Down to Earth

by Antony R. Lill, Darren Byford, MOS, Martin Pointer, Ralph Emery
Firebird Software Ltd
Crash Issue 42, Jul 1987   page(s) 95

Producer: Firebird
Retail Price: £1.99

As site foreman in control of an Astra-Dozer, you must clear 30 different planetary systems of the hostile inhabitants.

Anyone who's played Dig Dug or Boulderdash will recognise the action and appearance of Down to Earth. In this chaotic geological jumble live three types of alien: dangerous Circsaws and Trigons who must be wiped out and Conenabs, benign to you but mortal enemies of the Circsaws. Don't ignore the Conenabs, though - they multiply quickly and can block off escape routes.

At first these aliens are trapped in soil pockets, but they're released by the Astra-Dozer's activities. Circsaws or Trigons cause instant death, though touching dozers left by previous work crews gives extra lives.

You can drop bombs, or leave them behind to be activated by an alien's touch. Contact with a bomb doesn't destroy you, though the blast does. Extra bombs are found in armoury chests.

Bombs have also been left buried in the soil be previous space probes: if you chobble earth from beneath them and the large natural boulders, they'll fall upon aliens.

As supergalactic four-star is a precious commodity, additional supplies are held in oil tanks. But fuel isn't the only problem - there's a time limit on your mission.


Control keys: Q/A up/down, O/P left/right, SPACE to drop bomb
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2
Use of colour: lively object-differentiation
Graphics: small characters, little animation and extremely jerky scrolling
Sound: very poor
Skill levels: one
Screens: 30 systems

Graphically Down to Earth is primitive; movement is jerky and the characters uninspiring. It plays just like Boulderdash, and just like Boulderdash it's almost instantly addictive and playable - but it's a touch too frustrating. And Down to Earth could have been improved tremendously had the programmers taken time over sound and graphics. Something for Boulderdash-genre fans, this doesn't improve upon the original.

I'm not particularly impressed with this obvious Dig Dub/Boulderdash clone. The tractor's cute with his big beaming face, but the meanies look like they've been nicked from Ballblazer. The scrolling's awful, giving instant eyestrain as the screen flickers from area to area. It's all spoiled by unfairly tough replay, and I still prefer the subtleties of Boulderdash and the simple addictivity of Dig Dug.

I thought we'd got rid of this type of game ages ago. Colour is well used, but the graphics lack the realism and smooth animation needed for an addictive game, and the sound is terrible - no tunes and only three effects. I quickly became bored, and I can 't see myself bothering with Down To Earth again.

Presentation: 52%
Graphics: 39%
Playability: 50%
Addictive Qualities: 45%
Overall: 47%

Summary: General Rating: Latter-day clone of an old arcade game with average playability, but too frustrating to be very addictive. May have some appeal for newer gamesters practising for the delights of classic Boulderdash.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 20, Aug 1987   page(s) 63

Firebird Silver

In the world of the budget game there are a few classics which make you wonder that they ever appeared at anything less than £9.95... and there's about the same proportion of real clinkers, which seem overpriced at £1.99.

But for the main part, budget games are solid, if often uninspired, copies of formulas, taking a hit which is beginning to grow a bit grey and whiskery and whacking it out at a pocket-money price. Which brings us to Down To Earth, a bargain basement Boulderdash if ever there was one!

Bargain basement is incredibly apt as you bulldoze your way around beneath the surface of 30 star systems, clearing them of alien life-forms in preparation for the inter-stellar by-pass. There's an arcade test of quick reactions, but the main ingredient of this game type is planning.

The main problem you face in your excavations is that, in addition to the roaming weeblies referred to above, there are boulders and bombs packed into the clay, and shifting the earth that supports an obstacle may well let it slip down onto your druid, leaving you flatter than a pancake.

The plot, therefore, is to find the path that lets you crush or blow up the aliens without doing unto yourself as you'd wish to do unto them. All of this has to be achieved in a limited time-span, and with strictly controlled fuel supplies, so there's no room for ditherers.

The first level's fairly easy, at least at the start, but as you create more complex craters you could find that your path is blocked by the heavy rock of the rolling stones which drop from above. Learning how to use the various obstacles, as well as finding out the layout of the levels, is all part of the fun before you can develop a proper strategy.

Unluckily the bargain basement element creeps in here, and instead of a super smooth scroll between screens you get a rather jerky effect that stops all of the action. This reduces playability a bit, especially where a quick manoeuvre is required to avoid falling boulders. (Did someone mention me? Rachael) The sound's also a bit lacking.

But remember the price. If you're into arcade puzzles this is a nicely planned diversion that's sure to provide more than two quids worth of enjoyment. It certainly bulldozed its way into my affections.

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Graphics: 7/10
Playability: 7/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 8/10

Summary: Boulderdash inspired but this tale of tactics amongst the underground tunnels is over the top value at an under the bottom price.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 67, Oct 1987   page(s) 39

Label: Firebird
Price: £1.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tamara Howard

Well, it was like this, see Guv. I got me dozer our of the 'ut first off this mornin', and I drove up the road like, nice an' quiet, and then, all of a sudden like, things went all technicolour and I found myself in some sort of computer game.

It weren't like no building site I'd ever bin on before. There were fuel dumps to pick up. and strike me down wiv a feather there was all these aliens, all over the flipin' place, and strike me, Guv, there I was blown up. Din know what hit me ...

Down to Earth is one of those budget games that oh-so-nearly makes it, but not quite. For a little while, it's moderately entertaining chewing on dirt, but after a rock has fallen on your head for the fourteenth time, your enthusiasm tends to wane a tad.

I'm convinced there must be a good game in the wildlife preservation versus the motorway game idea, this isn't it.

Overall: 6/10

Summary: Trundle that 'dozer! Entertaining scoop 'em up fades with use.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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