in cubits - you start at 24, you want to get to 72. Too many times you get yourself to a decent height and then find yourself plummeting through a hole in the floor. It's often a good idea to keep an eye on things down below.
The game plays very similarly to The Dark Side, although with the much smaller areas you're moving through, the atmosphere is quite different. Think of Mercenary combined with Knight Lore and you're not far off. The emphasis is on puzzle-solving rather than blasting, and the graphics are, as ever, immaculate. The Freescape technique opens up huge areas of gameplaying that until now were denied us, and it's to Incentive's credit that the games are as clever and enjoyable as the format deserves. A hit, sir, a palpable hit!
Yet another superb Freescape game from Incentive. These people just seem streets ahead of the competition.