C64 Review of Nether Earth from Issue 26

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Five eons ago a subterranean race called the Insignians broke through the Earth's crust in huge tunneling machines and waged war on Mankind. The surface dwellers had no chance to defend themselves against this surprise attack, and the little resistance offered was swiftly crushed by the powerful Insignian war machines. The human race was enslaved and forced into production of powerful robotic craft which the Insignians used to patrol their new domain.

Since the first invasion there have been many attempts to drive the Insignians back, but all have failed. Now, however, there is hope. An enemy base, Kerberus, has been captured by a small human resistance force and using the captured war machines the three other Insignian bases, Tarras, Faretra and Dioklos, can be taken.

As leader of the resistance you dictate all action against the enemy. At the start of the battle you control and anti-grav reconaissance flying machine, hovering above a diagonally scrolling landscape. A radar at the base of the screen shows your position, and the relative position of any relevant features.

Six robot factories are scattered across the landscape, each producing one of six components - chassis, electronic support modules, nuclear, phaser, missile or cannon weapons. The factories are initially dormant, but become active as soon as a robot moves close. Thus, it is imperative to get your robot to the factories before the Insignian forces.

Landing the anti-grav machine on the pad at the captured base gives access to a production schedule showing captured factories, available machine parts and the current resources, measured in units and displayed at the bottom of the screen. Assembling the components produces fully working robots, diminishing the total resources available as each it built.

Robots are controlled in one of three ways. Direct control is gained by landing the anti-grav machine on the chosen robot - the disadvantage of this method is that only one robot can be controlled at a time. Alternatively, robots can be programmed with set instructions, or ordered to act independently, searching for and destroying enemy targets that come within their range.

Enemy robots attack throughout the battle, and the loss of any resistance craft, factory or base results in the display of a revised status report and diminished resource total. Conversely, conquering a factory adds to the figure and the rebel forces become more powerful- until finally, the Insignian force is crushed.

This review was typed in/OCRed by Jianso

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Gary Penn
The concept is tight, but the execution and gameplay is abysmal. Why use a 3D approach to display the proceedings? An overhead or side-on view would have been far more interesting and allowed the action to flow faster and more freely. Sadly, as it stands Nether Earth is slow, monotonous and surprisingly empty. Like so many recent Argus Press releases it lacks that vital, indescribable spark and is severely devoid of polish. I'm sure Argus Press are capable of producing more impressive software than this - so how about it?
Julian Rignall
Why Argus have released Nether Earth in its present form is a complete mystery to me. It looks shoddy and unfinished, the screen glitches badly when it scrolls, the program crashes at regular intervals, has a large number of bugs and contains absolutely no playability. The presentation is also very poor, the graphics fail to represent anything other than a series of grey featureless shapes on a flat green surface, and the long-winded instructions offer little in the way of help. I can't find anything worthwhile about Nether Earth - it's an inconsequential piece of binary garbage that should never have seen the light of day.
Steve Jarratt
Argus Press seem to have some sort of vendetta against Commodore owners: first came the Grange Hill fiasco, and now Nether Earth comes to darken our doorsteps. It's a visual nightmare, consisting of large bland areas of colour with no detail. The gameplay is slow and fiddly, and any interest soon dissipates when the task ahead becomes apparent. Argus Press are fast losing any credibility they once had - Nether Earth does nothing to rectify this situation.
Presentation 41%
Confused instructions, ineffective title screen, poor on-screen presentation and a marked lack of options.

Graphics 22%
Bland backdrops and sprites, complete with a screen glitch of seismic proportions.

Sound 29%
Forgettable title tune and spot effects.

Hookability 25%
Little action to enthral, and the unhelpful instructions quell any sort of enjoyment.

Lastability 14%
Unrewarding, frustrating and completely unaddictive.

Value 7%
A high price to pay for such a worthless release.

Overall 15%
A potentially good idea ruined by inept execution.