If you were thrilled with Incentive's first 3D Freescape game Driller, you'll go potty over the new release, The Dark Side. Phil South dons his space suit and jet pack and checks out its added dimensions.
Many hundreds of years after Evath was saved from destruction by the imminent explosion of its nearby moon, Mitral, a new threat emerges from its leaden skies. Evath's other moon, Tricuspid, has been hijacked by the Ketars (Oo, painful. Ed) and equipped with a mega destructive laser device, called Zephyr One. With this fearsome weapon, the Ketars intend to destroy Evath, but the device must first be energised with enough power to destroy the planet. To collect the power necessary to destroy an entire planet, ECD towers (Energy Collection Device), have been built around the light side of the moon, with cables leading to the Zephyr One device on the dark side. The ECDs will take a certain amount of time to accumulate the energy, and so you have been sent by Evathkind to destroy the device before it turns Evath into a cloud of expanding gas.
You are a clandestine operative, trained to sneak and destroy. You have been dropped inconspicuously onto Tricuspid, and as is to be expected, you're armed with an Evath combat suit complete with jet pack and shoulder mounted quad laser weapon, which you can aim using the crosshair in heads-up display in your helmet. To prevent the destruction of your world, you must halt the collection of power to the Zephyr One by taking out all the ECDs on the surface of Tricuspid. And how do you take out an ECD tower? You have to find one in the network that's only connected by one cable and shoot the crystal on the top. If the ECD is connected by two cables, you see, then the crystal will have enough power to regenerate almost immediately, thus defeating the object of wasting your own energy shooting it in the first place. It's essential then, that you take out as many towers as you can quite early on in the game, as the speed with which the ECDs collect, depends on how many are still in operation. In this way the element of strategy and puzzles creeps into the game, as you search for the right ECDs to clobber, but in the right sequence and with a time limit. Phew! Enough for you to cope with? Good.
The Dark Side is very definitely a Freescape™ (and it really is trademarked, by the way), game, using the same brand of fast 3D graphics that brought gasps of surprise from everyone who played Driller last year. Although the views look similar to Driller, you view them through the Evath agent's helmet with all its displays, and this time the puzzles are even more fiendish, and the landscapes conceal even more secrets! it really is a game of many dimensions, and not just the three you get looking through your Evath agent's visor. either!
The gameplay is just as hard (if not a bit harder), as its forerunner. The first stage is mapping, getting to know the different planes of the moon's surface and filling in the squares in the plan view supplied with the package. Then, only once you have a decent map up and running, do you have the tools you need to plan an assault where you don't get killed. From then on it's up to you to look under and over objects, and shoot at everything to discover the right way to beat the Ketars. If you like your games hard, then The Dark Side is the only choice for you, bucko.
The LED timer down the side of your helmet display counts up in binary steps till the laser blows your planet to bits. There's only one way to stop the timer. The more ECDs you blow, the slower the timer runs and the more time you have to complete your task.
The crosshair on your visor has a dual purpose in walk mode it's used for lining up on doorways or other objects you might need to drive into (hint). In fire mode, after slapping the space bar it sits at the focus of your four laser beams so you can aim them with precision.This icon here indicates whether your man is standing on the ground crouching or riding his jet pack. Knowing which position you are in could be crucial, especially when you're going to step off the side of a building. There is another icon, a lying down one for when you get killed.The co-ordinates on your helmet display will be familiar to ex-Driller veterans. As in Driller these figures can guide you to any point on or above the surface of the moon. Some of the more complex puzzles are made easier by concentrating on your exact position.If the border flashes, you are being shot at. If you can't see anyone around, like a Plexor, then you must be in the sights of one of the orbiting scanner satellites. Thankfully, unlike the ones in Driller, these can easily be shot down, but you'll have to hurry 'cos they move on quite quickly.This indicator shows whether you're in move or shoot mode. If you're in a situation where every second counts, being able to tell at a glance which mode you're in could save your life.
If the ECD crystal is shot, it will vanish, rendering the tower 'disabled'. If the ECD tower is connected by cables to two other active ECDs, the crystal will regenerate immediately.PLEXORThese are tank like defence machines which are sprinkled around Tricuspid, and will attack you when you're in range. You can shoot them when out of their range, but they return shortly afterwards.POWERPORTERThese slabs can be found hovering all over the place, notably in the big hollow cube frame. Shooting them teleports you instantly to fixed points around the moon.TELEPODThe likeness to Dr Who's Tardis is not accidental. It's bigger inside than outside, and if you've got all the Telepod crystals you can teleport anywhere on Tricuspid.TELEPOD CRYSTALSThe Ketars used the Telepod to travel to restricted areas on the moon. Before they left they disabled the Telepod by spreading its crystals all over the surface.ZEPHYR ONEThis is your objective, to cut off its power supply to the giant laser device, located on the dark side of the moon, before it destorys your home world of Evath
When you begin a game of Dark Side, finding fuel and shield boosters should be high on your list of priorities, as you've only got a little of both. It's essential that you find the nearby store of fuel rods and shield plates before embarking on any mission.In the concealed chamber in the shed, shoot the rug and it'll disappear revealing a hatchway in the floor. This allows you to get into an underground system of tunnels, but watch out 'cos the rug comes back after a random amount of time, cutting off your route.Scoot south then dive west to get to the area containing the Sphinx. The ECDs here are easy meat, on account of being right on the end of a cable. This should give you more time to search for the other ends.You get much more fuel and shields if you're as close as possible to 90' (face on) to the pillar or pentagon. Only people who've tried this will know what we mean here.