Challenging alien environment

Dark Side logo

WELCOME to another adventure using the Freescape 3D environment, Dark Side, the successor to Driller, set 200 years later. It stars those enemies of the Evath, the Ketar, in another bid to destroy life as we know it. It all started with a probe passing over the dark side of the moon Tricuspid detecting a plexar just before being destroyed. A plexar is a giant construction designed to fire a high-energy particle beam at Evath, blowing it apart. It is fed by Energy Collection Devices - or ECDs - which resemble crystals atop poles.

Your mission is to destroy the plexar, but more immediately you must starve it of energy, thus slowing down the countdown to the time of firing.

As soon as you see an ECD, shoot it. If it is in a line of theirs it will re-charge immediately, so the devices aside it must be destroyed first. Other things to worry about are the Plexors, which are tank-like defenders, the slab-like power porters must be activated by hidden crystals.

You start in a sector of the moon guarded by a plexor and decorated by a few three-like constructions. Moving forwards in full 3D, the first objective is to avoid the plexor and penetrate the next sector where you can destroy an ECD. Come back then and enter a building which houses stores of shield and fuel materials. Getting into the building is easy since the demo mode shows you how to do it.

Although it feels like you are driving a tank, you are actually in a spacesuit and can look up and down, tilt the angle of perspective, even fire-up your jet pack. The trouble with these moments is that they are fairly laborious.

Movement forwards and backwards is relatively smooth and fast, sideways movement is very slow and jerky. Considering that only around half of the screen is used, this is disappointing.

The jet pack activated, take to the sky - or what passes for one - and zoom into buildings, down the corridors and round the constructions in search of crystals and ECDs. While some situations are familiar - corridors in buildings and surface features outdoors, for example - some of the features indoors are very strange and infuse a sense of something completely alien. Very unwelcome to the eye. Plus it is difficult to figure out what is what.

The sound effects are goodish, but there are not enough of them. You will soon tire of seeing and hearing the Plexar destroying Evath every time you blow your mission impossible.

Nevertheless, Dark Side is a challenging and worthy addition to the Freescape stable. It is slow and thought provoking and will certainly be welcomed by devotees of the 3D arcade adventure. But be warned, it is not everyone's cup of tea.

Dark Side logo Format Gold


Almost 200 years have passed since the vents that took place in incentive's previous release, Driller. Now the Ketars live on the moon Tricuspid which orbits your home planet of Evath.

On Tricuspid there has been built a huge weapon called Zephyr One (Did you know that Incentive are based at a place called Zephy One?) with which the Ketars intend to destroy Evath.


A massive amount of energy is required to fire the weapon and this is collected by a network of interconnected solar panels called ECDs (energy collecting devices). All you have to do is destroy the network and save the world.

To help you in your mission you hagve a jet pack, a laser and a force shield. Unfortunately fuel and shields are in limited supply and you must find a way to replenish them during the game.


In Driller, the pace of the game was very sedate and you had lots of time to do things, but Darkside is much faster paced. Initially the ECD network is charging at 100% and if you are going to stand a chance at all at completing the game you need to disable as much of the network as possible in the first few minutes of play. Disabling an ESD is not easy however, because you can only disable one if it is at a terminus. ECDs connected to more than one other ECD regenerate almost instantly.

The Ketars have not left the place unguarded though, they want Evath to be in lots of little pieces and so tanks, satellites and forcefields litter the planet. Forcefields deplete your energy if you hit them and shots from tanks and satellites do the same. Running out of fuel can be equally fatal when you are flying, because once gravity grabs hold of you it just won't let go until you hit the ground and go splat.

Apart from disabling the ECDs and avoiding or destroying the Ketar forces there are other problems that you will face: collecting telepod crystals, finding hidden doors and activating switches to get to other sections of the moon.

In some sections of the planet there are sensors which deposit you in prison and the only way to get out again is by paying a fine. Inside the jail there are two letterbox-like objects, one takes fuel and the other shields when you shoot the slit. After enough shots have been fired the door will open and you can leave.

Make sure you choose wisely because the only way out of the jail is by going through a trapdoor.


The static graphics in Darkside are very similar to those in Driller; buildings made up of blocks of colour with extensive use of shading to help enhance the three-dimensional effect. There is more animation in Darkside though and more of the Ketar forces move around rather than just sitting there gathering pixels 9dust!). Sound is a vast improvement over Driller's which was distinctly eight bit. There are not only some very very good sound effects, but also an atmospheric tune that goes on for ages before repeating.


Graphically, Freescape games have always suffered from a very boring block structure and there is no change here. However, challenging strategy elements certainly keep your mind off of problems in the effects department.
Darkside has the one thing that was lacking in Driller, some pressure to drive your forwards and make sure that you do not waste time. The problems are more logical in their solution and the fact that your opponents move around makes a more challenging and demanding game.


The team behind Driller and Darkside are Major Developments. The main emmebers of this infamous team are Ian (Dan Ayckroyd) Andrew, Chris (Freescape) Andrew, Sean Ellis, Wally (Hagar) Beben and Robin Chapman. All bracketed comments are found inside Darkside along with digitised pictures of some of the above. Ian does not want us to tell you how to find them though, you will have to do that for yourselves.
Ian came with the plot for the game and this brother Chris is responsible for designing the Freescape system. Sean Ellis programmed the 16-bit versions of Darkside and also wrote STAC, the ST adventure creator.
Hagar (we are not sure if that is Hagar the Horrible) composed the music, as he has done on countless other games and Robin Chapman is responsible for the graphics.
Next month will see the arrival of Total Eclipse and after that? Well you will just have to wait and see because the next game is not due for release until about this time next year.

Dark Side logo

Price: £24.95

Freescape has always struck me as the game system with the most potential, but sadly Incentive has yet to use it. For anybody who does not know, Freescape is a game system which is based around a world created entirely from 3D filled graphics, in which nearly everything can be manoeuvred by shooting. The problem with Freescape on the 64 was that it involved the machine chewing up vector calculations and dribbling them out at a very slow rate - this problem, at least, no longer applies to the Amiga version.

In this episode an unfriendly bunch called the Ketars have decided to take revenge on your world, Evath, by erecting a giant weapon known as Zephyr 1 on the dark side of the second moon, Tricuspid. To prevent a wave of panic, the government have kept everything quiet, and in a bid to save Evath have dropped you in your all terrain yuppie space suit in order to wipe out a network of Energy Collection Devices (ECDs) to prevent the weapon from gaining the power it needs to fire.

Controlling the surface of the moon are tank-like objects called Plexors who do not take kindly to people taking pot shots at their ECDs and as soon as you come into range they will open fire.

Obviously your suit is equipped with the latest lasers and a jump jet pack with a limited fuel supply, which can be topped up; but remember it is a matter of finding the right locations.

One infuriating feature is the way you lose shields every time you collide with an object, such as a table or a wall. Still who said life was easy?

Apart from travelling around blasting everything there are a number of logic puzzles to be solved which greatly increases the atmosphere of Dark Side. And do not expect it to be easy going, there is plenty of terrain and surprises around every corner.

The graphics work well at generating atmosphere though a few touches like lightning and stars would have greatly enhanced it. There is not too much on the aural side, though what there is ties in well. It is hardly outstanding, though.

Dark Side is a game for the more conservative player who is prepared to sit down with a paper and pencil, take notes and maps, and assess a location from every possible angle. If you have already got Driller on the Amiga and liked it you will moon with joy over this. If you have had no previous experience of Freescape and its friends I still think you should take a look - it is starting to go places.

Dark Side logo

Microstatus, Amiga £24.99

On the dark side of the moon Tricuspid the Ketars have started construction of a weapon by to revenge their defeat in Driller. Alied at the planet Evath it draws power from of network of Energy Collection Devices (ECDS). At the apex of each ECD there's a solar cell which transmits its power down a matrix to the Zephyr One weapon. Your mission is to destroy all the ECDs - no easy task considering you're alone with just a jet pack to carry you around.

The basic gameplay of the original Dark Side is unchanged: travel around by foot or jetpack and unravel the 3-D puzzles which protect the ECDs. The only real changes are, inevitably, the presentation.

Robin Hogg Although I wasn't totally enamoured by the original 64 version the music was what made the game for me, setting the scene and game atmosphere superbly. On the Amiga the programmers have performed miracles by rewriting it and using stereo to the full, creating a beautifully slow, pounding soundtrack in the process. The garishly colours in places I could do without and the update is not amazing, but Amiga owners fresh to Freescape, or those eager for more, will find plenty here to keep them occupied for quite some time.
Stuart Wynne The technical achievement of Freescape is obviously somewhat diminished on the 16-bit machines, where solid 3-D of the Starglider II-type is increasingly commonplace. But if the actual game graphics are unspectacular the superlative control panel, with neat touches like the save/load panel which slides down, and great music as well, show a commendable effort to exploit the Amiga. Then, of course, there's the 16-bit speed of graphics - flying around with the jetpack is much more realistic now, though not quite up to Starglider II speeds. And finally there's all those wonderful puzzles which are, after all, the heart of the game. In short well worth a look, although clearly overpriced.