Not Known
1987
Arcade: Action
£9.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

28,29
John Gilbert
Chris Bourne

At first I thought Nether Earth was a Knightlore clone but once you move around though, you can see the difference. It's all a rougher environment, not as symmetrical as Knightlore, with faster, flashier action.

So, what's the scam? Well it's not very original. Five eons ao Earth was invaded by the Insignians, bug-eyed aliens who you never see during the game. They've established three war bases on the planet and a chain of factories which produce killer robots. Since then humans, and that includes you have been thoroughly downtrodden. Except, that is, for you with your robot making factories...

It's your robots that are going to do the combat for you so you'd better start making some. Flip to the cursor-controlled menu from which you choose drive units for your robot and weapons such as cannon, phaser and missile. The motivation units are: a bi-ped which is a cheap and cheerful pair of legs, a tractor unit specially built for movement over rugged terrain, and an anti-gravitational unit which keeps your robot hovering over hilly landscape.

Once you've created your death machine skip out of the menu by selecting the Start Robot option. You can then drop down on top of it to give orders or put it in search or combat modes.

Gameplay is broken into different 'days'. After about three or four minutes night falls. And day dawns again after roughly the same time.

You can choose to search and destroy enemy robots, factories or warbases. The complete destruction of the latter is the final aim or the game. Alternatively you can take personal control of the robot, guide it around with a joystick or put it into combat mode when the enemy attacks.

At first it seems much like any of the edge-on 3D games - from Greyfell to Batman and back - but it ain't. No sir.

Sure, it's got all of that, but also more. For one thing there's a whole chunk of strategy required. You have to work out how many of your robots to deploy and where they will be of most use to you.

The Insignian robots they're up against are ruthless and very powerful. I found that the best method of attack was to create three or four robots - you can have up to 24 - hide three of them and go in pursuit of enemy robots with the fourth.

Stay at a distance when you sight the enemy and fire off a salvo, then hide before your next burst. If you get too close to an enemy robot you're liable to be destroyed. Every one of them was more powerful than anything I could muster, I just had no chance. Obviously I was using the wrong armaments.

As your robots get wasted you hit a snag. You can't always build and deploy a new one just when you want to.

Robot parts are not infinitely available - this is real life after all. You start off with 20 resource units split up between the parts so that, for instance, there may be four cannons, three electrical shields and four lasers. Eventually you'll exhaust the day's units and not be able to build another robot until a new day dawns, when one of your factories produces two brand new resource units. The bad news is you won't have any control over where those units are assigned but at least you'll be able to start building again.

Nether Earth is a first class mix of strategy into a well-worn formula that really works.

Label: Argus
Price: £8.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: John Gilbert

****

A ruggedly original 3D game. A definite improvement on Ultimate's Filmation style with strong visuals.

4/5