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Darkseed logo Gamer Gold

CYBERDREAMS * £34.99 * 1 meg * Mouse * Out now

Well, we waited and we waited and finally after well over a year anticipation, the adventure game that would make Monkey Island or any other of that ilk look silly and inadequate has finally hit the streets. But does it live up to its reputation?

I've really been plugging Darkseed ever since I saw the PC version which was to be quite honest a brilliant piece of programming and marketing.
Everything about the game, from the stunning packaging which included a hints and tips book to the jaw-dropping graphics, was wonderful. Obviously I was a little apprehensive when the Amiga version arrived. The PC version was bound to be better, I thought, not through any fault of the programmers but simply because of the nature of the two machines.

Cyberdreams also had another angle on the sale of the game. To create the majority of the graphics in the Alien world section of the game they enlisted the talents one Mr H R Giger, a surrealist artist better known for the creation of the Alien for the Alien films and for such loveable beasties as the Vomit Monster in Poltergeist II. Mr Giger created the scenes on paper and then the technical people scanned the art and incorporated them into the game.

In it you play Mike Dawson, a horrorwriter. You got sick of the rat race lifestyle of living in the city where you were a sales executive for a multinational company, so you moved to a small town in the American south to get some peace and quite and to fulfill your lifetime's ambition of writing a book. But you wake in the morning after you spent in the house with an incredible headache. All through the night you were having horrible nightmares, images of half-human, half-machine animals torturing you.

As time goes on you realise that the house is closely linked with an alien world filled with nasties that are desperate to come and conquer earth. But they aren't going to to all the trouble of getting into spaceships and shooting people and all that sort of stuff. They have just planted the embryo for the next generation of their race in your head. In three days it will hatch and the world will be doomed to be ruled by these sick and depraved aliens, not to mention the terrible mess it will make of your head.

So now I have given you all the background on the game, what is it like? As it turns out, I was talking complete rubbish when I said that Darkseed wouldn't be as good on the Amiga as it was on the PC. In my opinion it is the most graphically impressive release for at least a year. The screen mode is constantly in hi-res interlace so the characters on-screen are crystal clear. Darkseed is also the first game ever to contain morphing techniques.

A morph is when one image is transformed into another. You have some lovely clips of a doll in a box turning, for instance, into a monster and back again. When you first start playing Darkseed the game appears to be quite small but it does take time for you to find all the different locations - they won't jump out at you.

Not only have you got to find the locations in the normal world but eventually you'll find your way into the Alien world, which is very similar but only a little bigger. There are over 70 locations.

My favourites in the game are the interactive characters. Many games claim to have interactive characters but all they do is repeat set monologues when you ask them a question. This isn't the case in Darkseed - you have to strike up a rapport with some of the inhabitants of the town to continue to make progress. They will come to you for things and you must give them something in return if you want to get what you want.

As with any such adventure the main way of progressing is by the discovery and use of clues - there are plenty and most are logical and not too obscure,

The odd thing is that you have to find certain things that trigger events later on in the game, so there is a domino effect. It doesn't matter if you don't find some of the clues because you don't need them all but your task will be made much easier if you do.

You must remember that the game is set over three days and the way the time works is very interesting. If the machine thinks you are engaged in some activity time will run almost in real time but if you are just killing time and have nothing to do on that day then everyday will speed up. And remember you are dealing with a real person so he has to sleep, but watch out for the nightmares.

You control Dawson by a simple point and click interface. By clicking the right mouse button you change what your icon on the screen looks like. To sue things you have a hand icon - whenever you move the cursor over anything that can be moved or operated the hand will point.

I quite liked this - it doesn't leave you guessing like normal adventures do. The other two options allow Mike to walk around and examine things.

General laws and etiquette still apply - just because you are playing a game it doesn't mean you can turn into a slob. When you get up in the morning you have to get a shower or none of the locals will give you the time of day. And if you break the law you will get banged up for the night in the local nick.

I do have one or two beefs with Darkseed. Because the screen mode is constantly in interlace the text at the bottom of the screen can be hard to read, and you get the annoying flicker which always accompanies interlace and which gives you a headache in seconds flat.

Darkseed is one of the adventure games that I look forward to taking time over and enjoying in full - I cannot do it justice in these two pages. Check it out for yourself.

Darkseed logo

What an apt name for a game which is both dark and seedy. This tale of time bandits, nether-world nasties and twilight terrors could only have come from the creator of Alien, HR Giger....

This one's really going to get the moaning minnies and the trash-tastic tabloids talking about how 'Nintendo turned my son into a homicidal loony'. Why? Because it's the nearest thing you could have to a software nightmare, a truly weird and disturbing adventure through a crazy, vaguely nauseating world of creatures from another time. For once, the criticisms that are hurled at computer games, about them 'corrupting my five-year-old' or 'giving my nipper sleepless nights' could well turn out to be true, with CyberDream's new DarkSeed.

But don't be misled into thinking that this means DarkSeed is no good. As it happens it is good - very good - but it's certainly not for little kids. Even a few young adults may find it all a bit too spooky, but forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

Underneath the grisly animations of babies turning into corpses and dangly bits of viscera turning into household items, there's a rather intriguing plot to get to grips with. And it's no worse than your average 15-rated horror film, so it's really not that bad.

The plot is centred round a chap called Mike Dawson, who's just moved into an old house on a hill. He's gone there for a bit of peace and quiet, so there are no prizes for guessing what happens next. Pretty soon, strange things start happening around the house and before you know it you (in the form of Mike) are dragged into a twisted tale of creatures from a parallel time. Needless to say, these creatures are not here to party, and the penalty for misguided adventuring on your part is death. And a grisly one at that.

DarkSeed will be considered by many 'normal' people as the work of a deranged mind. With HR Giger lending a large hand in the graphics department, you'd find it difficult to argue the case against this deduction. He's not exactly known for his scenic landscapes and beautiful portraits, and CyberDreams have taken the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) of Giger's work and used it to incredible effect here.

The adventure is fine, the controls perfect and the graphics superb

The game is filled from top to bottom with Gigerisms, as well as more normal graphics depicting the human world. The whole game has a dark, unsettling atmosphere about it.

The controls are very similar to other adventure games, like Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry and to some extent Lucasfilm's Indiana Jones. You guide your character around use a mouse-controlled pointer, and instruct him to pick up and use objects as you see fit. In this respect, DarkSeed is fine - intuitive, easy to control and mastered in seconds. But where DarkSeed falls down most is in the nature of its story telling.

The plot itself is fine - and I've already given enough of that away - the problem lies in how you discover it. Too many things in the game need to be done within a specific time, or in a certain order, and you don't necessarily known when you've passed that 'critical point' after which you're fighting a lost cause. As a result, you often have to play the game several times over, going through scenes you've seen countless times before.

But that's DarkSeed's only problem. The adventure system is fine, the controls are perfect and the graphics superb. There's even an attempt to make it more like an interactive movie; the characters you meet talk in sampled speech, as well as in displayed text, a technique which, although not perfect, still works pretty well.

If you're one of the older, Ridley Scott generation (and if you don't know who he is, you aren't one), then you'll want to rush out and buy DarkSeed. My advice is 'do it'. But if you're a young under-fifteener, then you might do well to (a) keep DarkSeed away from your impressionable parents and (b) make sure you can handle a few sleepless nights, because it's a bit of a nightmare-maker. And don't let The Sun find out about this one, or we'll have a government inquiry on games before you know it.


It would be difficult to deny HR Giger a place in the great hall of computer fame that already contains such luminaries as Douglas Adams, William Gibson and Philip K Dick.
The difference is that Giger's work, unlike of the other 'cyberpunks', doesn't use words. Even if you don't know exactly who Giger is, you are bound to have seen at least one of his grim and quite terrifying creations.

The alien (from the now-legendary film of the same name) was of course, Giger's most famous creation, and it brought him real 'household name' status for a while. But most of Giger's work would look quite out of place in all but the most eccentric of households, thanks to his uncanny obsession with the gruesome, half-biological, half-mechanical style that has now become his eerie trademark.

Like most art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with Giger's work, you either love it or hate it. Either way, it's guaranteed to provoke a response, and DarkSeed is no exception. The idea for the game came from three devoted Giger fans who had the dedication needed to get in touch with the elusive Swiss artist. They approached Giger with the concept and he agreed to allow them to use his artwork. The only stipulation was that all Giger's graphics had to be digitised in high resolution (interlaced mode) to prevent jagged lines from ruining the effect.

The resulting game is undoubtedly a vehicle for Giger's incredible style, in the same way as many Hollywood films are just platforms for their biggest star. But that doesn't mean that Darkseed isn't successful, or that it's totally 'hollow'.

In a way, it's a classic: a real Blade Runner of a computer game, if such a thing exists. It's creepy, crawly, and yet it's difficult to leave alone. And it serves to blur even further, that boundary between films, science-fiction, computers and art. Welcome to the Twilight Zone (When's the programmer's cut? - Ed.)


DarkSeed uses a quick and easy control method that takes mere seconds for you to master. Your current action is indicated by the shape that the cursor takes, and you can cycle through the different action just by clicking the right mouse button.
Here's what you can do:

Darkseed Once you've discovered an item, you'll probably want to use it. Clicking on the right button a third time changes the cursor to the manipulate mode. This mode lets you pick up objects and automatically places them in your inventory at the top of the screen. Later on, you can use this mode to use the objects you picked up earlier.

Darkseed Wherever you click on the screen, Mike (the central character) will try to walk, in digitised, smoothly animated style. The cursor changes to four inwardly pointing arrows (and looks much like the picture here, spookily so in fact) if the object under it is a doorway. Clicking on doorways makes the program load a new location, and while this is happening, the cursor changes to an egg timer.

Darkseed By clicking on the right button once you are taken to the 'look' mode. As you move the question mark around the screen, you will find that it occasionally turns into an exclamation mark. This simply means that you've found an item which may be of use to you. Clicking on the left button gets a description of it.

Darkseed Moving the mouse up to the very top of the screen makes your inventory appear. To begin with there's nothing there, but once you've done a bit of searching, you can begin to fill it up. The items in your inventory can be mvoed and used with the hand icon, but sometimes their correct uses aren't immediately obvious.

Darkseed In the corner of the inventory is the game options icon. Clicking on this takes you to a different screen that enables you to save, load and restart games. DarkSeed is a very big game and it can also be a very confusing and very odd game, so the chances are that you'll be using this icon a fair bit.

Darkseed logo

Darauf hat die Adventure-Welt gewartet: Cyberdreams Edelshocker im gigerschen Alien-Outfit schickt sich an, nach den DOSen-Usern nun auch den Freunden der "Freundin" das Gruseln zu lehren...

Und weil es sich hier um eine schicke 1:1-Umsetzung handelt, ist das auch durchaus Grund zur Freude. Freilich schwimmt ein ganz beträchtliches Haar in der Suppe, denn um die ungewöhnliche Auflösung von 320 X 400 Bildpunkten darzustellen, greift der Amiga auf den Flimmermodus (Interlace) zurück - ein Manko, das sich bei den Grafiken noch in Grenzen hält, die Entzifferung der diversen Scrolltexte jedoch zur augenfeindlichen Tortur werden läßt.

Eine Flickerfixer-Karte wirkt da natürlich wahre Wunder, zur Not tut es glücklicherweise auch ein etwas größerer Abstand zum Monitor.

Ansonsten blieb alles beim alten: Buchautor Mike Dawson legt sich eine uralte Villa als schriftstellerisches Refugium zu, hat aber nicht bedacht, daß derlei Gemäuer oft und gern von schaurigen Unwesen heimgesucht werden. In diesem Fall handelt es sich um finstere Außerirdische, die über ein hauseigenes Dimensionstor mit unserer Welt in Verbindung stehen.

Um Mutter Erde besser erobern zu können, pflanzen die ekligen Schurken einen bösartigen Embryo unter Mikes Schädeldecke, der drei Tage später schlüpfen wird - und schon tickt die Echtzeituhr...

Wunderschön gräßliche Optik ist im wesentlichen der Stoff, aus dem die Cyber-(Alp)träume sind, doch so richtig furchterregend werden die sechzehnfarbigen Bilder erst, sobald der unfreiwillige Held den heimischen Herd verläßt: Während sich die gewohnte Welt zwar hübsch detailliert und stimmungsvoll präsentiert, sieht man nach dem Wechsel in die Fremddimension soft, daß der Schweizer Maler und Alien-Vater H.R. Giger hinter den Invasionsplänen steckt.

Die Animationen können jedoch den hohen Grafikstandard nicht ganz halten, ruckelt sich Mike doch ganz schön einen ab, wenn er durch die 3D-Räume schreitet. Aber das tat er am PC auch schon, und immerhin erkauften uns die Hersteller damit eine spielbare Geschwindigkeit.

Abgesehen von der Disk-Wechselei für Nicht-Festplattler schrieben die Jungs das Wort "Spielbarkeit" überhaupt ganz groß, denn die bequeme Maussteuerung (normalerweise verstecktes Inventory am oberen Screenrand sowie eingängige Multifunktions-Cursor) hat man ruckzuck intus.

Auch die knobeligen, wenngleich nicht allzuschweren Rätsel tragen ihren Teil zum Gameplay bei: Die meisten Logeleien basieren hier auf dem originellen Konzept, daß die irdische Wirklichkeit den Alien-Alltag widerspiegelt. Wodurch Geschehnisse auf beiden Seiten Auswirkungen haben.

Untermalt wird das Schauerstück von vielen gruseligen Musiktracks, realistischen FX und astreiner deutscher Sprachausgabe. In (nicht immer stolperfreiem) Deutsch präsentieren sich auch die Screentexte, und sogar frischgebackene A120-Besitzer können den "dunklen Samen" ihrer Neuerwerbung einpflanzen.

Fazit: Wer kein ausgesprochener Flacker-Allergiker ist, darf sich auf feinen Digi-Horror freuen! (jn)

Darkseed logo

We're not usually fans of licences, but not even we can resist a game which takes its style and inspiration from the master of the gross and macabre.

What exactly is H R Giger's problem? Along with Stephen King, Charles Manson and David Cronenberg, Giger ranks highly in the list of people I'd hate to be stuck with. Take this nightmare situation - it's Friday night and as you horry out of the office you nip into the lift and... Oh no, it breaks down between floors. You just know that you'll be stuck there all weekend and curse your bad luck when, out of the shadows steps one of the above, one of the four weirdest and probably most disturbed minds of modern times.

Take my advice, kill yourself there and then, because by the time the maintenance guy opens up on Monday morning, you'll probably have been peeled and knitted into some kind of ritualistic cloak whether you ant to be or not. (Although, frankly, if you did, I'd get some help if I were you. - Ed)

For those that don't already know it, H R Giger's a Swiss artist who specialises in producing vast airbrushed works featuring creatures from his imagination. And here lies his problem. I'm sure he's a really great guy, but what ends up on the canvas is undeniably the product of an unusually twisted mind. A typical Giger pic contains skulls, guns, hypodermic syringes, deformed childern and vast amounts of bodily parts usually confined by Marks and Spencers undergarments and generally lest out of polite conversation.

This eclectic blend is usually fused together so that it's hard to tell where, or indeed if, the machines end and the bodies begin. Giger was the first person to coin the word Biomechanics for this fusion, and the world first became aware of this obscure surreal painter when he won an Academy award for his designs of alien creatures and spacecraft for the classic 1977 movie 'Alien'.

So that's the art history leson over with, and it's on to what this has to do with games. Cyberdreams have come up with Darkseed, a game based on the artwork of Giger, and one that saw the light of day on the PC earlier this year. Cyberdreams have started up with the intention of producing serious sci-fi games but, to date, Darkseed is all they've done. When the reputation of your company is resting on a single product, it makes sense to lavish as much attention on it as possible, and everything about Darkseed has certainly had the five-star treatment.

The box is glossy, black and wedge-shaped but, so that I'll stack regularly, there's a smaller, disk sized box featuring a bizarro woman tucked into the main bit. It's lush, as is the hints and tips book (available for a limited time only, so get yours quickly, folks) as, indeed, is the game itself.

Plunged into a no-holds barred Gigerthon

Do not adjust your TV set then, there's nothing wrong with it. From the moment you start playing Darkseed you can rest assured that it's reality that's on the blink. Your game alter-ego is Mike Dawson, which only happens to be the name of one of the games designers, and we see Mike as a character who only happens to be an animated digitalised version of the real Mike.

In fact, if you look at the credits, you'll find that most of the creative team are featured as characters in the games. And so are their girlfriends, and their ex-girlfriends. And so is Maddeline of Hidden Hills, who's a dog. (Who, and indeed what, are you on about? - Ed)

Mike dreams that he's whisked to an alien world where a grotesque foetus is implanted in his brain, to grow and eventually burst out into our world where it'll be the darkseed of the title, the first of a new and frightening race. Scary stuff indeed, and even scarier when he wakes up with a blinding headache in his recently purchased Victarian-style house in Woodland Hills, California.

Being by trade a writer he tries to put all this weirdness down to an active imagination but, like Alice, he finds things just get curiouser and curiouser. Why's the house so quiet, and why will no one come inside? Why was the previous owner so keen to sell so quickly, why hasn't his furniture been delivered yet and what is the significance of the brooding, archaic mirror that seems to suck the heat out of the living room? All these questions, but as Mike soon finds out, he's only got a limited time to unravel all the answers.

The gameplay is that familiar blend of text windows, icon inventories and point-and-click mouse driven control that have become the standard game mechanics of the graphic adventure genre. Although spread over seven disks, swapping is kept to a minimum and is unobtrusive, so overall the mechanics work well and since you'll all have seen this kind of thing in a Monkey Island or similar, there's no need to spend any more time on this topic.

All the more space to talk about the game itself, and as you'd imagine form a game sold on its links with an artist and his work, Darkseed is a beautiful game to look at, with the frame-grabbed characters and the high resolution backgrounds working together so well that the effect is of watching a film that you control.

A grotesque foetus is implanted in his brain

There're about 75 locations in the game, with the house taking up a good few, and the eerily quiet town a couple more. The spot sound effects are brilliant and although it's inappropriately boppy at some points, the music adds tremendously to the atmosphere. When you run into other characters, at the library or shop for instance, you're treated to some of the clearest voice samples I've ever heard in an Amiga game, 'Hi, Mr Dawson, you book's just come in', 'Come round tomorrow, here's my card', that sort of thing. It may seem like amiable chit-chat, but it's all bound to be vitally important sooner or later. Maybe.

Apart from the occasional dream sequence or morphing baby routine though, there's very little Giger to be seen. Ah yes, but of course I've only talked about the real world, and barely mentioned the other world, the dark world of the aliens and their fiendish weirdness. This is where Giger kicks in with a vengeance, and the palette dives headlong into the blue and grey scale. The effect is stunning, the music goes seriously spooky, and both you and Mike are plunged into a no-holds barred Gigerthon.

When Mike passes into his other world, he discovers the that it mirrors the real world, with locations and characters matching those in Woodland Hills. There's even a Dark Fido to mirror the bit-part by Maddeline of Hidden Hills, about whom I'll quote from the hints and tips manual: "Aroor, aroor, Smack. Watch the passing watching the passing waiting good houndling, good." Er, right.

Obviously both worlds have to be explored in order to solve the problems, and although certain actions in the real world can dump Mike in jail, dumb moves in the dark world tend to end up with him getting his head chewed off. As you play on, you find that this mirroring of locations between the two worlds isn't just a catchy gimmick, but actually an integral part of the game, as objects left in a location in one will appear at the same place in the other.


On to conclusion time, and I've not even spoiled the story by giving too much away. I've got to admit that I'm really impressed with this, even though graphic adventures aren't really my thing. It drops handy hints from time to time and it's suitably deep for you to struggle on through the inevitable times when your mind's blank and Mike's head seems to explode no matter what you do.

If Cyberdreams are going to take their time and release only two well-crafted games each year, and if the next releases are going to be as gloriously slick as this one, then these California boys are going to be a welcome addition to the Amiga scene.

Darkseed Darkseed Darkseed
You know your sanity is on the blink when this sort of thing happens and, as the game progresses, it happens a lot. Book me the rubber room for next Thursday, nurse.

Darkseed logo

Cyberdreams invite you to journey into the unknown in their scary new adventure. Dan Slingsby puts on his industrial strength underpants and gets lost on the way.

Forget the throwaway one-liners of graphic adventures such as Lucasfilms' Monkey Island series or the exotic tomfoolery of Westwood's Legend of Kyrandia. The new adventure from U.S. outfit, Cyberdreams, is an altogether more sinister affair.

Although it's not without its visual gags and flippant wordplay, most of Darkseed is embued with a dark and menacing atmosphere, a situation which is reinforced by using the gruesome straight-from-your-worst-nightmare artwork of H.R. Giger. In case the name sounds familiar, that is because Giger was the inspiration and design guru behind the stunning first Alien movie, creating both the atmospheric sets and the acid-slavering xenomorph itself, so if you've seen the movie you'll definitely know what to expect here...

In case you missed our preview of the game a couple of months ago, Darkseed is an out-and-out sci-fi adventure. As such, it's a terribly bleak affair, with a very uncheery and depressing scenario. The game begins with an animated intro depicting your on-screen alter ego, Mike Dawson, having a rather vivid nightmare in which aliens implant an embryo in his brain.

The upshot of all this is that Mike not only has a headache from hell when he awakes from his nightmare, but that he also has approximately three days to get rid of the embryo before it emerges, Alien-style, from the insides of his brain.

Apparently, the house Mike has just bought (which resembles something straight out of the Addams Family or Psycho) is an intergalactic transdimensional thingammy, which is at the centre of a sinister alien plan to invade the Earth. To save the day, it's up to make (and, indeed, yourself) to find the cure for his gargantuan hangover, discover and destroy the interplanetary portal wotsit and thus avert the threat of alien invasion forever. Hurrah!

Of course, the most obvious thing to do when you've got a headache is to take some aspirin, so each morning Mike has to be guided to the bathroom to stuff his face full of headache tablets. He also has to take a shower - a reflection on American hygiene Standards, maybe, or the fact that Mike appears to sleep in his clothes at the end of each day's adventuring! Failure to do either of these will result in the premature ending of the game.

Once refreshed, it's down to the business of solving the game's puzzles and slowly piecing together what the hell is going on. Mike doesn't immediately know he has been impregnated with an alien embryo, but he'll soon discover the incredible truth and from there on in it's a race against time to find a cure before his head explodes in an eruption of blood and sinewy flesh.

Most of the game's puzzles are fairly logical, and require you to do or fetch 'A' in order to solve, move, or find 'B'. For instance, a locked chest requires you to find the crowbar in the garage before you can open it, and you will need to get a library card before you can go to the library and receive an important message hidden in a book.

Many puzzles, however, are time/event sensitive, which can leave you hanging around for a while with nothing to do. You've either got to allow some time to pass before you can get something done or be in the right place at the right time.

For instance, on the second day you must collect the package from the postman or else you'll be unable to enter the aliens' universe through the cracked mirror. The package contains the missing splinter from the mirror, so if you miss the postie when he rings the bell, that's it. He won't leave it on the doorstep for you to collect later on!

Other avenues of exploration are also opened up once a prerequisite action/event has taken place - for example, the house's secret rooms can only be accessed once you've discovered the house's blueprints. Even if you know where the hidden doorways are, you won't be able to open them until you've found the plans.

Because of this, it's important to save your game position on a regular basis. There's a lot to miss as you explore your new home and the little town of Woodland Hills. And once you've crossed over into the Gigeresque alien world, there is even more to find and discover.

In all, more than 75 locations have been crammed into the game and although some are merely decorative fillers, most contain important clues or equipment to allow you to progress further into the adventure. Slip up just once, and you will condemn Mike to an untimely and very unsavoury death. - the failed game sequence has the alien erupting from Mike's forehead in true Alien fashion.

The alien world is, in fact, a mirror image of the existing world. Most of the rooms in Mike's house have a corresponding room in the alien environment, and many of the objects that are found in the real world can also be located in the alien dimension. This is handy for finding your way about and adds a neat twist to the unfolding events.

For instance, early on in the game Mike meets up with a character called Delbert who is busy playing fetch with Fido, his dog. After a while Delbert and the dog take their leave, but forget the stick. This is obviously an invitation to pick up the stick and add it to your growing inventory.

Later on, once you've crossed over into the alien dimension, you'll encounter Dark Fido, the bridge guardian who is blocking your way. Now, if you simply throw the stick you picked up earlier into the abyss, the alien dog will leap after it, never to be seen again.

There are many other examples of the alien world mirroring events in the 'real' world. Probably the neatest is when you're arrested by the local police for grave robbing. By secreting supplies under the pillow of your prison bunk it's possible to access them when you've been put into the alien jail. It is this kind of logic and prompting that makes Darkseed such an interesting game to play - things might not be immediately obvious, but once you've sussed them out, you'll wonder why you didn't think about it in the first place.

Unfortunately, Cyberdreams reckon us Brits are a bit on the thick side when it comes to adventuring or why else would they include a complete solution with the game as a limited promotion? Try as I might, I couldn't resist consulting it while I was playing the game.

The control method also deserves some praise. Everything in the game is mouse controlled via an on-screen pointer. By clicking on the right mouse button this pointer can be changed from a use icon to a move or examine cursor. Then, by clicking the left mouse button the selected action can be carried out. This soon becomes second nature, and such an uncomplicated interface (complemented by a pull-down inventory menu) makes for a much more accessible and straightforward game.

The examine option presents a question mark on-screen which changes to an exclamation mark once something interesting is close by. This makes important objects easy to locate and superfluous detail can be ignored. Similarly, the use-mode is signified by an open hand. When this changes to a pointing hand, it means the object that you're touching can be either picked up or used for some specific purpose.

Unfortunately, Darkseed is probably a little too serious for its own good. In fact, at times it is downright depressing! A lighter touch and a few more laughs would have helped things along enormously. Admittedly, there are a few humorous touches, such as the Get Out of Jail Free card that Delbert gives to Mike, or the incidental background animation, such as a dog peeing against a fire hydrant. Unfortunately, these are few and far between, and the unrelenting doom and gloom can be off-putting.

For someone raised on Monkey Island-type adventures, I found Darkseed to be a right turn-off at times, because of its inherent seriousness and poe-faced sensibilities. Try is I might, I couldn't get Mike to overdose on the bottle of aspirins in the bathroom - I suspect this was a case of Cyberdreams worrying too much about what concerned parents might think.

Another quibble is the quality of the graphics and animation. Like the PC version, the Amiga game uses a 16-colour palette so there should really be no difference between the two. However, the Giger graphics used in the alien world look washed out and almost bleary, which is kind of strange, as you'd imagine that his artwork would be ideally suited to the Amiga's limited palette. This is compounded by using almost the same palette for the 'real' world sequences. These, too, use mostly dull colours. Perhaps it might have been a better idea to have Mike's world use a palette of brighter and more vibrant colours to highlight the differences between the two worlds.

As it is, the two almost blend into each other. Rather than be impressed with the alien landscapes, you are almost left wondering what has changed. The animation, too, is a bit feeble at times. The main character has been digitised, but not enough frames of animation have been included. Mike never really interacts with his environment; he never stoops to examine something or bend down to pick something up. He just stands there looking a bit of a pudding, really, and he looks like Joe-average that I can't seem many people identifying with him.

In fact, on my first go at the game, I deliberately fast-forwarded to the end of the three days just to see him get his comeuppance. There is also a rather clumsy graduated sprite handling routine included in the game so that when Mike moves from the foreground to the background he decreases in size and vice versa. Nice idea, but the end result is incredibly jerky and really no worth the bother.

By now, you're all probably on the opinion that I hate the game. Not at all. It's not the best adventure I've played, but then it's certainly not the worst either. Disk access might be slow, especially on a bog-standard A500/600, but there is a lot to do in the game.

The Twilight Zone-type music that runs throughout is suitably eerie, if a bit grating after a while, and the use of samples is limited but well placed. That, coupled with the easy-to-use point 'n' click interface, neat scenario and visual effects make for an enjoyable if slightly flawed game.


Almost two years in the making, Darkseed is the first game from fledgling software company, Cyberdreams. Initially released on the PC during the first half of '92. The Amiga version of Darkseed represents the first in many such games scheduled to appear over the next two years (at the very least).
The driving force behind the American-based company is Patrick Ketchum, a veteran of the computer software industry. In 1980, he founded Datasoft Inc. and helped launch such blockbusters as Pac Man, Dig Dug, Zaxxon, Pole Position and Bruce Lee among many others. By the mid-80s, he found himself at Sullivan Bluth Interactive where he was responsible for the Dragon's Lair and Space Ace series of games. With such a pedigree behind him, it's little wonder that Patrick is expecting big things from his new company.
Cyberdreams claim to have invested more than $600,000 in Darkseed, a large proportion being soaked up by the big-name endorsement of H.R. Giger and the rest of the company's impressive roster of creative personnel.
Aiming to release two games a year from now on, the company intend to concentrate on the horror/sci-fi genres. To this end, they're committed to using the best creative talent money can buy.


Anyone who has seen the sci-fi movie, Alien, will be familiar with HR Giger's artwork, as the Swiss-based surrealist painter was responsible for most of the movie's set designs and the pug-ugly alien itself. Born in 1940, Giger originally worked as an architect before developing his skills and branching out into oils and landscapes. Eventually, he became interested in airbrush artwork and it's this technique, more than any other, that Giger uses to bring his nightmares to life. Drawing his inspiration from the work of horror writers, such as H.P. Lovecraft and Shelly, as well as his own fertile imagination, Giger has now published an impressive portfolio of fantasy artwork and his paintings hang in museums all over the world.
It took Cyberdreams a number of attempts before Giger agreed to let his artwork be used in a computer game. He was initially concerned that his work wouldn't translate particularly well onto a computer screen, but his misgivings were largely eased when Cyberdreams decided to use only high-res graphics to avoid the 'square and jagged' look that Giger had originally complained about.
Once Giger's permission had been obtained, a team of artists set about sitting through the artist's huge back catalogue of artwork to select the most appropriate images for the game. Using Newtek's Digiview digitiser and Dpaint IV to help tidy up the images, each stage of the process required Giger's personal approval. The results, as you can see from the various screenshots that adorn this page, are some of the most ominous and downright creepy graphics to appear in a computer game.


With two more releases scheduled to appear during the course of the year, Cyberdreams are already beginning to crank up their hype machine. First off the blocks should be Cyber Race, a futuristic racing simulation designed by Syd Mead, the bloke responsible for the stunning sets in Blade Runner and 2010. It's a race game with no rules as competing drivers attempt to force each other out of the race by any means possible. Also in development is No Mouth, a computer game based on Harlan Ellison's 'I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream'. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the game revolves around an omniscient computer that fills the centre of the world. It's a battle of survival as you must lead the remnants of the human race against the computer and eventually disarm and deactivate the renegade machine. We'll have full previews soon.

Darkseed CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Computing Silver Award

A reviewer's life can be tough. This week I've been plagued by disturbing nightmares, throbbing headaches, interference from parallel dimensions, alien brain implants and the threat of world domination by eldritch forces.

No, I have not imbibed a bucket load of hallucinogenic drugs. These terrors must be faced by anyone who plays Dark Seed, now released on the CD32 so that console owners can get the willies too. A point and click animated adventure, Dark Seed has a storyline that combines elements from H.P. Lovecraft horror novels and the Alien films. As Mike Dawson, a writer whose dress sense seems to be stuck in the 70s, you find that your newly bought house holds some dark secrets.

When you discover that your house contains an inter-dimensional doorway, it becomes apparent that an ancient civilisation is hatching dark plots on the 'other side'. A trail of clues found in the library and the cemetery eventually lead you to cross into an alternative reality with landscapes inspired by the artwork of H.R. Giger.

The plot and the look of the game work well to create a foreboding atmosphere, and the desire to see the other dimension provides an incentive for problem solving. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't live up to the suspenseful setting. The puzzles are often irritating, relying on meticulous room-searching and luck more than on logic. There's also a lot of tedious plodding about from location to location, a problem exacerbated by slow-paced animation.

There's not a lot going on, with relatively little interaction with other characters, not enough movement in the scenes and a style of play reminiscent of hide and seek.

The voice-over will, as usual, bring a mixed reaction, but at least the narrator doesn't keep repeating himself, a problem that marrs Simon the Sorcerer. Musically, it's not too bad either. Dark Seed did keep me plugging away for some time because it has an intriguing idea behind it. Unfortunately while I was persevering the game was moving too slowly and unsatisfyingly to make my progress as enjoyable as it could have been.


Darkseed CD32 logo CD32

Darkseed (Cyberdreams, 071-328 3267, £29.99) is a game about a man called Mike Dawson, and Mike has been 'interfered' with by some aliens. You have to wander through a variety of locations picking up bits here and there.

There are some nice visuals and the odd horrific bit, but it's all rather unexceptional. Still, those with a feel for wandering-around-looking-for-things adventure games should enjoy Darkseed - especially meeting the bizarre alien counterparts of the real-life characters.

Mein Alien spricht deutsch!

Darkseed CD32 logo CD32

Wenn Ihr umblättert, stoßt Ihr auf das witzige CD-Märchen "Simon the Sorcerer" mit Sprachausgabe; wenn Ihr weiterlest, stoßt Ihr auf ein Adventure mit Alien-Horror Marke Giger - und deutscher Sprachausgabe!

Dieses Erstlingwerk von Cyberdreams gilt den Abenteurern längst als Klassiker, selbst wenn die Anfang letzten Jahres erschienene Amigaversion wegen ihres Interlace-Modus eigentlich nur für Leute mit einem Flickerfixer (ersatzweise genügte auch ein Augenarzt in der Familie) vernünftig spielbar war.

Doch siehe da, für die Schillerscheibe hat man dem dunklen Samen nicht nur das Sprechen beigebracht, er erblüht jetzt auch ganz ohne Interlace-Geflacker am Screen!

Wenn man in der Rolle des Schriftstellers Mark Dawson trotzdem Kopfschmerzen kriegt, dann hat die Pein nun also nur noch einen Grund: Mark hat ein Alien in seiner Birne!

Den ungebetenen (und vorläufig noch ungeborenen - die richtigen Kopfschmerzen stehen noch aus!) Gast muß man innerhalb von drei Tagen Spielzeit wieder loswerden, wozu nicht nur des Helden frisch erworbenes Landhaus zu durchstöbern ist - etliche der leider nicht immer ganz logischen Rärsel sind auch direkt in der gruseligen Parallelwelt der Außerirdischen zu knacken.

Insgesamt warten immerhin 75 Locations (darunter die viktorianische Villa, das nahegelegene Dorf, ein Friedhof und etliche andere Schauerszenarien) auf Besuch, und weil hier jede Handlung Zeit kostet, steht man wirklich permanent unter Druck.

Wer dennoch alles richtig macht, also die Geheimgänge im Haus entdeckt, den Postboten am Morgen erwischt und mittags Radio hört, darf zur Belohnung am dritten Tag zu den Aliens, wo erst mal der eigene Kopf und dann noch die ganze Menschheit zu retten ist.

Gesteuert wird der kopfschwangere Retter über Icons und ein geschickt am oberen Rand des Bildschirms verstecktes Inventory: das System ist quasi eine Mischform aus den bei Sierra und Lucas Arts üblichen.

Auch wenn die Grafiken nun augenschonender präsentiert wird, hat sie bei der Konvertierung doch qualitativ ein wenig gelitten, was aber bei all der vorherrschenden Düsternis (Teile dieser 3D-Welt sind gleich ganz in SQ zu sehen) kaum auffällt. Die Schrift ist jetzt jedenfalls prima lesbar, doch die Animationen ruckeln, und die Karten wirken speziell auf kleinen Fernsehern etwas undeutlich.

Die Musik war hingegen schon immer so gut, daß sie, auch ohne direkt von CD zu kommen, hervorragend Atmosphäre erzeugen kann, und an den FX hat sich nichts geändert - abgesehen von der tollen und komplett deutschen Sprachausgabe natürlich, die bisher ja überhaupt einzigartig ist.

Das Handling klappt via Maus oder Pad gleichermaßen bestens, und daß gar drei Spielstände abgespeichert werden können, kommt am CD32 schon fast einem kleinen Wunder gleich.

Allerdings muß die hier wegfallende Wechselei der Disketten mit einem etwas trägeren Spielablauf bezahlt werden, als man ihn vom 1200er her gewohnt ist. Und auch wenn das Deutsch in Wort und Ton vorbildlich ist, macht das etwas betagt wirkende Abenteuer insgesamt doch nicht ganz so viel Spaß wie das mit dem englischen quasselnden Zauberlehrling Simon - dafür kann der halt wiederum nicht mit so schauerlichen Schöpfungen dienen, wie sie der Schweizer Maler und "Alien"-Erfinder H.R. Giger hier digital verewigt hat. (mm)


Für die nächste Jahr erst mal auf PC-CD erscheinende Fortsetzung hat Cyberdreams H.R. Giger nicht nur als Grafiker, sondern auch als Spieldesigner verpflichtet - die ersten Bilder sehen schon sehr vielversprechend aus! Ob allerdings auch wir Amigianer zum neuerlichen Kampf gegen die Aliens aus der Dark World eingeladen sind, hängt laut Hersteller davon ab, wie es bis dato um die Situation bei Commodore bestellt ist. Wir heißen Euch hoffen!

Darkseed CD32 logo CD32

Amiga version: 88% AP22

Well, it is hugely atmospheric, there is no denying that. This version adds speech (which does not really help, as the characters are just speaking lines you are reading from the screen anyway, but it is a nice thought, and worth it just for the impossibly melodramatic delivery of lines about old, slightly dusty chairs) and the hideously repetitive music shows an understanding of clichéd horror with its use of off-key lullabies and chords in descending thirds.

Curiously, despite all the mutant dolls and biomechanical impregnation, the bit that disturbed me most in this famously icky adventure took place in the local corner shop. The friendly shopkeeper is assiduously polishing the counter, which, when you examine it seems to have been polished for hours on end. Aaarghh.

The problem with Darkseed is that the adventure really is not that good. It is small, it is linear, it involves swinging the pointer around the screen looking for almost indiscernible objects (the manual claims this is part of the game but what is the point of making finding and collecting items incredibly tricky? There are scenes in the game that are mindboggingly picky; where the difference between, say, being told a car is in a run-down condition and getting the game to acknowledge the existence of the boot is measured in pixels; or where a blob on the floor that looks exactly the same as the planking turns out to be a pocket watch) and it insists you solve the puzzles on the correct game day otherwise you will lose.

The player's character is really annoying as well - he moves unbelievably slowly and will happily walk right round a desk to reach an object that is already beside him. And you cannot interrupt the leisurely animations of him walking up stairs or climbing ladders. Bah.