Driller for the ZX Spectrum was released by Incentive Software, who were already well known for their excellent programming utility 'The Graphic Adventure Creator' (GAC) and the brilliant arcade game Moon Cresta.
When this game was released for the Speccy in December of 1987 it was one of those games that everybody talked about. The true 3D playing area with freedom of movement was finally here.
The game took place on a distant moon called Mitral. This planet had (in the past) been mined by exiled criminals - and the mining had caused gas to slowly build up below the surface. Enter you, a space faring drilling expert (not Harry Stamper!) to draw the gas off and prevent Mitral from exploding.
|A true 3D environment was here to explore...|
Freescape was promoted at the time as 'the new dimension' - and it was totally amazing at the time.
For the first time in ZX Spectrum gaming - it was possible to wander freely around a proper '3D world'.
The planet was represented to you in full 3D solid graphics which you could move around in (in the game you were manning an excavation probe) - allowing you to rotate around and view objects and buildings from almost any angle. This was the first time in 8-bit gaming where you were placed right inside a virtual world.
Not only was this world represented in 3D, objects behind other objects would be hidden from your view - a change from 'transparent' vector graphics - another jaw dropping feature.
Mitral was made up of large open squares. These square were surrounded by walls, block buildings, trenches, steps and acid rivers.
The whole planet was devoid of life, and this emptiness actually added atmosphere to the game. Automatic laser beacons fired upon you (if they detected you) and your vehicles defensive shield was depleted by repeated hits.
But this was Freescape - and you could retreat out of the lasers range or even get behind it - thus preventing it from shooting at you. Wonderful.
It was possible to hit back though if you fancied more than just being sneaky; your craft was also armed with guns so you could shoot back or even destroy the lasers power supply and render it useless.
An audible warning would alert you to the presence of an orbital scanner, and the only course of action here was to take evasive action.
For more mobile exploration you could dock with a reconnaissance jet, (not always easy to find!)
The jet was housed inside a hangar - and you had to solve a puzzle before being allowed to dock with it.
Once docked you could fly the jet over the surface of Mitral and land anywhere you fancied - making exploring the virtual world easier.
There were also teleports on the planet which you could use to move from point to point- again by the solving of a puzzle.
But the object of this classic game was unsurprisingly, drilling. When you located a gas pocket, a rig could be beamed down to Mitral's surface and positioned over the pocket where it would begin to syphon off the gas.
Once more than 50% of the gas had been 'sucked out', the current sector you were in was marked as safe.
Once a sector had been made safe the you could reach then next by travelling through doorways in walls, blasting away obstructions, or by teleporting.
The game was played against the clock. It gave you just four hours and eight seconds (stange time limit) to complete it - barely enough time to go sight seeing. Pah!
As you may have guessed, this title was an amazing game when it was released on the ZX Spectrum. The whole '3D World' (and the Freescape engine) that you were immersed in was astounding - and in 1987 probably represented the pinnacle of graphical acheivements on the Speccy. Once you got over the landscape you realised that Incentive's program was a compelling and addictive game. It was regarded as an instant classic and was so popular that a sequel (the excellent Darkside) would be released a year or two later. Even at the high price of £14.95 gamers lapped it up.
The test of time:
I don't know about you, but I can still remember the utter awesomeness this game generated when it came out. Today 3D games are plentiful, but back in 1987 true 3D worlds were hard to come by! Of course that graphics are nothing special anymore - nor is the concept, but this game must go down as a pioneer in the field of 3D rendering, and helped to pave the way for future games such as the classic PC game Descent. Here in our own little world of Spectrum games we salute Incentive Software for what they accomplished.
Play it again, you too will feel alone in the cold blackness of a lifeless planet... A bit like my place of work!
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download this game for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: 3D Arcade Strategy
RELEASE DATE: December of 1987
RELEASED BY: Incentive Software
DEVELOPER(S): Major Developments
PRICE: £14.95 - UK
Mart explorers the lifeless Mitral...
A true classic game.