Diggers AGA logo AGA Gamer Gold

We dig-dig, dig-dig, dig-dig, dig, we work the whole day through... or so a dwarf once told me. It sounded fun so I joined him for a bash at Diggers, A1200 style.

A lot has already been said about Diggers, it being the first CD32 release to reach the computer magazines and one of the first to feature in a package for the launch of Commodore's new console.
Many things were said of Diggers by the computer press, not all of them very fair. For be it for me too opinionated on the subject of other feelings on this product, but having read some of the reviews I can't escape a certain feeling of wariness.

It seems to me that many reviewers either didn't have the time to examine its merits properly or were too busy looking for relatively superficial tricks that the CD32 is capable of. Normally I wouldn't broach a subject like this during a review, but in this case I feel it relevant. It makes you wonder what types of marks Diggers would have generated if it hadn't been the scapegoat for people who wanted to see fantastic sprites on the CD32. It also makes you think what type of response it would have been greeted with had it come out on disk prior to compact disc.

Having played Diggers extensively, I wonder exactly what some people are looking for in a title. How many times have all and sundry duped and suckered into falling for great graphics and little or absolutely no gameplay? How many do we have to mention to make the point? Space Ace and Dragon's Lair are two fine examples and there are dozens more of them which lie redundant at the back of a dusty wardrobe - money down the drain.

The point of all this is that Diggers is bloody brilliant and while some magazine shots don't make it look like the proverbial bee's knees, let me tell you that it is.

The other thing that needs addressing is the number of comparisons that have been made between and Diggers. Anyone who comes to this conclusion has probably not even played the game at all and has looked at it and said something along the lines of comparing the relative size of sprites.

Fair enough, bot sets of characters are similar in height, but taht's where the comparison ends. In Lemmings one is presented with a problem and a set of characters which can be assigned a duty, with the goal being to discover the way through various obstacles. Once the level has been worked out there's little or no point in returning to it ever again.

Diggers is so very different to this idea that it leaves Lemmings tunnelling in the dark. For one, in Diggers there are no strict guidelines for achieving success, you can go about your business in a combination of ways.

More important though is the fact that you can continually return to the same level and investigate different areas to achieve your goal. Conversely you can visit the same location and employ a different strategy. This gives the game an everlasting durability and an untold quantity of possibilities. The whole point of this exercise is to say that Diggers is a very high quality product and hasn't deserved some of the comments made about it.

More importantly for you, don't be put off by superficial comment on graphics (which are pretty good anyway) as Diggers is brilliant. It's a masterpiece of programming and going to go down as an absolute classic.
Anyway, I'm off my soapbox - I've vented my frustration and can now tell you something about this new A1200 game.

Stories of the planet Zarg's mineral wealth were spread far and wide throughout the known galaxy - a planet so vastly rich in mineral resources and ores that it had become a miner's haven.

However, due to enormous volcanic activity and subsidence caused by blatant overmining of vast areas, the planet's surface had become increasingly unstable. Huge chasms started to appear and many lives were lost. Subsidence and volcanic activity weren't the only problems encountered by the the Zargon government. Lawlessness and greed had resulted in merry men possess qualities unique to themselves.

For example, the Habbish are a mystical order who are impatient and lose interest in digging, whereas the Grablins love a good dig. Indeed, if they have a beer in one hand and their pick (that was pick) in the other, they're eternally happy.

The basic aim of Diggers is to collect precious jewels form within the planet's surface. So, after you've selected which five miners you are going to operate, you must then select a zone to begin work in. After this is done you can leave the controller's office fully stamped up and ready to head out to the zone of your choice. Really after this it's totally up to you how you handle the operation.

There are literally hundreds of choices you can make which could alter the destiny of your little chaps. You see it sounds easy enough just getting your miners to dig away until they raise enough cash to complete the level.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few things which stands to complicate matters for you. For one, natural geographical features can slow work down on a mining operation. Other hindrances include opposing mining factions kicking up a rumpus with your chaps and a whole host of nasty creatures which lurk on both the planet surface and the depths of subterranean caverns.

The only thing to help your little moles is a very slick control system and a whole host of digging toys to speed your operation up. The control system is driven by your mousey and very helpful he is to. The method employed is really friendly and lends itself naturally to play. In fact, since Diggers has been released on the CD32, the control method has been tweaked slightly and improved for the A1200.

On the equipment front, after a visit to the Zargon bank where you cash your sweaty jewels in for cash, it's well worth a visit to the corner shop. Here a rather ugly Jimmy Hill-type alien will be only too happy to sell you a whole range of drills and paraphernalia.

With 30 levels (plus a hidden one) and six different types of terrain to pit your wits against diggers is going to be enough to keep you happy for months and months. In the graphics department, the 256 colour palette has been splashed thoroughly throughout and the sound is an atmospheric ambient experience throughout which really adds to the feel of Diggers.

I can't really say a bad thing about this game - it's got everything: It's a puzzler, it's a strategy, it even has aspects of platforming about it. Overall it's a totally addictive, superbly playable game. It's a gem, a diamond, a nugget, in fact it's every precious stone-type superlative I can think of.

What more can I say, other than miss it at your peril?


Taking control...
Diggers AGA
  1. Walking, running and jumping.
  2. Digging in every conceivable direction.
  3. Picking items up or drop them.
  4. Teleport from your base to bank and shop.
  5. Give character a rest.
  6. Examine items in detail.
  7. Teleport from areas back to base.

Diggers AGA logo AGA Amiga Format Gold

Those of you who read our review of Diggers in issue 52 will understand if I tell you that there is treasure beneath the planet Zarg. If you missed the review (shame on you), we gave one of the first CD32 games a stunning 93 per cent rating and an Amiga Format Gold. Millennium have now converted Diggers for the A1200 and A4000, and it has ended up on four disks.

The basic idea is to guide a set of five alien beasties in their mining expeditions. As they dig, they come across jewels, which can be sold for money. This can either be put into the bank or used to buy equipment such as digging machines, explosives or lifts. Each of the 30 levels is won by getting a certain sum of money, which allows you to proceed on to the next level.

As you would expect, some things have been removed in order to fit the game on to floppy disk. The CD music is gone, but this has been replaced by music and sound effects generated through the Amiga's sound chips. It is not quite as atmospheric, but it is still very good.

Graphically, the game is identical to the CD32 version, and makes good use of the 256 colours which can be used with the AGA chipset. The only minor change is that a couple of options on the menu have been moved, so picking up and dropping items needs only one mouse click.

Diggers requires a lot of memory, so you will need to quit out of any programs (such as Virus Checker or Directory Opus) which you may have running in the background. If you are running with a 256 colour Workbench on an A1200 with only 2Mb of memory, you may need to alter this to run Diggers. Similarly, if you have a background image for your Workbench, you may need to remove this to free up some memory.

None of the bits that have been removed really detract from the game, and it is still great fun. The disk swaps when running from floppy are irritating, but they do not interrupt the flow of gameplay too much. Until the CD add-on for the A1200 is released, this should keep the subterranean freaks happy.



Die Goldjungen

Diggers AGA logo AGA A1200 Speziell

Reichlich verspätet erreicht das eigentlich schon für September angekündigte Goldgräberspiel von Millennium nun das Tageslicht - dafür bekommen Kumpels mit A1200 bzw. A4000 hier ihre ureigene Zeche!

Für das CD32 ist ebenfalls eine Version dieser Mischung aus Echtzeitbuddelei, Action- und Strategieelementen erhältlich; ob demnächst auch "Regulär-Freundinnen" mitwühlen dürfen, steht dagegen noch nicht fest.

Immer nur ein Spieler kann sich hier in den goldhaltigen Untergrund stürzen, doch der bekommt alle Hände voll zu tun: Binnen Monatsfrist muß auf dem Planeten Zarg entweder eine zuvor festgelegte Menge Bargeld erwirtschaftet oder die schürfende Konkurrenz ausgeschaltet sein. Am Anfang stehen vier Alienrassen zur Wahl, die jeweils andere Werte für Kraft, Geduld, Intelligenz etc. sowie diverse Spezialfähigkeiten von der Teleportation bis zur Heilkraft besitzen.

Im Ergebnis gibt es somit einerseits immens fleißige, aber schwächliche Arbeitstiere, andererseits eher faule Schläger, die lieber aneren den Ertrag klauen, statt selbst zu schuften. Jedes Team verlangt daher nach einer eigenen Taktik - die Wahl bleibt dem Spieler überlassen, der Rechner übernimmt dann einen der übriggeb So eie Schürfmannschaft besteht aus fünf Leuten, die einzeln zu den Ausgrabungsorten manövriert werden. Dort begeben sie sich im auszubauenden, aus der Seitenansicht dargestellten Höhlenlabyrinth auf die Suche nach Gold oder Edelsteinen.

Man muß die Jungs dabei ständig beaufsichtigen, weil die aggressive Konkurrenz bei direkten Begegnungen unweigerlich eine (automatisch ablaufende) Prügelei vom Zaun bricht - und so was endet häufig mit der Vernichtung oder zumindest Ausplünderung eines der Beteiligten.

Außerdem gibt es unterirdische Seen, in denen unsere Nichtschwimmer sofort versinken; und schließlich treibt auch noch eine ominöse fünfte Rasse in den Stollensystemen ihr Unwesen, die andere Goldgräber völlig ziellos durch die Gegend teleportiert.

Hat nun einer der Wühler trotzt aller Widrigkeiten genügend Nuggets eingeheimst, latscht er zur Handelsstation. Hier werden die Schätze zum jeweiligen Marktpreis gegen Bares eingetauscht, das für den Kauf von Grabungsmaschinen, Brückenteilen, Explosivstoffen und ähnlichem verwendet werden kann.

Nach dem fünften tödlichen Arbeitsunfall ist das Spiel endgültig verloren; hat man dagegen als erster das geforderte Sümmchen beisammen oder seinerseits die Konkurrenz restlos eliminiert, geht es im nächsten der insgesamt 33 Labyrinthe weiter, die sich auf sieben verschiedene Landscahften (Wüste, Dschungel, Eiswelt etc.) verteilen.

Technisch kriegt man süß animierte Sprites in einer schlichten Untertagewelt, witzige Zwischenbilder, eine solide Soundkulisse und eine eigenwillige, aber logische Maus-/Iconsteuerung geboten.

Die eher karge Präsentation und die bei unserem Muster fehlende deutsche Anleitung konnten uns aber nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, daß das Spielprinzip von Diggers tatsächlich tiefschürfend ist - eine Probegrabung lohnt! (md)



Diggers AGA logo AGA

Subterranean? Homesick? The CD32 classic hits the A1200.

For many a long month now I've been dreading something like this happening. You know how you sometimes see a game and you think "This is a really worthy game but, to be absolutely honest, I don't really like it"? You can see that it's quite a clever idea and it's been very well put together and all that but somehow it just doesn't grab you; it happens to me a lot. A lot of things happen to me a lot, though, so I suppose I'm just unlucky like that. I just hoped they wouldn't happen to me when I was trying to review this game.

Diggers... blah blah.... CD32... blah... bundle... blah blah - you probably know the story by now. You control a party of small digging chaps who, er, dig. They dig in search of mineral wealth and, should their digging exploits prove successful, they make huge profits and you win.

You have independent control over each of a party of five of the little chaps and you can tell them to walk or to dig in any direction. They carry on doing whatever you tell them to do until, (a) they hit an obstacle, (b) they get bored, or (c) something else happens.
Diggers from other races try to beat up your diggers should they happen upon them. And that's it. Pretty much.

Apart from the 'music'. Have you ever played around with a tape recorder? You know that weird wowing noise you get when you wind it by 'hand'? It sounds quite amusing, doesn't it? At first. But the appeal dwindles after about, say, a couple of minutes. After three hours you feel like Harry Palmer in the Ipcress File and you're ready to do anything anyone tells you - JUST MAKE THAT AWFUL NOISE STOP.


It's not, actually, fun to play

A bit negative so far, isn't it? And that's what's been giving me traumas. In just about every respect (apart from the 'music') Diggers does everything a good game should do and does it jolly well. So why didn't I enjoy it? What's wrong with it?

As far as I can make out, there's nothing actually wrong with it, except that it's not, actually, fun to play. I spoke to a number of 'actual experts' on the subject and we agreed that there was something about the whole experience that wasn't quite right.

Something about the way you rapidly lose track of at least two of your party and find that they've been vapourised while you weren't looking annoyed us a little. Then there was the way you could play merrily for an hour and a half with your remaining three diggers, amassing health, buying mining equipment, and generally having an absorbing time of it, only to find that, without any prior warning, the computer's diggers have won. No warning, no clues, no 'by your leave' - you've lost mate, off you go. We didn't think that was fun.

And that brings us to the inevitable last two paragraphs where I search valiantly for a final mark and some way of justifying it to you, The Reader.
Let's examine the evidence. There's a game here with almost everything we look for in a Good Game. It's even been improved over the CD32 version, with some of the more annoying quirks that we complained about ironed out, although you lose four of the 32 worlds. The sound's vile, but you can't have everything.

But there was something not quite right about the whole thing. I didn't really feel as if I'd had a good time playing it and I don't think I'd play it again.

But it seemed like it should have been such a good game. Damn, that's three closing paragraphs and I said I was only going to do two.



Diggers CD32 logo CD32 Gamer Gold

Will U dig it? Yes, you will. Thanks to Millennium you can now pick up your shovel, sing "Hi ho, hi ho!", and off to work you can jolly well go...

Diggers is the hit of the year! That is a bold statement only seven words into a review, but the game is going to be absolutely massive.

I desperately want to avoid people likening it to Lemmings, but it does have that powerful sense of originality and freshness about it. People are going to compare it with Psygnosis' suicide-'em-up and the comparisons are going to be very unjust. Via the use of Mystic Maude's shiny crystal ball I can see how it will happen...

A casual glance and you see a tribe of small sprites controlled with a clever icon system. People will dismiss it as a Lemmings clone, which is not on at all because anyone who casually ignores Diggers will need their head seeing to.

Now, as they say, for something completely different. Notice if you will that lovely title and the moniker after "Diggers". Yes, CD32 - Commodore's killer console - is here, and boy oh boy is it looking good. Good enough to eat. Good enough to take home to your parents, marry and live with in a flat in Peckham. Good enough to make every other two-bit console pale in comparison. Sega and Nintendo owners be very wary of Commodore's new baby.

Taking into account the CD32's capabilities, the subject of digging might not exactly make for a good release. OK, imagine two different PR spokespeople, each trying to impress a crowd of dribbling, psychotic journalists who are more interested in the bar than the products.

One PR person has a shoot-'em-up, the other has Diggers. The shoot-'em-up goes first. "Well, the game is about superior alien race who have taken over the world and it is your job to take to the dark and desperate streets in a bid to wipe them off the planet". "It has an atmospheric soundtrack that is of digital CD quality. The graphics are in 256 colours and features blood and gore on a global scale".

The journalists are interested and gasp in excitement as the product is presented on a TV screen. Everyone applauds and tries to blog review copies. The Diggers PR person now takes the stage and utters the immortal words: "Well it's about mining and digging... " and suddenly all the journalists race to the bar and get mindlessly drunk.

This leaves our hapless PR guy all alone with his head down muttering about how it is not his fault and how rubbish the subject of digging is. Yes, well it is not quite like that. Digging might sound a boring subject to base a whole game on, but Millennium have changed all the rules and made a classic that will be adored by everyone who plays it.

It is set on the planet Zarg, and four races of Diggers are hurrying towards the Zargon Trading Centre. The reason is that it is the glorious 412th day, whereupon the planet's authorities allow a month of frenzied digging for diamonds and treasure.

Your first job to do is to select a race of diggers to control. Each race is detailed elsewhere on these pages, but basically all have their own strengths and weaknesses. You select the race you feel best suited to carrying out the job. The authorities on Zarg promote healthy competition by placing another race to dig against. The aim is to eliminate the other mining team and eventually dominate the 33 mining zones.

This can be done by either killing the opposing mining team or by raising a set amount of cash by selling the jewels that you mine.

PSYCHOTIC
Thus you have a choice of how to play. The first is being sensible and setting up a good mining operation. The second, and my personal favourite, is by being totally psychotic and going after the 'enemy' with the intent to kill, mess up their mining operations and steal all their jewels. Yeah!

Control is via the CD32's joypad, but you can plug in a mouse and use that instead - it is down to personal preference. You command the diggers using an icon system, which enables them to run, teleport, pick up or drop items and, err, dig.

Each of your team has a life of its own and is able to make independent decisions (whether they be good or bad).

Once you have started mining, you will happen across several jewels, which you can take to the bank to sell for hard cash. This can be saved to try and win the level. Alternatively, you can go to the shop where you can buy items to enhance your mining operation such as tunnellers, telepoles, first aid kits and so on.

Diggers is a strategy game of sorts, but it has so many different aspects that it cannot be simply classified as just strategy. The word that describes it better than any is quite simply "fun". You might think that £35 is a bit expensive for a CD, but Diggers will last you ages. It contains 33 levels with well over a million locations throughout. Even if you manage to complete it, you will still be able to play it again and discover new sections and new ways to complete levels.

It has been developed exclusively for the CD32 rather than adapted for it and has some unique features that won't appear in the A1200 version, such as the interactive book with over 100 pages of information. The CD version has more than 15Mb of game data and uses 256-colour graphics throughout. It also makes full use of Commodore's AGA chipset including 64-pixel-wide sprites and 24-bit graduated backgrounds. And because it uses CD technology, you also get CD quality music and sound effects. If that confuses you then I will simplify it. What it all means is that Diggers looks and sounds wonderful.

I have to hold up my hands and say that I have skipped over most of the game's features for two reasons. Firstly there is not enough space and secondly no matter what I say I just know you are going to buy it anyway. Millennium have created a product that plays like a demon, has great graphics and brilliant sound, and is so addictive it should have a little warning sticker on the box. I love Diggers. It is a classic, and words simply do not do it justice.


Those tribes in full...

Habbish
Diggers CD32 An enigmatic secretive breed who are rumoured to be extremely clever and have developed special telepole transportation powers. These hooded creatures are the weakest of the races although the could continue digging for a long time. They are very impatient and soon lose interest in digging, preferring whenever possible to pilfer valuables mined by others.
The Habbish are a mystical order ruled by their lord High Habborg. This exalted being has decreed that his followers must build a fabulous temple complex, encrusted with gold and jewels in his name. The Habbish have begun his work, but money is running out. They need to mine as many valuables as possible in order co complete the temple and pay off the galactic repo-men, the baseball bat-wielding Thungurs.
They are governed by a most peculiar calendar and at various unpredictable and often inconvenient times they will drop everything to gather into a circle and chant to the Lord High Habborg.
They become easily upset if their digging plans are unsuccessful and bow to their master for forgiveness if they do not regularly mine valuables.

Grablins
Diggers CD32 Ideally suited to mining. They are very fast diggers and can keep going for long periods of time without stopping. Their small size makes them very mobile about the mines as they can squeeze into narrow fissures and work in low tunnels. Although strong, they are not very good fighters and can be easily defeated by the Quarriors.
Their only weakness is for the fiendishly strong drink, grok. Although described by others as an unacquired taste with a smell worse than the breath of a fire-breathing Scabrosour from the swirling slime pools of Sulphuria, and more useful as a defensive shield against thermo-nuclear war than as a drink, the Grablins cannot get enough of the stuff.
Unfortunately, because ingredients that make up grok are extremely expensive, the Grabs constantly need money. Their ultimate aim is to save enough for their own brewery. But due to the side effects brewing grok, they first have to buy a deserted planet on which to site it.

Quarriors
Diggers CD32 A War-like race this lot, a bunch of real rough diamonds. As their name suggests, the Quarriors began searching for riches in quarries before graduating to open cast mining and then digging.
They are the strongest of all the races and also expert saboteurs with dynamite, but due to their size are not well adapted to small, cramped mining conditions.
They tire easily and are slow at digging, although they are extremely reliable and patient. They do lack initiative and tend to miss golden opportunities.
As a whole, they are flat broke. This is due to the fact that they were recently tricked by a second-hand arms sales creature. Their ambition is to build a fortified encampment where they can practise weapons and digging skills safe from their enemies.

F'Targs
Diggers CD32 A resilient and extremely curious breed of creatures who are great collectors of scrap metal. They have an insatiable desire to build things from scraps that they are always picking up. As results of this, their buildings and machines all have a shambolic, patched-up appearance.
The F'Targs are the second fastest race of diggers. Although slower than Grablins, they can continue mining much longer than the others. Although they enjoy digging, they are easily distracted by objects that take their fancy.
The desire to collect often gets them into trouble outside the mines. They are not very aggressive or good at fighting but if hurt they can heal themselves twice as quickly as any other diggers.
Their ambition is to collect enough money to build a proposed Museum of Metal Marvels (nicknamed "the scrap-heap") in which they wish to house historic scrap and sculptures of an unusual or enlightening nature.



Diggers CD32 logo CD32 Amiga Format Gold

Come with us to the dark dank depths of the planet Zarg, where bold and hardy adventurers dig perilously deep into the depths in search of treasure. Richard Baguley gives you the full dirt on the very first CD32 game.

Things are tough all over. What with the galactic recession, the stock market crash and the bottom falling out of the boiled stoat market, many desperate people are looking to make a quick buck. One of the planets which attracts the lost and the hopeless is Zarg, where the promise of untold riches hidden beneath the ground lures many a potential cool board executive.

Of course, you are not stupid enough to actually do the nasty business of mining yourself, since there are four races of Digger waiting to climb down a dark and dingy hole at your command. You, as the controller, stay safely above ground controlling your Diggers. You can order them to carry out a number of actions, but do not be surprised if they decide that they cannot be bothered to follow your orders, and wander off or fall asleep instead.

The game is divided into more than 30 zones, and you have to work your way through these. In each zone, it is a race between you and a computer-controlled player to get a certain sum of money in the bank, which you get by digging up jewels and selling them at the bank. You do not necessarily have to do all the hard work yourself, though: you could nip into the computer player's mines and nick his gems when his Diggers' backs are turned.

Once you have got the required amount of dosh (the local currency is Zogs), you can move on to the next zone. Fail, and you have to start again from scratch. The eventual aim of the game is to get 16,500 Zogs, at which point you can retire and walk off into the sunset.

The game can be controlled either with the CD32 controller or by a mouse, which can be plugged straight into the second controller port on the CD32 unit. Using the controller, you cycle through the Five diggers with the green button, while the blue button brings up a menu. From this you can select various actions such as dig, walk, stand still, pick up or drop items, teleport and collect jewels with the red button.

Several of these bring up further sub-menus which control aspects such as which direction to dig in or what to drop or pick up. It sounds fairly complex, and it is. The first few levels involve quite a lot of fiddling to get the option you want, but once you get the hang of it, it is a surprisingly good control method.

The mouse is easier to use to begin with, but it is worth persevering with the controller because the extra buttons do give you more control. For instance, if you want to stop a Digger who is about to plunge into a chasm, just cycle through the Diggers with the green button and then press the yellow one to stop your Digger in his or her tracks. It is a lot faster than using the mouse, but hardened mouse fans may want to stick with what they know.

Things are made even more complex by the fact that you can only see what is immediately around a digger, and you only see the entire map if you win the zone.


Diggers are very stupid and will happily walk into water and drown

All the way to the bank
There are various different themes for the zones, including mountain, ocean, jungle and arctic. The scenery determines what sort of obstacles you are likely to come across. For instance, the mountain levels are filled with steep cliffs and deep chasms which have to be navigated, while the ocean levels are filled with weak points where you could accidentally flood your tunnels.

There are also numerous puzzles involving caverns deep in the bowels of Zarg filled with ghosts, aliens and other nasties. The reward for getting through these takes the form of special jewels which can be sold for much more than the usual price.

To solve these puzzles, you have to use some of the tools which you can purchase through the game such as Telepoles (used to teleport your Diggers around the map), lifts (for moving up and down deep caverns) and dynamite (used for blasting through walls too hard to be dug through). Not only can you get around the puzzles and gain access to different parts of the map with these, but you can also disrupt the computer-controlled Diggers by doing such nasty things as blowing up their tunnels, flooding them or releasing ghosts into them.

While you are working on the nasty business of digging into the depths or releasing evil aliens into your opponent's mines, a rather nice soundtrack plays in the background. This is played direct from the CD, and there is also a nice intro track and another tune that is played while you are selling your gems in the bank.

Dumb Diggers
It is very easy to get confused about where the various Diggers are, and easy to forget what the Diggers are doing, because you never have a complete overview of the playing area. All you see is a single screen around each of the Diggers as you cycle through them. Combine this with the fact that the Diggers are completely stupid, and will quite happily walk into water and drown or stroll nonchalantly into the arms of an oncoming nasty, and you have got a real challenge on your hands. Fortunately, the on-line help gives you full details of the Diggers' irritating little habits, and what sort of nasty beasts you are likely to come across in the tunnels.

Diggers certainly has an addictive edge, and the different levels give enough variety to make it worth coming back for more. It is not a game that you can leap straight into, since learning how to control the Diggers and how to use the tools you can buy in the shop will take several zones and many days. Once you have learnt your way around, though, the possibilities for fun are almost endless.

Given that playing through a zone can take several hours, it is annoying that you cannot save your position halfway through a game. That apart, if you are prepared to put in the effort, there is treasure waiting to be plucked from the virgin soil...


THE OBSERVER'S GUIDE TO DIGGERS
The authorities on Zarg have decided that only four races of Diggers will be allowed on the planet. You are free to choose which you want to use, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses...

GRABLINS - They would be the perfect digging race, if it was not for their drinking problem. Their aim is to amass enough cash to build their own brewery, for their favourite tiplle, Grok, which has been described as "smelling worse than the breath of a fire breathing Scaborasaur from the swirling slime pools of Sulphuria". Due to its distinctive odour, Grablins need to buy a deserted planet to build this brewery on. Leave them alone for too long and they will all gather together to drink Grok and sing rugby songs.

HABBISH - A mystical race, who permanently hide their faces from view. Fast diggers, they have high endurance and the ability to use other race's teleport poles. However, leave them alone too long and they will join together to chant to their spiritual master, the Lord high Habbish, who demands that to honour his spiritual awareness they build him a residence with walls covered in gems and hot and cold running champagne.

F'TARGS - These delicate-looking beings are resilient and have plenty of endurance. They also have the advantage of healing twice as quickly as any other race after an injury, such as a fall or flight. They are curious, and get bored easily, often wandering off at the most awkward moments. Their aim is to amass enough cash to build the museum of metal marvels, which will house their historic scrap objects.

QUARRIORS - A hardy breed, who are extremely strong, but frankly rather thick. They are good in a punch-up, but cannot dig for too long without getting exhausted. They have only recently moved from open cast mining into digging, so they lack imagination. Their aim is to amass enough funds to build a fortified encampment where they can practice digging and beating each other up in peace.



Diggers CD32 logo CD32

Die A1200-Version des Goldgräberspiels von Millennium wurde in dieser Ausgabe getestet, deshalb zur (dem CD32 beiliegenden) CD-Fassung nur soviel: Grafik identisch, Sound minimal besser, Steuerung per Pad nicht ganz so gut wie mit der Maus - doch wird auch hier optional ein Nager unterstützt. Bleiben wir also einfach bei 70 Prozent.



Diggers CD32 logo CD32

Here it is - the first ever CD32-specific title. Is it a case of great excavations?

Now don't switch of because I'm going to mention Sega and the Mega Drive and all those posh console things, because I'm making a valid point here, so pay attention. Back when the Mega Drive was released, everyone went 'Ooh' and 'Ahh' over its sleek black case and impressive 16-bit credentials, but practically no-one bought them.

You could argue that everyone was waiting to see if it caught on or not, since no one wanted to end up with the videogaming equivalent of a Betamax video recorder, but we know that the real reason was that all the games were crap. Altered Beast? Altered Cack, more like.

It was only when that funny hedgehog and his cool sneakers hit the shops 18 months later that the console craze began. For once though, Commodore seem to be on the ball, and although we've only been allowed to speculate about it for the last few months, it turns out that most of the top games producers have been developing for the CD32 for ages.

So, even though the machine's just been officially finished, we've now got the first-ever CD32-specific release in the form of Diggers. Altered Beast Part Deux or Sonic 3? Read on.

Okay, so with the CD32 version you get loads of flash stuff that's far beyond the dreams of mortal Amiga owners. Rather than having a bulging manual, all the instructions are actually in the game, with more than 100 pages presented quite nicely in the form of a big book. There's also a moody CD soundtrack, which is suitably ambient enough to not get annoying after a few minutes, so you can dig away for hours to gentle new-age muzak.

Finally, there's the fact that the game comes on a CD, so you can promise to bring it round to your friend's house and then ask him smugly where his CD32 is, secure in the knowledge that he hasn't got one. One-upmanship, I love it. And I can do it far, far better than Stuart. (No you can't, and I can beat you at Pinball Fantasies, you girl. - Stuart) (Or any game for that matter, corduroy pants wearer. - Stuart, again).

Onto the game then, and digging is, quite obviously, the name of the game. Set on the planet Zarg, you control a digging quintuplet formed from one of four races. Each race has differing levels of stamina, patience and strength, and some have very odd mannerisms, which I'll go into later.

Your team starts off next to their home base on the surface, and the idea's to collect a set number of credits before your enemy does.

Although you can only wander around the surface for a short stretch, the potential for wandering about underground is almost limitless - not infinite, but so close that you'll hardly notice. Millennium claim 34 levels spread over seven different terrain types, and that you could complete the game by seeing only a quarter of the million or so locations, and I can well believe them. You get credits by selling jewels, and you find jewels by digging tunnels. Miles and miles of tunnels.


You run the risk of your miners getting kicked in

The basic digging machines are your five miners, who will merrily dig ina specified direction until they hit solid rock, or get bored. When jewels are found, you have to instruct someone to pick them up, and then get them back to the base so you can trade them in.

Thankfully, there's no need to negotiate them through the mines, as you can whoosh them back to the surface using teleportation. Once you've got cash, you can expand the scale of the operation with vertical tunnel borers, mining machines, boats, trains, explosives, bridges and all manner of gear. Obviously, this costs money, so you've got to work out whether buying a lift is more important than getting to your credit goal quickly.

All this would be far too easy without some traumas, and the main one's the fact that there's another set of miners out there doing exactly the same thing. This can work out quite nicely if you can dig into their network and grab jewels before they do, but since different races fight each other, you run the risk of your miners getting kicked in if you connect rival networks.

The second problem are the creatures that lurk in the many caves you get to. Many of the caves are cleverly designed puzzles, where you've got to buy bridge sections and lifts in order to get to the really large jewel caches, but most of them are also guarded by spooks, ghouls and alien monsters who at best scare your team, and at worst kill them.

The final problem is your tunnel network itself, which requires so much thought to plan that my head literally exploded after on particular three-hour stint. The diggers can only go up angled slopes, can't jump over vertical shafts and will always find the lowest part of the tunnel network by falling down the shafts, so you often find that by digging a new tunnel, you'll have blocked off access to large sections of the existing network.


I've been playing it for hours on end

Now all of these are taxing, game-related puzzles that improve, enhance and indeed are the main bulk of the game, but there are problems with Diggers that are nothing to do with enjoyment. It seems that the programmers got so wrapped up in the game that they never stopped to consider how the game would appear to any newcomers, and most of my gripes are related to this.

For a start, the control system is horribly awkward, and even more so if you try to use the flashy new CD32 console-type controller rather than a bog-standard mouse. If you saw that one of your guys was heading towards a extremely deep shaft that would doubtlessly end his promising career in mining, then you'd have to first click on either him or his number, then press the right mouse button to get his menu up, then on the walk icon to get the walk menu up, then finally the stop button, by which time he's probably dead anyway.

You've got to go through a similar hassle to teleport out, when the logical thing would have been to have a 'stop everything' and 'teleport out' buttons next to the number of the character. A floaty number above each of them is missing as well, since when they're all on the same screen, it's difficult to tell them apart.

The different races have different characteristics and a certain degree of artificial intelligence, but unfortunately it's entirely misplaced. If they're walking towards a deep pool or a gang of enemy miners, they won't think about turning back, but if you leave them doing the same task for too long, then they'll take it upon themselves to head off the other way, teleport back to base or go and have a chat with their mates.

Admittedly you get a flashing warning that they've wandered off, but when you've got four other diggers spread over a wide area, enemy miners and monsters to deal with, the last thing you need is a vital worker taking an impromptu fag break.

I can see that the idea is to create a game with more depth, but it just muddles the gameplay. Why don't the workers pick up the jewels automatically and why do you have to go through several screens before you can cash in your jewels? Once you've gone to the trading screen, you often find that you can't, since there are about six types, but only three are being traded at one time. Again, I suspect that this is supposed to 'enrich' your game, but it's bloody annoying.

Now all this is intended to point out the shortfalls of the game, not to slag it off entirely (Clever mining pun there, Mark - Ed), so I'll finish off by picking it up off the floor, dusting its coat down and apologising to it a bit.

Diggers is a fine game, and I've been playing it for hours on end, and if you like the look of it, it's unlikely that you're going to tire of it. It's pretty much a mining god sim, so you can play offensive or defensive tactics, chose to ignore the enemy or go all out to kill them.

This flexibility is its main plus point, but the over-complicated control system is a major downer. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's worth buying a CD32 for, but if you've got one, then it's well worth having.



Diggers CD32 logo CD32

Lemmings meets Boulderdash in Millennium's new mining game. John Mather grabs his bucket and spade and digs for victory.

Set on the mineral rich planet of Zarg, Diggers is a low level strategy/arcade game where the idea is to strip the planet clean of any valuable deposits while competing against three rival mining operations. This is done by guiding your race of alien diggers around a series of mines using a point'n'click interface and a bank of icons to issue your orders.

Standing between you and a bank account with more noughts than Lord Emap's weekly bar bill are three rival mining companies, plus assorted ghouls, zombies, thriffid-like plants and the odd dinosaur or two thrown in for good measure.

On top of that lot, the hiring of mining equipment has to be paid out of your profits, and the Zarg Stock Exchange is notoriously unstable, so prices for the various gems you mine will go up and down like a yo-yo. Then there is your own workforce to consider - leave them alone for too long and they will go off on their own and either wander around aimlessly or fall down a bottomless pit.

RACE WARS
You can choose to control any one of four races who have been granted mining licenses by the Zargon authorities. Each have their own particular skills and abilities, so it is wise to take your time choosing a team, as you are stuck with them for the remainder of the game. The Habbish are an ultra-secretive race that possess transportational powers and are an extremely religious lot.

They constantly down tools when you least expect it and go off to worship their god, kneeling down and praying. While this is happening, you lose all control over them, so just hope that there are no rival miners around at the time. The Grablins are excellent diggers, up to 25% faster than the other races in the game, but are complete wimps when it comes to fending off attacks from rival gangs. Their stamina is rather good, so this lot will quite happily dig for long periods of time without getting bored or needing a rest.

Quarriors, on the other hand, tire easily, are slow diggers and lack initiative. On the plus side, they are a warrior race and can easily duff up anyone who gets in their way. The last race, the F'Targs, do not excel in any one area, they are just good at everything. They have also got amazing recuperative powers, so their energy stores deplete at a slower rate than the other races and are replenished more quickly, too.

Once you have chosen your workforce, it is straight into the action. There are a total of 33 areas to mine, although only two of these are accessible at the start of the game. Once you have successfully mined an area (either by exceeding the preset taxes for each level or by wiping out your opponents), you can choose to mine any adjacent area. Each site is made up of a number of screens and packed to bursting point with hidden gems and mineral wealth. By clicking on the various icons, you control where your five miners dig, with what equipment, and when they trade their booty on the Zarg Stock Exchange.

Each are is different and throws up its own obstacles. Some excavations take place in desert areas with shifting sands and cave-ins proving a problem, while others are located in grasslands and are made up of impenetrable rocks, caverns, underground rivers and strange mutant plants life.

Then there are mine shafts that have been sunk in arctic regions or over an archipelago of islands with sub-aqua mountain ranges. As if that was not enough, each mine is also populated with a bizarre mixture of ghouls and ghosts, and contact with any of these results in certain death.

Strip mining is the easiest and most productive method to choose early on - just set your miners digging in a straight line and leave them to it. Later on, you will become more adventurous and start to engineer quite elaborate structures, as well as come into contact with rival gangs of miners.

This is when things start to get interesting. Depending on your miner's energy level, and a battery of statistics that detail their stamina, strength and agility, you will either see of your attackers or disappear in a puff of smoke. It is possible to buy back a lost miner at the end of each level, but it will cost you an arm and a leg to do so.

DIAMOND DEALING
As well as keeping careful tabs on the welfare of your five miners, you need to sell your mineral deposits to earn a profit. The Zargon Stock Exchange lets you deal in only three randomly selected minerals at any one time. By clicking on a particular dealer, you can sell your booty to him at the price he is currently quoting, or come back later and see if the price has risen at all. Flood the market with too much of one ore, though, and the price of that particular commodity will collapse.

Once you have saved up enough cash, you can start buying mining equipment from the Zargon Mining Store. Mechanical diggers, dynamite and teleports are available, along with lifts and bridge building material. All of this equipment goes a long way to making your mining operations run more smoothly, and gives you time to plan a more effective strategy. If funds become too low, it is possible to re-sell your equipment back to the bank at 75% of its value.

Everything in the game is either mouse or joypad controlled. Which one you choose depends on personal preference. The mouse is faster across the screen, but the joypad's buttons allow easier access to the game's many icons and can flip between your five miners much more quickly.

Unfortunately, it is the icon-driven control system that lets the game down. To pick up a gem requires no less than eight separate button clicks and soon becomes incredibly tedious. It is the same for almost anything you want to do in the game, from buying mining equipment to simply guiding your men about the screen. Having to constantly re-issue orders to your wayward miners is another drag - I really do not care if they have their own personalities or not, when I issue an order I expect them to carry it out and not suddenly go off for a beer or stop and have a fag.

FILLING IN THE DETAIL
The game's graphics are also uninspired. The miniscule miners are sad blobby affairs with little detail. If DMA could inject some character into their equally small Lemmings, then I am sure Millennium could have done better than this. Even the mine workings and enemy sprites are drawn in a rather lacklustre fashion - it is something you would have expected to see in a C64 game eight years ago!

And then there are the sound effects. The Mining Store uses some nice sampled sounds to convey a busy industrial workshop, with crashing hammers and saws being used, but the rest of the in-game sound effects are poor and tiny.

Sadly, Diggers does not do anything that takes advantage of the CD32's capabilities. As if to prove this, virtually the same game will be coming out for the A1200 in a matter of months. As there is no existing benchmark with which to judge this game, it is probably best to treat it as an ordinary Amiga floppy release - it certainly does not do anything that could not have been seen on a bog-standard A500 five years ago!

The accompanying press release talks excitedly about the stunning 256 colours used in the game - excuse me, but a few nice copper effects for the sky and some muddy brown and green colours does not really have me drooling at the mouth.

I would have liked to see the game's strategic elements emphasised a little bit more, especially the trading aspects. A two-player split-screen mode would have been fun, too, as would a wider range of mining equipment. If you know there are rival gangs working in the area, surely you are going to want to supply your men with the latest in anti-personnel mines and weaponry?!

As it stands, everything seems a bit dull and boring, with long periods of time spent switching between miners just to check if anyone has decided to throw themselves off a ledge or have a tea break.

Diggers could have been a real gem of a game, but instead it is more like an uncut diamond. This would not hack it on the A500, let alone the new CD32.


SO WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE CD VERSION OF DIGGERS, THEN?!

Well, for starters, it is the first version of the game to be released - an A1200 version will follow later in the year. Then there is the 100-page animated manual I have mentioned elsewhere in this review. There are also five dedicated music tracks and several audio segues digitally mixed and mastered by Richard Joseph, the talent behind the James Pond The Chaos Engine soundtracks. Next up are the 'huge' animated intro and end sequences that, quite frankly, are strictly amateur affairs, consisting of sparse animation, little sound, and an even smaller amount of imagination. Still, Diggers is the first CD game to be released, so is something of a milestone if not a resounding success...

MANUAL CONTROL

Unlike floppy-based games, the CD version of Diggers comes with its manual included on the disc - all 100 pages of it! Presented as the Book of Zarg. And purportedly made of TNT (Textured Neural Transistors), it is written in a sub-Douglas Adams style with a smattering of Hitch Hiker's-like terminology and jokes. For instance, the book's very existence can only be explained and understood by the three-brained Sloargs that inhabit the Great Hall of a Thousand Rustling Intellects on the planet Cerebralis. When explaining the different flora and fauna that inhabit Zarg, the following entry is recorded for a certain species of fish: 'Tales of the Pihosourus must be taken with a pinch of salt (and maybe some freshly squeezed lemon)'. Makes you wonder, what they put in the tea town at Millennium, doesn't it? To further liven things up, many of the manual's pages are accompanied by small animations and graphics depicting events in the game.


Diggers CD32 logo CD32

MILLENNIUM £29.99

Yes, we did review this in our recent CD but we thought that we'd give it another showing now that it's being bundled with the CD32.

If you do not already know, or have not read the highly over-rated reviews in certain other magazines, Diggers is Toby Simpson's attempt at blending a Lemmings-style control method and a Boulderdash-style rock game, with a thick helping of creamy delicious wargame strategy. It did not work for Jon Mather, and to be honest, it does not really work for me.

You control a team of five diggers as they explore the barren wastelands of Zarg, a planet rich in minerals and gems (at least, below the surface). Using a pop-up icon panel, you have to send each digger down into the ground, collecting gems to a prestated value, while trying to avoid enemy diggers and all the usual ghosts and ghoulies you find under the soil.

Each digger has a limited armoury of actions (walk in a direction, run in a direction or dig in a direction) and these have to be utilised to get you to gem hoards as quickly as possible. As you make money, you are able to buy all sorts of gadgets to make your life easier, but that does not help in the beginning.

There are quite a few things I do not like about this game. For a start, the controls are very sluggish, and in a lot of places the diggers' responses are illogical and unpredictable.

Telling a digger to dig down and to the right does not always mean that he will dig where he is. He might walk to the left a couple of screens before he starts digging, or he might not dig at all, regardless of what is below him. You cannot scroll about the map, so you have no way of telling where the digger is heading, and the size of the icons makes the control fiddly at the times when you need to move instantly.

Sure, it uses the CD sound well, and there are some very nice intro and outro screens, but on the whole it is a game that just looks like a rush job.