Eighth Day Software is a small house devoted to publishing high quality but cheap Quilled adventures - and I'm glad to say this is one of its best, even if the tape I got would only load the text - only version of this, their latest game.
Even without graphics, Earthshock is unquestionably one of the best adventures I have seen this year. That sounds like a pretty bald statement, but any game which marries inventiveness of plot with incredibly rich and atmospheric location descriptions just has to get my vote for the tops.
I quote: 'Small clouds of dark dust fall from above and drift slowly through the air down into the depths of the shaft, caught momentarily in the glare of your lamp, illuminated by the light as if alive, they disappear and are gone, spiralling down into the stifling darkness.' Now you and I both know that most adventure houses would have been content with: 'You see a shaft. It is deep. It is dark. It is stifling'.
And how about 'the bloated, blood red sun taints the earth a deep red, as if an open festering wound?' All the location descriptions are like that. I'm not saying they constitute Booker prize winning material, but let's hear a round of applause for Eighth Day's brave attempts to reintroduce literacy and descriptive prose to adventuring.
Right, quieten down now and we can get to the rest of the game. It is the far future. The earth, poisoned with radioactivity, has been transformed over much of its surface into a seared, poisonous desert. Across this desert trek the remnants of humanity - pitiful nomad tribes, struggling to regain the civilisation their ancestors so senselessly threw away. Danger abounds - for one thing, bands of mutants roam the land, hideous creatures who hate normal people. But the real threat lies below - the androids.
Left to their own devices when humanity bombed itself back into the Stone Age. the androids have decided to seek out a brave new world where they can start all over again. To that end, they have created a Space Ark, into which they are loading the Earth's remaining mineral wealth. Being tidy-minded little metal monsters, they don't intend to leave any litter behind. Once free of the planet's gravity well, they plan on exploding a doomsday device which will destroy the whole world.
Although you don't realise it at the start of the game, it's your job to stop them - armed with a bow and arrow, and a flint tipped spear. Boy, that flying pig just missed me!
Not content with a great little plot and magnificent prose, all at the measly price of £3.99. Eighth Day has very sneakily slotted in alternative sub-plots. At some point in the game, you're going to meet a shaman: he'll give you three choices. Each one leads into a different mini-adventure within the main adventure - and each different sub-plot will apparently bring a different end-game into play, so you will be able to play the game three times!
Great stuff - worthy of an adventure selling at twice the price. Why Eighth Day's catalogue hasn't been snatched up by one of the big publishers I still don't know. Buy it - you won't regret it.
Label: Eighth Day
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Very atmospheric and tough adventure with a twist - three different solutions - all for £3.99! No joke!