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Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

In the world of the budget game there are a few classics which make you wonder that they ever appeared at anything less than £9.95... and there's about the same proportion of real clinkers, which seem overpriced at £1.99.

But for the main part, budget games are solid, if often uninspired, copies of formulas, taking a hit which is beginning to grow a bit grey and whiskery and whacking it out at a pocket-money price. Which brings us to Down To Earth, a bargain basement Boulderdash if ever there was one!

Bargain basement is incredibly apt as you bulldoze your way around beneath the surface of 30 star systems, clearing them of alien life-forms in preparation for the inter-stellar by-pass. There's an arcade test of quick reactions, but the main ingredient of this game type is planning.

The main problem you face in your excavations is that, in addition to the roaming weeblies referred to above, there are boulders and bombs packed into the clay, and shifting the earth that supports an obstacle may well let it slip down onto your druid, leaving you flatter than a pancake.

The plot, therefore, is to find the path that lets you crush or blow up the aliens without doing unto yourself as you'd wish to do unto them. All of this has to be achieved in a limited time-span, and with strictly controlled fuel supplies, so there's no room for ditherers.

The first level's fairly easy, at least at the start, but as you create more complex craters you could find that your path is blocked by the heavy rock of the rolling stones which drop from above. Learning how to use the various obstacles, as well as finding out the layout of the levels, is all part of the fun before you can develop a proper strategy.

Unluckily the bargain basement element creeps in here, and instead of a super smooth scroll between screens you get a rather jerky effect that stops all of the action. This reduces playability a bit, especially where a quick manoeuvre is required to avoid falling boulders. (Did someone mention me? Rachael) The sound's also a bit lacking.

But remember the price. If you're into arcade puzzles this is a nicely planned diversion that's sure to provide more than two quids worth of enjoyment. It certainly bulldozed its way into my affections.

Boulderdash inspired but this tale of tactics amongst the underground tunnels is over the top value at an under the bottom price.


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Bombs explode when they fall or when boulders drop onto them, so don't get caught in the blast, which measures three squares by three. However, if you can lure the nasties towards them, they'll blow themselves to bits.

This crop of boulders fell all the way from above, which called for some fancy steering to avoid them. While they'll stay in place piled on the mud, the one on the wall would slip sideways if it wasn't supported by earth.

The purple blocks can be blown up with a well placed bomb, and you can collect crates of these, plus extra fuel, as you tunnel. At the end of the level you'll have to blow a hole in the wall to reach the final alien.

You're provided with a limited number of Astro-dozers but may find more as you plough through the passage. Learning which way rocks fall and how to didge them is the key to success.

These aliens roam around in random patterns, though when they're trapped in a trench like this one you can be sure they'll just shuttle back and forth. Question is, how to crush him without freeing him first.

At last, a not so nasty nasty. These sink plungers won't actually do you any harm and as they're the mortal enemies of the others and explode on contact, it could be better to let them do your dirtywork.