Producer: Argus Press
Retail Price: £9.95
Earth has been captured by an evil race, The Insignians. Patrolling the planet in robotic war machines, they keep the population in slavery.
As with all dictatorships a seed of resistance grows. For the first time since the Insignian domination, an enemy base. Kerberus has been captured by the forces of Captain Fergus McCaffery. Human hope is rekindled, the invaders can be defeated, but only if their three remaining bases can be destroyed.
Six enemy war factories are scattered around the playing area. None are currently in production, but they are activated by the arrival of first enemy robot. Putting these plants out of commission prevents the Insignians from rebuilding their stocks of weaponry. Time is limited, and the longer McCaffery takes to assemble and deploy his forces, the stronger the enemy becomes.
An anti-grav machine is used for reconnaisance flights, above enemy territory and across formidable landscape. A radar at the base of the screen shows the position of the robot under control, in relation to other robots and the terrain.
This same machine is used in the production and control of Resistance robot forces. Landing on the anti-gray pad at the home warbase gives access to the robot production schedule.
The home forces start with 20 resource units, (labour, parts, materials and forces) to their credit, to which units are added each day from their factories and warbases. War machines are built from these for combat, defence or factory capture.
Different robots possess different capabilities and functions - a tracked chassis gives good manoeuvrability, but is costly, whilst an anti-gray chassis can fly over any ground type, but is more expensive still. Weapons such as phaser, missile and nuclear modules all have different ranges and lethal forces. Enemy bases and factories can only be destroyed using the nuclear capability, but this takes out anything, including the carrying robot, within an eight mile radius.
Valuable resources are used as robots are assembled, with remaining units shown on the right hand side of the screen. A maximum of 24 war machines can be constructed by either side.
Robots are controllable by landing the anti-gray machine on top of them, they can then move to the left or right, up or down, between buildings, through rough terrain and around ravines. However only one can be controlled at a time.
Each of these war machines can be fed with instructions and allowed to act independently, searching for and destroying enemy targets that come within their range.
Control keys: definable; up, down, left, right and fire needed
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Use of colour: monochromatic playing area
Graphics: simple perspective, but effective
Sound: good tune and above average spot FX
Skill levels: one
Nether Earth is great fun, especially when it comes to building your own robot - the inlay card is well worth a read before designing commences. The graphics are reasonably good and the characters are well defined. The layout and shadowing effects are reminiscent of Zaxxon, and make the position of your anti-grav vehicle very easy to distinguish. The best feature is that there is no annoying sound to put you off. except when you attack the enemy which is a great help. The game is a bit expensive but well worth it.
I didn't really like Nether Earth the first time I played it - it wasn't too long before the game really began to unfold, and when it did, I found it much more playable. I especially enjoyed the robot building sequence, but the rest is equally worth looking at. It's not a fast aggressive shoot 'em up as the inlay might lead you to believe, but it is fun and quite reasonable at the price.
ARGUS PRESS seem to be good at releasing original games that lack severely in gameplay and content. Nether Earth does a lot to change this though, being a strange mix of strategy and action that works surprisingly well. This appeal may be short lived though as it becomes a little monotonous when you start to lose (and you lose a lot in your first couple of goes). The sound is above average, there are some effects during the game and the music on the title screen is very good considering the limitations of the 48K machine. Well worth a look and a great improvement from ARGUS.
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