Commodore User1st February 1987
Published in Commodore User #42
Terror Of The Deep
Having virtually exhausted the potential that space has to offer the voracious appetite of games players, I suppose there was only one way for software to go - down.
Terror Of The Deep is described, quite accurately as 'an adventure simulation in the depths of Loch Ness'. The nearest thing I can think of in terms in similar software is Activision's Eidolon. Both are essentially arcade games which rely heavily on an adventure atmosphere created by a plot in the style of Jules Verne or H. G. Wells.
Terror Of The Deep has a particularly quirky variation on the theme. One night, late in the nineteenth century, Loch Ness is the scene of a weird meteor shower, or some such whacky phenomena.
But worse is to come. Strange creatures have been reported rising from the Loch, 'threatening the lives of the locals and even Nessie herself'. Quite why anyone should be concerned just because a bunch of monsters has ganged up on another monster is beyond me. After all, it pulls in the tourists.
Anyway (you can see this coming, can't you?), an eccentric Scottish engineer had the foresight to build a 'bell-like diving craft' in which to explore the Loch. The canny Scott also had the foresight to equip his sub with all the latest in nineteenth century military hardware, including a harpoon gun, bombs and an electric force field.
Fortunately for you, the engineer is on his last legs and with his dying breath selects you for the task of eliminating the alien monsters and the threat they pose to the villagers and Nessie.
The game has pinched another idea from Activision, in that the success or otherwise of your mission, is reported by a newspaper, in this case The Scottish Sentinel. To be fair, the idea has been expanded upon and, whatever the outcome, all reports are presented in this manner, rather than one final report when you manage to successfully complete the game.
And so to what actually happens. The first Scottish Sentinel front page report informs you. 'New volunteer needed. Terror of the deep. Can submersible beat space crystal menace?'
This is where the hype ends and the action begins. First, using a pointer on a map you must pinpoint the position at which you want to be dumped into the icy waters of the Loch by the captain of the surface ship. There's no easy get out here for cowards. Any attempt to ditch the sub on dry land and make a run for it is doomed to failure.
So you find yourself in command of an ancient-looking Nautilus-like submarine. The instructions are pretty unhelpful in this respect. It's not that they don't tell which lever does what - they do - it's just that I find a quicker method of familiarising yourself with the controls in the 'I wonder what will happen if I pull this level' approach.
And there are lots of levers. Probably the least important are those which control movement of the sub. Although you will need to familiarise yourself with them as spot on manoeuvring is essential to target the harpoon gun.
There are, however, several controls you need to keep an eye on and constantly adjust. A huge set of bellows on the left of the panel must be periodically pumped to maintain the air supply. The power wheel, deliberately situated inconveniently on the far right, must be rotated every now and then to maintain a steady supply of juice to the electrically powered systems.
Probably the most ignominious demise ever incorporated in a game is death by standing still. A stationary sub is a sitting target for deadly spores which attack themselves to the viewing ports. If you must stand still, you'll have to fry the spores every few seconds with the electric field.
In practice, it's only necessary to remain stationary when awaiting supplies from the surface ship. A blast on the klaxon lets them know you are in need of more harpoons and bombs, but picking them up with the electromagnet can be quite tricky. Bear in mind that, while you are trying to accomplish this, the air will run out, the power will run down and the spores will attack in frightening numbers. So there's plenty to do in the meantime.
At times it's hard to remember that your main objective is to destroy the alien crystals. But once you get the hang of doing everything else on auto pilot, things really start to hot up. Do be careful not to get carried away and start blasting the fish and other harmless marine creatures.
I liked Terror Of The Deep, but terrifying isn't the word I would use to describe it. It's actually quite relaxing, if a little hectic at times. The feeling of being submerged in the murky depths of Loch Ness is brilliant and makes a change from dead boring space which always seems to look the same, no matter whose space it is.