Sounds and graphics great. Trip boring

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth logo

NOT read Jules Verne's masterpiece? Neither have I, but I am assured that the plot of the game is reasonably similar to that of the book, which has also been the subject of several bad films.

You can play one of the heroes - Professors Gunnarson, Bourdon, Rutherford or Rossi. It's June 1870. You find an ancient Icelandic manuscript that tells you to go into the crater of Sneffels' volcano, which supposedly leads to the centre of the earth. 3,000 ft below ground a rock fall separates you from your fellow scientists and you're on your own until you find them again.

Given a rough map of the area, you can click on four arrows to move in that compass direction. A description of your position is flashed on screen for a few seconds each time.

There are icons to click. One allows you to grab an axe and a stone, break it open to determine the local geology and hopefully deduce things about your surroundings.
Another lets you examine your body and apply the contents of your medical chest to various injuries. To start off with, you are bruised from the rock falls, have a splitting headache and a stomach poisoned by fumes. Your condition quickly deteriorates with fire and brimstone everywhere. You must find food and water quickly, meters at the bottom of the screen tell you how ill you are.
A third is a big R - think about it - and a fourth lets you sleep, complete with snores, whistles and alarm clock.

Your position can be saved and loaded, and there is a final icon which provides one of the few pieces of animation. You dash around the bottom of the screen collecting water which drips from the top, avoiding hot cinders which evaporate any water you have.

When you are poisoned, fall down a chasm or whatever, there is a very realistic scream and you end your day in a pile of dust and bones.

The graphics are superb. HAM mode is used to display everything from stalagmites and caves to your skeleton. The sound is equally good, the effect of steps and voices echoing round the caves is very well done.

You really need two disk drives - there is a lot of swapping with one, particularly during the title sequence, which was a little sticky with my review copy - sometimes I had to re-insert a disc two or three times before it was recognised, which made the game very slow and frustrating.

Despite the excellent graphics, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is boring. There is not enough for the player to do and too little variety in what appears on screen. Interest quickly flags as a result.

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth logo

U.S. Gold
Price: £24.95 disk

It was with great disappointment that I discovered U.S. Gold's game was not an adaptation of the superbly camp film. No Doug McClure. No Peter Cushing. If it wasn't for the fact they told me it had pterodactyls in it, I would've been too disheartened to boot it up. The game itself comes on two disks and there is the usual disk-swapping palaver to get going, but to give it its due it is reasonably swift to load up, unlike some other two disk games I could mention.

The first thing you have to do is to choose a character from one of four eminent scientists. Your choice will, I am assured, have a discernable effect on your physical and mental qualities. You will have to trust them on that one, I did not detect any major differences.

From there it sis up to the volcano Sneffels to begin your little outing. Flimsy scenario certainly is not this game's weak point. It does after all have the Jules Verne novel to draw on. The introduction is a captivating series of screens in the classic adventure mode. The first mini arcade sequence is nice to look at but dull.

Into the game, and you are confronted with a screen which looks uncannily like the side of a sauna with its little dials and wooden panelling. This is what you are going to be staring at for most of the game, so you would better get used to it. When you have chosen a compass direction a little text box pops up and tells you about the scenery and if anything happens to you. This usually seems to be either a sprained ankle or a bite from a bat, or variations on them. Fortunately you can repair their minor injuries with the aid of your trusty medical bag.

In trying to combine action and adventure, the programmers, CHIP, have managed to combine the worst of both worlds: the tedium potential of adventure and the vacuity of the arcade. It is very nicely done, but I am afraid that Journey to the center of the Earth is boring. Something which the book never was.

Screens illustrating your surroundings are few and far between and the arcade games become repetitive. One to look forward to is the stampede of mammoths. Trying to avoid them is like trying to cross the M25 with a blindfold on. Being hit by a mammoth at full pelt (no pun here surely? Ed) is not something I would expect anyone to get up from, least of all your ageing scientist. Yet, the old man with the sprained ankles will. In fact only if you are hit half-a-dozen times, does a little text box appear telling you have been bitten by a bat. But life is like that isn't it? You survive being trampled to death by a rampaging herd of mammoths only to die soon after from a chronically sprained wrist. It is simply not fair and neither is Journey to the center of the Earth. It should have been good, but it isn't really.

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth logo

Rainbow Arts/US Gold, C64 £9.99 cass, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

TZzap's Rockford: He's with Den Watts! he time is the late 19th century. After many months of being feared missing, a group of explorers, led by the eminent Professor Lidenbrock, return to civilisation. In hordes of bustling pressmen, they relay to the world that they have just returned from a quest to a completely new country. Bet you didn't think I could stretch this far! What makes their story so difficult to believe is their claim that this country does not exist on the Earth but lies inside its very core. Of course, being the cynical bunch that humans are, their story is dismissed as lies. Well, would you believe it? Erm... well you would actually. 'Cos this is the bit where you come in.

Zzap's Ken D Fish: Where? Rio? You see, a handful of people have speculated for some time that such a kingdom actually exists. You (probably because a brick fell on your head when you were six) are one of these people. Approaching Lidenbrock, you put to him the proposition of returning to this underground world with you in tow. Rockford: He's with Den Watts! After some hesitation, he actually agrees, and begins preparation for the journey. The date of the expedition arrives, and you set off for Iceland, and the volcanic mountain Sneffles (Sneffles?), where the quest is to begin. The game starts here.

Zzap's Nose Choosing one of four characters, you descend into the volcano and, with the aid of a map left by a previous explorer, enter the depths of the Earth's core. There's danger everywhere - rockfalls, stampeding mammoths and vicious pterodactyls (no relation to our own Herman, of course). Action sequences which involve dodging and avoiding these dangers intersperse an analysis screen. Direction arrows let you explore the surrounding area (info come back in messages - you don't get to see anything) and you can adjust your daily food and water supplies, use your first aid kit, set sleeping times and make use of rock analysing equipment vital in plotting you course further into the Earth's crust.

Success in your journey will lead to untold fame and riches. Failure will mean death, thousands of feet below ground. And we don't want that now, do we Eric?

Gordon Houghton Most of this fantastic journey is just spent staring at a basic map and when one of the sub-games does decide to appear, it's just a case of dodging left or right to avoid the oncoming 'perils'. At least the Amiga game looks and sounds nice... Of course no one expects the 64 to match up to that, but that's no excuse for gaudy colours, blobby sprites and abysmal sound effects. What hammers the final nail in the 64 coffin is the horrendous multiload. Brilliant idea that - to load in each message for every room separately! I really enjoy spending 50% of my playing time waiting for the disk (Irony warning).
Kati Hamza Aaargh! It's Around The World In 80 Days come back to bore me to death! Eeek! Just when you thought it was safe to come back out of the cupboard, they've come up with another of these interesting-sounding exploration games. Thing is, that's all they do sound interesting. When you actually get down to it, all there is to the magical underground journey is a bit of dodging, a bit of watching a static screen and (on the 64) ages waiting for a really mind-numbing multiload. If you really want to the Earth's core, get a shovel and start digging - it'll be a lot more fun.
Paul Rand While the Amiga version of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth abounds with very good digitised stills of caverns, as well as a generous smattering of effective sampled sound effects, the C64's game is a mixture of really weird blobs of colour and basic sound. What the two programs do have in common, though, is the gameplay. There just aren't any long-term lasting qualities here. The majority of the game is spent pressing one of the direction arrows, hearing some footsteps, and reading about the surrounding area. Hardly epic material, is it?

Zzap's Giraffe: Bet you didn't think I could stretch this far! Zzap's Thing: Where is James Mason now?