In the depths of the universe lies a remote planet. On which a tyrannical computer has terrorized the populous. Built to govern, it turned renegade and blah blah blah.
If I seriously had a pound coin for every time I heard of a games plot involving either computers/robots going rouge, aliens invading or both at the same time. I wouldn’t necessarily be rich but I would certainly have a lot of pound coins sat in my bank account right now.
Nonterraqueous is an arcade adventure, multi-screen game for the C64/128 (though I own and played it on the C64 for this review). Which was released back in 1986, as a budget release for £1.99, on cassette by Mastertronic.
Like many budget games at the time there wasn’t much expectation that it was going to change nor bring anything new to the world of gaming. To which it thankfully didn’t as otherwise the world might have imploded if anyone thought that anything in this game was worth copying.
In fact the only thing that this game had going for it was that it boasted 1,000 screens to explore and play through. And that might have been stretching it a little as all the rooms look similar to each other except for a change in wall color and texture.
Yes Nonterraqueous (please don’t ask me to try and pronounce this sober as it won’t work.) is certainly playing it a little on the safe side when it comes to innovation and gameplay. Because this game is about as bland and average as they come. Fitting of a true budget release.
You play a robot seeker. Designed by the terrorized populous and built from parts stolen from a robot assembly line. With only a single mission to put a stop to the renegade and tyrannical computer. Which sounds easy in theory if it weren’t for the 1,000 room maze which is split into 3 sections. With each section containing 14 levels filled with all manner or nasties, puzzles and photon barriers out to stop you from completing this task.
Graphically the game is nothing spectacular. To the point that a friend asked if I was actually playing a C64 game, or an early ZX Spectrum game. The corridors of the rooms all have a black background with the only colour coming from the sprites and walls. The enemy sprites themselves, while featuring smooth animation, all feature more detail and animation than your seekers sprite. Which resembles a floating yellow eyeball than a face. Even though the walls differ between levels, they all start to look the same with little variation of detail between rooms. It all looks so bland and boring.
Audibly the game is also bland and repetitive. With the same short tune continuously looped. Livened every so often with a laser blast or bomb blast. Certainly not the best I have ever heard on the mighty SID.
The controls, for the most part, feel OK at best. Moving your seeker around is done with relative ease and it doesn’t feel too sticky or clunky. Firing too is done with speed but precision isn’t on the cards really for this title. One other down side to the controls is that your seeker is drawn to the bottom of the screen if left alone. As if some invisible force is dragging it down to the pits of some otherworldly hell. This causes some minor annoyance when trying to drop bombs or navigating some of the horizontal photon barriers.
There is a difficulty curve also to this game. Not because the enemies or puzzles are really that difficult. But instead is due to your life meter, known in game as psyche, constantly trickling away. Even if you simply sit in one position it depletes at a speedy rate. Your psyche drains even faster if an enemy wonders into you. Leading to a speedy death. There are even insta-death rooms that are filled with gasses and other traps that will end your adventure short and lead you to frustration.
Given the poor graphics, lackluster audio and difficulty of this game you would think that it’s another poor budget title. And you would be completely right in this assumption.
Nonterraqueous is your average budget game to the core and does a wonderful job showing this to the world. Nothing about it makes it stand out from the crowd except for the 1,000 rooms gimmick. The graphics, audio and gameplay are all just bland and generic with nothing that makes you go wow. In fact the most exciting thing about this game is the art on the case insert. Which may have been it’s strongest selling point next to the price.
The only sense of enjoyment you seem to get out of this game is knowing that you’re edging ever closer to beating it. That with every insta-death trap, every time a bomb detonates just before you make it out of a room, when you run out of psyche before finding next blasted refilling point, you forget about the gravity as you check your hand made map and it pulls you down into a photon barrier for the millionth time, when you get splashed with acid rain because you forgot to switch for again and every cheap death at the hands of am enemy. You are edging one step closer to beating a game that the developers probably never thought anyone would bother finishing.
It still gets one out of five stars though.
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