When life gets you down, when you want to escape (and can't afford a holiday) you can always depend on Freescape. Just dive in and fade away - it's the perfect virtual reality. And now thanks to Domark, you don't even need to jump from box to box, because they've very kindly squashed four of these Incentive titles together in one pack, under the rather mesmeric title of Virtual Worlds.
Driller, Total Eclipse and Castle Master have all been out before of course, so rather than giving them to Jon for Replay I've written a quick round-up in that box over there, but The Crypt is a newie. And it's this one that I'll be concentrating on in tonight's lecture. So dim the lights please. Miss Jones, and let's take a look at the first slide...
The Crypt is the sequel to Castle Master, but instead of starting off outdoors, we're stuck down in the depths of, erm, somewhere rather dark and damp and horrible. The game's got the same spooky claustrophobic feel (like one of the old movies where you see everything through the monster s eyes as he shambles around eating people or whatever) and looks just as stonkingly brilliant! As before, this restricted viewpoint means you've got to be careful where and how you move around, in case you get trapped or bash into anything!
Right as I said, you start off in a crypt [You didn't actually say that - Ed] Oh. Well, you do anyway. There are two closed coffins keeping you company, and the door's locked - so the first puzzle is how to escape! (Actually, I won't really be giving anything away if I say there's a key in one of the coffins - so have a peek in there!) Escape out of your prison and you're faced with the usual labryrinth of tunnels and rooms - press the action key now and again to examine, eat, push or shoot all the things you come I across.
Slice of cheese, sir?
And it's incredibly megastonkingly fab! Of course, you have to stop all the time to scribble down different bits of map and solve puzzles, but that's half the fun. And you have to be prepared for making some ghastly mistakes too - I wandered into a room called the Mousetrap, found some cheese on a table and ate it. What an idiot! The screen flashed hideously for a mo and then I collapsed and died. (So, erm, the moral of the story is don't eat any cheese!)
The Crypt is certainly large enough to keep you wandering around for months, and easily as big as Castle Master. The locations have an even more menacing look, and the puzzles are perhaps even more fiendishly difficult than they were before. Finding the hidden objects to help you escape stretched my logical powers further than I ever expected. (Just make sure you look on top of all the objects!)
Of course, the graphics are just what you'd expect from the people who brought us 3D Construction Kit - everything's beautifully designed and positioned, and, as usual, you get totally caught up in the atmosphere of the whole thing and forget you're sitting at your telly. If only I could make games like this with my copy! It's not that far removed from Castle Master - so don't expect to see something completely different (to coin a phrase) - but lots of tweakish little improvements make it even better. So I'm going to give it a whopping... Verdict: 95% (Blimey!)
So, what else do you get then?
The original Freescape game (reviewed by Phil 'Snouty' South in January 1988, who gave it 9 out of 10), Driller was a complete sensation when it came out. Basically it sees you wandering around a planet, trying to mine valuable gases (which is easier said than done). The brain tingling puzzles certainly hit the mark (as do those bast laser beacons) but the graphics jerk a bit and detract from the game. Still, it was the first Freescape game out so what do you expect? Verdict: 90%
Reviewed in July 1989 by that complete loony 'Macca', this got 90% (as well it might!), this game sees you evacuating a pyramid in spooky Egypt. Roofs collapse, stairs lead nowhere and there's a time limit hanging over it (which adds a certain 'frisson'). Verdict: 92%
After Total Eclipse, Incentive introduced the 'action' key (to open, eat, push and so on). Before Castle Master you could only shoot things to make stuff happen, but this addition meant that the adventures became deeper, slicker and more playable. It's smooth, it's fast and it got 93% when Matt reviewed it back in May last year (which means now it's out as barg price we can give it a whopping...). Verdict: 95%
A bumper selection of old Freescape games, with the addition of a stonking Castle Master sequel. The biz!