Dark Side, PC

The 1988 MS-DOS version of the classic Freescape game, Dark Side, is arguably the best version of the game available, since it runs fast and the controls are very responsive.

Incentive Software published the game in Europe and Microprose published it in North America.

You could argue that the Atari ST and Amiga versions are better because they are slightly more colourful (since this version only runs in either CGA or EGA mode), and because they also have a nicer panel around the main view window. You might even argue that the original Spectrum version is better because it’s a technical miracle on a 48K machine, but I enjoy playing this version more due to it being quick and crisp.

In a nutshell: Dark Side is a first-person exploration game where the aim is to destroy ECDs that are powering a huge alien gun pointed at Earth. You have a laser and shield, and a jetpack with limited fuel, and must complete your mission within a set amount of time. Otherwise: it’s game over for the human race.

Completing the task is not easy and the enemy have positioned guns in certain places that will shoot you if you’re in range. You can however blast some of them with your laser to temporarily disable them.

Moving from sector to sector is done by simply walking out of bounds, which will take you to a new location if there is one. Occasionally it might also lead to instant death, so you have to be careful. Dark Side – like all Freescape games – has been designed to be re-played quickly upon death, and if you know what you’re doing (ie. you’re learning from your mistakes) then you can quickly get back on track by re-starting and trying again.

Younger gamers might look at Dark Side and think “WTF is this?!” but this was one of the very first fully-explorable, open-ended 3D games ever made, and is thus quite primitive. It is still challenging and interesting to play, though, even today when startlingly complex 3D games are in existence. 3D gaming started with Freescape (and I, Robot) and other games like it.

Final note: if you want to try to complete Dark Side the best point of reference is probably the ZX Spectrum RZX recording on RZX Archive. You’ll need a compatible emulator to run the RZX file, but that will show you how it’s done.

More: Dark Side on Wikipedia

Dark Side MS-DOS Keys:

A = Increase angle (turn speed)
Z = Decrease angle (turn speed)
S = Increase step (movement speed)
X = Decrease step (movement speed)
P = Look up
L = Look down
N = Rotate view clockwise
M = Rotate view anticlockwise
U = U-turn
J = Toggle Jet Pack on/off
R = Stand (move up if Jet Pack on)
F = Crouch (move down if Jet Pack on)
0 = Fire laser
+ = Toggle crosshair on/off
Space = toggle cursor mode on/off

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