NOT read Jules Verne's masterpiece? Neither have I, but I am assured that the plot of the game is reasonably similar to that of the book, which has also been the subject of several bad films.
You can play one of the heroes - Professors Gunnarson, Bourdon, Rutherford or Rossi. It's June 1870. You find an ancient Icelandic manuscript that tells you to go into the crater of Sneffels' volcano, which supposedly leads to the centre of the earth. 3,000 ft below ground a rock fall separates you from your fellow scientists and you're on your own until you find them again.
Given a rough map of the area, you can click on four arrows to move in that compass direction. A description of your position is flashed on screen for a few seconds each time.
There are icons to click. One allows you to grab an axe and a stone, break it open to determine the local geology and hopefully deduce things about your surroundings.
Another lets you examine your body and apply the contents of your medical chest to various injuries. To start off with, you are bruised from the rock falls, have a splitting headache and a stomach poisoned by fumes. Your condition quickly deteriorates with fire and brimstone everywhere. You must find food and water quickly, meters at the bottom of the screen tell you how ill you are.
A third is a big R - think about it - and a fourth lets you sleep, complete with snores, whistles and alarm clock.
Your position can be saved and loaded, and there is a final icon which provides one of the few pieces of animation. You dash around the bottom of the screen collecting water which drips from the top, avoiding hot cinders which evaporate any water you have.
When you are poisoned, fall down a chasm or whatever, there is a very realistic scream and you end your day in a pile of dust and bones.
The graphics are superb. HAM mode is used to display everything from stalagmites and caves to your skeleton. The sound is equally good, the effect of steps and voices echoing round the caves is very well done.
You really need two disk drives - there is a lot of swapping with one, particularly during the title sequence, which was a little sticky with my review copy - sometimes I had to re-insert a disc two or three times before it was recognised, which made the game very slow and frustrating.
Despite the excellent graphics, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is boring. There is not enough for the player to do and too little variety in what appears on screen. Interest quickly flags as a result.