by Chris Wood, J. Dave Rogers, Stephen J. Crow, Steve Weston
Hewson Consultants Ltd
Crash Issue 60, Jan 1989   page(s) 12,13

Dangers in the nether regions

Producer: Hewson
Priceless Diamonds: £7.99 cass, £12.99 disk
Author: Chris Wood, from a concept by Jukka Tapanimaki

In a world far different from our own, you take the part of a spaceship pilot who has environment. To escape you must collect enough of the local currency, diamonds, to escape.

The game is made up of various levels, you have the choice of starting on the first, fifth or ninth - and I definitely advise the first for beginners. This eight-way scrolling world is filled with dangers. Demons spit deadly bubbles into your path, alien generators spew out monsters and goat's heads spit acidic blood. You've still got accidently warped into a hostile your trusty laser though, and the monsters can yield some very useful items when shot. Demon killers are self-explanatory as are brick smashers, but occasionally a question mark appeals which can bestow an extra life, invulnerability, uncontrollability or reverse controls (nasty).

Each level has a set amount of diamonds to be collected, very little time to collect them in. Hourglass objects can extend the time limit by 30 seconds if collected, but diamonds are always hard to find, let alone collect. On many levels tortuous mazes are created by strange alien structures, such as huge spikey globes and big skulls lurking among the walls.

Occasionally a secret door can be found in a wall which will give you access to somewhere previously blocked off, more common are transporters to zap you from A to B. Ten levels of horrific happenings stand between you and freedom, so run like hell, because perhaps that is where you are.

Don't be fooled by the pretty graphics - gameplay is tough. But after several tries you quickly learn the best way to deal with the various problems that arise. Collecting enough diamonds to enable you to warp the next screen is difficult enough, but the added aggro of a timer is nail-biting stuff. Take a good look at Netherworld, and pray that you never get lost in such a place.

MARK [90%]

Joysticks: none
Graphics: large, colourful demons and skulls etc, but the scrolling of the play area is a bit jerky
Sound: weird, distorted in-game 128K tune plus some nice spot effects

The first thing that strikes you about Netherworld is the amazingly noisy 128K in-game tune which is so distorted, it sounds like a computer version of the Jesus And Mary Chain! (Who? - Ed.) I suppose it's better than complete silence. The gameplay's the thing, though, and the concept is beautifully simple - and highly addictive. All the graphics are well-drawn and surprisingly colourful (so much so it doesn't look a like a Spectrum game at all). Unfortunately the price of this is some distinctly jerky scrolling, but even this minor technical flaw can't diminish the gameplay. Netherworld represents an intriguing twist to the collect-'em-up theme and as well as being instantly playable, is deviously addictive.
PHIL [86%]

After Cybernoid, Marauder yet another Hewson classic. It boasts fast-action play and perfectly detailed graphics packed with colour. The basic aim is a simple one- collecting diamonds - which may not seem very exciting, but the way it has been implemented is what makes it worth while. The tunes and sound effects complement the game perfectly and add to the overall mayhem. If you want something original, addictive and great to look at, buy Netherworld now.
NICK [88%]

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Presentation: 83%
Graphics: 87%
Sound: 78%
Playability: 87%
Addictive Qualities: 85%
Overall: 88%

Summary: General Rating: Another fine game from Hewson and a great conversion from Jukka Tapanimaki's original C64 game.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 38, Feb 1989   page(s) 36

£8.99 Cass/£12.99 Disk
Reviewer: David McCandless

There you were - a swivelling Polo-mint of a spaceship spinning in an endless flickering orbit when wham! Michael Jackson released another single and suddenly you were in Purgatory, doomed to gyrate and flicker in stasis for the rest of eternity (cue short burst of Vincent Price cackling).

But old Purgatory (or 'Netherworld' as the inhabitants know it) is a weird old place, populated by lost souls and theatre actors. Diamonds litter the place, just panting to be collected. And then there's the fact that you can buy your way through the ten levels, and then - wonders upon wonders - escape. Say no more.

The apparent idea to Netherworld is easy. A simple case of cavorting your disk around ten slyly designed and cunningly intricate scrolling levels, seeking out and collecting the correct amount of diamonds within the time limit; and then what could be easier than swanning to the nearest teleport and translating your atoms to the next zone? Except, it's not quite that easy.

For a start, there are various alien hazards out to put a permanent end to your convolutions. Demons squat malignly here and there, spurting a host of flickering globules which hurt. You can shoot them of course, and that's recommended when you consider they turn into bonus yum-yums when punctured by a laser bolt. The bonuses can either be delectable (extra lives, extra points, demon banes and wall breakers) or detrimental (energy drains, loss of steering etc).

Then you have to cope with the practically indestructible mines. These ballistic bunions have a tendency to hug the landscape, bounce up and down, or just follow you around like radioactive sheep (baaaaaaabooooom!)

On top of that, there's the fact that the diamonds aren't just located in 'obvious' corners and junctions. Instead they're deviously located in the seemingly-impervious-brick-box or the small-area-of-the-screen-covered-in-mines.

And if all that wasn't enough, you've also got an unbelievably tight time limit. Despite the possibility of collecting the odd hourglass to restore 30 seconds to the clock, or using the many teleports for swift transport around the level, the limit is tough with a capital, emboldened, italic, 72 point 'T'. I guarantee every level will end with you frantically searching for the last diamond while the final three seconds drain away.

Netherworld's graphic are a bit of a let down. They are simply 'okay' and adequately suit the plot of the game (with demons, devils and other 'after-life' images among them) but they are a little bland and superficial. Colour is put to good liberal use.

But aaaarghhhhh! The moving graphics flicker abominably. Terrible. Yuck. Ick. Bleueegh! Perhaps it's to suggest the flickering 'nether' part of the world, but it turned me right off. The four way scrolling is a slight consolation I suppose - it's fast, smooth and - heaven be blessed - flickerless.

However, the graphics don't matter when compared to the playability. If you strip away the blanket of sci-fi babble, the ethereal graphics and the confused setting, you've basically got a game not unlike the classic Boulderdash with the identical captured addictiveness. Each level is a puzzle which once solved is no longer a problem.

This is not a classic but not a turkey either. It's suspended somewhere high-up between and it unashamedly maintains Hewson's reputation.

It's not instantly likeable. Give it a chance, water it, keep it away from caterpillars, and it'll grow on you.

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

Summary: Boulderdash minus Rockford and gravity, plus a polo mint and sci-fi storyline. Flickering graphics but brilliantly balanced gameplay and - man! - it is addictive.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 81, Dec 1988   page(s) 114

Label: Hewson
Author: Chris Wood
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tony Dillon

Eeek! What a way to die! Stuck in an infernal alien universe with no way out other than to buy your way to freedom.

You begin on one of three start levels at various points around the 10 levels. Each level is a large, multi-scrolling area of walls and nasties. The basic idea is to collect all the diamonds that are scattered about on each of the levels to gain access to the next. Of course, it goes without saying, each screen gets progressively harder (then why did you say it? -GT).

Just to make the game that little bit more difficult, you are given an amazingly short time limit in which to get around and collect all the gems on each level. Luckily it is possible to find hour-glasses that top your time back up to maximum.

Some of the diamonds are hidden in some pretty obscure places. Some groups are completely surrounded by what seems to be an impenetrable wall.

Or is it? Maybe not. Bounce around it for a bit and sure enough, one of the blocks is a cleverly projected hologram, carefully constructed to look like the real thing.

Your ship is a small, rotating hoop-like affair, that can zip in and out of the maze of platforms quite quickly, which it needs to be able to do, what with the short time limit and the nasties.

The aliens consist of two types. Free roamers, that bounce all over the shop, and cause some real painful damage to your craft. These are produced by alien generators that can be found from the mid-levels onward.

The other type of nasty is the demon. These rotten creatures sit on ledges next to large supplies of gems, and stop you by just chucking hundreds of bubbles at you. Luckily, these can be shot down and some of the bubbles leave lots of special toys for you to play with. These range from extra points to two very destructive weapons. One weapon gives you the power to destroy demons on contact. The other is a brick smasher to help you break through games.

Netherworld seems to be 10 levels of the same old thing. There doesn't seem to be enough game in there to warrant any form of long term playing.

The graphics are quite nice and detailed. I particularly like the huge skulls on one of the later levels. Animation is quite fluent, though the scrolling is more than a little jerky.

Sound is confined to well within the Spectrum's limits, but funnily enough, there is some mega-fab 128K music.

A slightly disappointing conversion of the not-so-hot Commodore 64 game.

Graphics: 83%
Sound: 72%
Playability: 43%
Lastability: 68%
Overall: 69%

Summary: A sad conversion from the Commie. Hours of sheer boredom guaranteed.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment) Issue 17, Feb 1989   page(s) 69

Hewson, £7.99cs, £12.99dk
C64 version reviewed Issue 13 - ACE rating 820

Nice graphics with good use of colour. The peculiar task hasn't changed at all in conversion, so it's just as enjoyable.

Ace Rating: 810/1000

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 15, Feb 1989   page(s) 39

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.99
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99

Trapped between equal forces of good and evil, your aim is to escape the mystical Netherworld in your wheel-like craft. To buy your way out, you collect diamonds which lie around 12 scrolling levels.

It's not easy, though, as each level features a time limit and many enemies to contend with. The most prevalent form is acid bubbles, which are shot to release icons. These can, amongst other things, increase speed, give bonus points, temporary invulnerability or an extra life. Occasionally diamonds must be created to fill the required quota by using a diamond squeezer or metamorphosis wall.

The Spectrum uses subtle shading to recreate the atmosphere of the C64 original, and objects are arranged carefully to minimise colour clash. Ones eye is distracted by rapid flickering of sprites, particularly on the otherwise impressively animated spinning ship this proves irritating, especially on the Amstrad.

This is a pity, as the graphics are very colourful and out-shine the C64 on some levels. The doom-laden music is excellent on the Amstrad, but drones on in parts on the Spectrum. There are some interesting effects, in both versions, amongst the standard blasting fair.

These are the most user-friendly versions of those so-far released - levels five and nine can be played without having reached them legitimately, allowing you to see the more difficult of the games fast arcade puzzle levels.

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Overall: 76%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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