Every now and then, the turbulent and surprising world that is computer software will give birth to a product that threatens to change the whole face of gaming and become the yardstick by which future games will be judged, etc, etc. Needless to say, most of these games fail miserably to live up to their hype and toddle off to their own little land of the curious where they can each boast that they've got the most revolutionary three-dimensional graphics/biggest map/fastest gameplay/most incomprehensible novella, before conceding that they were all extremely dull.
Driller, I'm relieved to say isn't quite such a game.
As explained in our preview in October, Driller incorporates Incentive's new game-system called Freescape. This - to cut a lot of technical guff short - allows you to view the world upon which you find yourself as filled 3D graphics. Big deal, you might say. Well, as a matter of fact it is, because as well as being able to move around; north-south, east-west, up-down, you can look up, down or around anything as well. (This, again, may not sound like the most exciting concept you've ever heard of in your life. Be patient. When everything is working together, things get more appealing).
And now, the plot, Ahem. In the future, a colonised planet named Evath, comes under threat of destruction from the impending collapse of its moon, Mitral. Mitral was used exclusively as a prison planet, and the convicts were set to work mining it and sending the valuable minerals etc back to Evath. Being a hopeless bunch of degenerates, the convicts failed to read their "Elementary Digging Holes" manual and destabilized the planet. Sealing up everything in sight, they scarpered. It's up to you to go around the moon and drill release ducts which will allow the dangerous build-up of gas to escape before the place explodes.
(There. A couple of paragraphs. Quite why it took Incentive reems and reems and pages and pages to get the same point over is beyond me).
Once you begin you'll find yourself looking out through your window on completely uninspiring black & white landscape in an assortment of cross-hatching patterns. Ooh, very tasteful. But once you start moving around, you'll see how tightly the thing has been programmed. The buildings, walls and objects move around with some considerable speed. We're not talking Last Star Fighter, but it's definitely an improvement on Eye of the Mask, especially bearing in mind that the sheer number of objects being moved around. A feature that definitely adds to the realism is the way you can alter your angle of vision. At any time, you can tilt your view through as much as 360'. This is particularly useful while navigating a narrow walkway, as you can continually look down to make sure you're squarely on the path.
Along your way, puzzles appear in numerous guises. There's your standard how-to-cross-this-bottomless-pit problem. There's the-how-do-I-get-in-here problem, and other great problems of our time. There's no text input in Driller, so most of the problems are solved with your laser. Now, your laser has essentially two purposes. It can knock out some of the security systems left behind which hamper your progress. It can also be used to operate the secret "switch" objects (cubes, pyramids, panels etc.) which will operate secret doors, elevators and the like.
Drilling (which is the whole point of the game in the first play) involves first finding the best place to drill. And it's no good just whacking down a rig anywhere. You've got to discover the point below which most of the gas is built up. This largely involves trial and error, picking up the rig and moving it to achieve a higher gas percentage (oo-er), although there are some hints scattered around.
Driller isn't the most nail-biting game to play. There's a reasonable amount of strategy, and you never get into any sweaty-palm combat, though things do move along at a pace reasonable enough to keep you at the computer, and the puzzles are interesting and diverse. It's definitely worth a look.
Author: Major Developments
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
'Stunning use of 3-D graphics do not a good game make', as my Chinese grandmother always used to say. Actually she say "Wong-cho ho fat ping-wah chung ah woo", but that's what she meant, and I'm sure she had Driller in mind.
The Freescape 3-D graphics system, which lets you explore the moon of Mitral in total freedom, is a brilliant example of programming.
The trouble is that your mission is extremely boring - literally and figuratively. You have to gain access to each of 18 centres, find gas pockets and drill holes to relieve the pressure before the moon blows up.
A complicated control panel shows your location, viewpoint, energy and shield status, time remaining and so on; the other half of the screen is taken up with the Freescape graphics, consisting of polygonal buildings, vehicles and installations which you can view from all angles.
Yes, graphically it's brilliant probably one of the best bits of programming ever on the Spectrum. But it's dead dull as a game, and is probably a good example of many games that are set on the moon, especially as Driller has no atmosphere.
Label: Hit Squad
Price: £2.99 Tape
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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