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Dark Side

aka: Dark Side featuring Freescape
Moby ID: 21802
DOS Specs

Description official descriptions

In Driller, the Ketars attempted to blow up the moon Mitral, but you stopped them. Now, they have Energy Collection Devices collectively known as ECDs, and hope to stock them up to use towards the Zephyr One device, and direct its energy at the planet Evath, resulting in a catastrophic radiation overload.

Your mission is to beam onto their base on the moon Tricuspid and destroy the ECDs. Destroying one will buy you more of your limited time. The problem is, many are connected to at least 2 others, and those can immediately regenerate, so you must tackle them in an order in which those with only 1 connection are attacked first.

You are inside a spacesuit, propelled by a Jet Pack with limited fuel, and possess lasers and a shield. Shield energy is limited but can be recharged through pentagons and rods. In a world viewed through the Freescape 3D system, you roam the verdant planet of trees, buildings, and underground tunnels.

Gameplay in Dark Side has more action than its predecessor, Driller. The Freescape world has a third dimension - due to the jetpack you can leave the ground and look down on the view. You can also rotate the angle, change the length of your steps, make quick U-turns, and look up or down. The jetpack uses energy at a fast rate, so use this feature sparingly. You must avoid the security turrets called Plexors, which shoot lasers and weaken your shield, and deflector devices, which can beam you into prison.

Groups +



Credits (ZX Spectrum version)

8 People



Average score: 85% (based on 20 ratings)


Average score: 2.1 out of 5 (based on 16 ratings with 1 reviews)


The Good
Before discussing the game lets start off with a little anecdote.

I remember when I used to go to my friend after school, to play on an already old and worn out Commodore 64, since that's all we had at the time.

He had a datasette and some audio tapes, brim full with not-so-legal copies of games. Even 1 hour tapes (30 minute long on both side) can hold many C64 games, let alone 90 minute ones. That is when the games are compressed into a turbotape format. That required a special loader program, which filled the screen with flickering rasterbars for long minutes as the games loaded. The tape sleeves had strange writings on them, with names of unknown persons and some unreadable handwriting. Even my friend didn't know where the tapes are coming from or who are those people. Included with the tapes were dirty sheets of papers (ripped out from some notebook), that listed the game titles and their position on tape. Done often misspelled or unreadably, not that it mattered much because we didn't know English.

We usually loaded up the games that were in early positions on the tapes. Didn't want to reel much because the datasette worked a little weak. Thus the far ends were not very frequently visited. Even less were the B side of the tapes. Those were the mysterious sides, or the DARK ones if you will. We rarely dared to venture there because it could hide anything! Once going trough those unknown territories, we loaded up a thing called "dark-sid". We suspected that dark means something ominous. And there it was, a... thing! We stared at it silently, as the demo mode foolishly killed itself with the jetpack over and over again, while strange, otherworldly sounds emitted from the TV's speaker (it's not like the the crack intros didn't make weird sounds). After we turned it off, we were afraid that we unleashed curse or something. Even more scared we became when the next thing we loaded up, changed the rasterbars of the turbo loader from the usual back and gray, into BLACK AND RED! AAAAH TURNITOFF

...Years later I came across a book called "1001 játék" in a library. IN A DARK, FORGOTT--yeah yeah enough. This game was also featured with a description, control sheet, perhaps even a walktrough. Since then I occasionally have a go with the C64 or various versions of the game.

Visuals. The most obvious, glaring, inescapable feature of the game is the 3D graphics! A virtual world made out of shaded, even tough a little barren poligons! Realized on the humble Commodore 64! Regardless of the very harsh tradeoff in speed, amazing piece of programming from the '80s. Not the first game to achieve this tough, previously Driller introduced the Freescape engine. The view is in a relatively large window, surrounded by the HUD with its numerous displays.

The music. What a fine soundtrack it is! It saves the game from becoming boring! It is atmospheric, ominous, suspenseful, melancholic, and the SID chip makes it sound powerful like a rock instrumental. The music starts out with weird noises and slowly evolves from there. One loop lasts 12 minutes, never gets dull. It even has a melody snippet from the James Bond theme and it does not stick out. This masterpiece was composed by Wally Beben. The same guy who made the music of Tetris (the Mirrorsoft version). I cannot decide whether this, or Matt Gray's Driller theme is the better piece of music (I would rank both beside to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon). For the game itself, this tune is PERFECT MATCH, more than in Driller! Aside from the music, there is the sound effect when you die and the tower shoots the beam, and that's it as far as sounds go in the C64 version.

Gameplay is like a First Person Shooter, with more freedom of movement than Doomasterisk or even Driller. You can look up and down, crouch, lean, fly with the jetpack! The movement is with the joystick and varous attributes can be manipulated or switched with the keyboard. The playfield is an entire moon or planetoid, divided into sectors, buildings and, and we can freely explore it, except the places that are protected by walls, force fields, or teleport traps. If we draw the map on a paper and cut it out, it can be folded into a geometric body.

But the asterisk is, this game is an older kind of FPS that is almost like turn based. Pressing Space switches between movement and aiming modes. You can get around faster by manipulating the lenght of your steps and the angle of your turning. There are no enemy creatures, just some lazer turrets that occasionally may change place or respawn from their ruins.

The main goal is to destroy Energy Collector Devices, all 25 of them. Those are little octahedron shapes on top of obelisk towers that are scattered around the planetoid. The ECDs and towers are connected with cables (black lines on the ground) to a huge building on the dark side of the planetoid. Once fully charged, it will blast a deadly beam to wipe out a neighbouring planet (Death Star much?). The time left to the blast is displayed with a binary counter on the right side of the HUD. The percentage counter on the top of the screen shows how many ECDs are left. The less ECD remains, the more time you have. There are restrains of how can you shoot out the ECDs. They are connected sequentially via the cables, and will regenerate if they have more than one functioning neighbour. Sounds simple, but you cannot always follow the cables because of the already mentioned restricted areas. Thus you have to solve various puzzles with switches and teleport machines. If there is a black shape on a wall or floor, it is either a hole or something that can be manipulated by shooting or touching. You can spare time by visiting a sector trough secret underground tunnels. You have to manage your shield (health) and jetpack fuel, both of which can be boosted in store buildings. These also act as currency, like when paying to get out of a teleport jail.

There is a Sphinx on the planetoid, that is maybe a foreshadowing to Solar Eclipse?

The Bad
Either the gravity is very strong or your equipment is massive. Or both. Okay, no matter how we try to defend or rationalize it, the fact remains that the rendering is extremely slow. The slowest among all the ports. It goes with about 1 frame per second averagely, and gets slower or faster depending on the visible environment. As blocky and primitive the 3D as it is, still a bit much for the C64's 1Mhz processor to handle. If fact, Spectrum and Amstrad users often cite this (or other Freescape games) as the proof for their faster machines as far as raw CPU power goes. The slowness would be unbearable if there wasn't the wonderful music.

The Bottom Line
In many aspects it reminds me of Impossible Mission, but in 3D. Dark Side is one of my go-to games, I pick it up time to time, when I am like in a meditative state, and have a "run" as long as I last with one try. Finishing it would probably be a lifetime achievement. I am not sure whether I should be recommending Dark Side or not, let alone the slowest version of it. It's great, but an ancient relic, and we are definitely better off with the modern type of first person shooters. Oh well, I do recommend just for the heck of it!

Commodore 64 · by 1xWertzui (1135) · 2017



Driller - a prequel to Dark Side - was basically a technical demo showcasing the Freescape system but offering very little in the way of gameplay. Dark Side gained more depth and was enhanced with new features. Developers were also focused on engine optimisations - they created new procedures on 16-bit machines that were ported back to 8-bit versions what resulted in small speed increase (around 5%).


  • The deadly laser gun "Zephyr One" was named after Incentive's Berkshire office address.
  • Sphinx figure that could be stumbled into during the terrain exploration served no real purpose but was just a case of the developers saying "look at some of the cool stuff we can do


  • ACE
    • October 1988 (issue #13) - Included in the Top-100 list of 1987/1988 (editorial staff selection)
  • ST Format
    • January 1990 (issue #06) - Included in the list 50 Games of the Year


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Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 21802
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Martin Smith.

DOS added by BdR.

Additional contributors: jean-louis, mailmanppa, Jo ST.

Game added March 27, 2006. Last modified December 13, 2023.