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Total Eclipse (1988)      

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Details (Sinclair ZX Spectrum) Supported platforms Artwork and Media
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Incentive Software Ltd
Major Developments
Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Audio cassette

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Amstrad CPC  NR
Atari ST  NR
Commodore 64  NR
Sinclair ZX Spectrum  NR

Same title from other publishers:
Commodore Amiga

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Issue 51 (July 1989)
Added: 20 Mar 2012
The latest setting for the Freescape technique is also the most imaginative, namely Egypt in the 1930's. In ancient times a curse was put on a massive pyramid dedicated to the Sun God - if ever a total eclipse happened over Egypt the Moon would explode, devastating the Earth with its debris. On October 26 1930 said eclipse is about to happen and you've a mere two hours to penetrate the pyramid and destroy the pyramid shrine to prevent destruction.
The game starts with you having just left your biplane parked outside the pyramid you are about to enter. Besides dying of dehydration, if you do not keep your water bottle topped up, you can also die of a heart attack caused by falling off ledges, getting crushed by falling stones and taking too many hits from poison dart traps. If the damage isn't immediately lethal, you can calm your heartbeat by resting (there's an accelerate time feature) but remember the time limit!

As with Dark Side there is plenty of 3-D puzzles to be solved, with the addition of plenty of treasure to looted as well.
Issue 13 (July 1989)
Amiga/ST Format
Added: 20 Mar 2012
Although the Freescape games all look very good and now sound even better they are becoming too predictable. You know that you are getting an excellent game, but you do eventually get tired of playing the same sort of game again and again. Incentive are working on another at the moment, but few details are available yet. Hopefully there will be some significant changes. Do not misunderstand me, though, Total Eclipse is the best of Freescape games, but the originality has gone.
Issue 13 (July 1989)
Amiga/ST Format
Added: 20 Mar 2012
I n Incentive’s latest Freescape venture you can walk like an Egyptian, well an archaeologist anyway. The setting has moved from a futuristic outer space to a 1930s Earth, the good old Indiana Jones era.
Earth is in danger of destruction (yet again), thanks to the curse of a pharaoh. The pharaoh was a bit cross with his people in the dim and distant past and so he put a curse upon the pyramid, viz: if the suns rays are blocked from the pyramid during the hours of daylight then the moon will explode and cover the earth in meteorites, not to mention the tidal effects of the destruction (I said not to mention the tidal effects - Ed).
The action takes place in the said pyramid and you have to reach the shrine of the sun god at the top before 10am, which is when a total eclipse of the sun is due. If you do not, then watch out for falling debris.
Total Eclipse is more problem-orientated than the previous two Freescape games, Driller and Darkside, and many of the problems can be solved in more than one way. Your most dangerous adversary is time, the inhabitants in the pyramid are less hostile than you find in the outer space adventures. That does not mean you are alone, though, because no Egyptian game would be complete without a mummy or two. Your only danger is falling from a great height.

Another feature that has been added to the game is darkness. Some rooms are pitch black and so you have to turn on your trusty torch, there is not an infinite supply of battery power however, so take care when you use your torch and never forget to switch it off when you do not need it. The while room is not illuminated by the torch beam, so you have to look around more to spot doors, ankhs and other important details. Ankhs are Egyptian keys used to open locked doors and allow access to other parts of the pyramid.

One thing that you have to keep your eye on is your water bottle. Being in the middle of the desert you do tend to get a little overheated and so you have to keep cool with a drink of water. If you run out of water your heart beat speeds and if it gets too fast you will die. Water can be replenished from troughs littered throughout the pyramid.

Graphically, Total Eclipse is very similar to the previous Freescape games, with the same simplistic, but easily recognisable 3D shapes. Sound in the Freescape has been getting much better and Total Eclipse has the best yet. The sound effects are very good and the tune is excellent. The music really conveys the atmosphere of the game, which is a very important factor in any game.
Gary Barett
Added: 1 Mar 2017
After two adventures in space Major Developments changed up the game and opted for a mystical 1930s tombs and treasures adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones. The player takes the role of an archeologist who deciphers a terrible prophecy - an evil high priest from ancient egypt has worked a curse on his altar, so that everything that gets in the way between the pyramid that houses it and the sun during daytime will be destroyed immediately. Now, on October 26th 1930 the eponymous Total Eclipse is drawing near in Egypt. So the archeologist starts his biplane and rushes to the pyramid, where he has only two hours left to break the curse before the moon gets blown up.

The interface has been adjusted formidably to the setting. The time display is in the shape of an old wristwatch, assisted by an actual depiction of the moon slowly hovering in front of the sun. The compass is likewise designed period-appropriately. The archaeologist doesn't have any health in the traditional sense, but when falling down from platforms, getting shocked by mummies, or shot at from installations on the ceiling, the heart-shaped symbol in the HUD starts convulsing quicker, accompanied by unnerving throbbing sounds, ultimately leading to a heart attack. The only way to recover is to take a rest, which can be sped up with the press of a button, although it is necessary to keep an eye on the watch. Some threats can be neutralized with the gun, like when the first mummy encounter is cut short by the player closing the coffin that contains the undead Egyptian, but others are immortal and can only be avoided. Another resource limits the exploration as well: The archaeologist packs a bottle of water, which is slowly consumed with time. There can be found infinite water sources in the pyramid, but they are not always easy to reach from any given location. Still, the process is so slow that it's among the least urgent of needs.

The game also tracks a score, for which points can be accumulated by looting the place. Jewels lying on the floor can be picked up simply by walking into them, although it takes time to mine the more valuable specimen. Sometimes the opportunist graverobber also happens upon treasure chests, which have to be shot open before they can be rid of their contents.

Total Eclipse is much larger than the previous two Freescape games, with twice as many areas to explore. Yet it feels more confined and claustrophobic at the same time, because aside from the first area in front of the pyramid, the entire game takes place within the small interconnected chambers of the ancient grave. Most of the passages are either blocked by stone slabs or otherwise obstructed, and the player has to find various ways to get around. Some of it can simply be achieved by shooting at objects - a rock might secretly be a switch to make a stairway appear, or a wall might be actually destructible. There are also a few conspicious ornaments, who require the player to find their match elsewhere in the pyramid to trigger an event. The stone slabs, finally, can only be removed with the help of ankhs, which can be found in more or less concealed locations.

Most puzzles are fairly easy to deal with on their own, but navigating the huge pyramid is a pain. Drawing a map is essential to not get hopelessly confused (it seems only the US release shipped with a printed map), and even then it's never easy, as the rooms connect at different heights - that's why every room gets a sea level value next to its name on the HUD. To solve the final riddle, two triggers at remote parts of the pyramid have to be found, and then the final door demands no less than five ankhs to open up. The problem: there are not enough ankhs in the game to unlock all doors, and wasting even a single one for a passage to a room that could have been reached otherwise means running into a dead end eventually. What's more, unless players went to the back side of the pyramid to unlock an emergency exit at the very beginning, they're eventually get trapped in a pit with no way out much further down the line. Total Eclipse is still a very short game meant to be attempted multiple times, which can be completed in about an hour by players who know what they're supposed to do, so it's not a terrible waste of time, but it's still rather frustrating to be stuck at the very end for having used one single ankh too much.

The 16-bit versions are once again upgraded with the mouse controlled interface and moving enemies, although here it looks really weird to see the mummies hover back and forth over the ground. All of them can now be put quiet with a shot in the head, but most of them recover after a few seconds, giving the game a slight hint of survival horror. The background music is a bit more engaging this time and has properly Egyptian-feeling vibes. Both seem based on the same core theme, but the Amiga soundtrack is suitably slow and moody, whereas on the Atari ST it would be more fitting to accompany a bustling bazaar. but unfortunately it's impractical to use as it once again turns off the sound effects, many of which are vital cues to grasp what's going on at any given moment. A few select objects have also been exchanged for more detailed replacements - a plain arrow-shaped mural is now a scarab, for example.

There's also an entirely new gameplay element on the Amiga and Atari ST: some rooms are now pitch dark, forcing the player to use a flashlight to at least be able to see in a narrow radius. It's batteries hold up fairly long, but forgetful adventurers might find themselves at a loss after running around bright areas with the light switched on for a prolonged time. The weaker the batteries get, the less light they produce, so even before they die completely navigating dark rooms becomes increasingly tricky.

At any rate, the Amiga version (or at least a carefully throttled IBM PC version) comes even more recommended than before. Even though the rooms are smaller, the more detailed interiors bring down performance significantly, and most other versions are just unbearably slow.

Like Driller, Total Eclipse was honored with a Windows freeware remake by Ovine by Design. It's pretty neat running around the detailed pyramid at a stable framerate with quick WASD & mouselook controls immediately after experiencing the original, but just like Driller, without its abstract charm, the game feels just like a very dated 3D adventure game. Contrary to the old game (at least in the floppy disk versions), the game also doesn't allow saving at any time, opting for a rather harsh save point system instead.

Added: 14 Dec 2008
This is the picture - you are standing beside your 1930s biplane in the Sahara desert, overshadowed by one of the great pyramids. A firm believer in the occult, you've been alarmed by learning of a curse laid on this place. The pyramid was built in ancient times with a special chamber at its Apex for the ancient Egyptian sun-god, Re. The sole reason for its construction was as a curse on the people who had revolted against the High Priest. And if anything should obscure the sun's rays during daylight hours the curse will be fulfilled and the Moon explode.

Now here's your problem: a total eclipse of the sun is due in just two hours time. Your thankless task is to find Re's shrine and destroy it before the eclipse brings about a catastrophic disaster. Your equipment for this task is about the best the 1930s could provide: a revolver, wrist watch, compass, and water bottle, which can be topped up from water troughs found inside the pyramid.

The many rooms of the pyramid (all portrayed in glorious Freescape) contain many objects, including chests of treasure, jewels and Ankhs - special symbols which can be used to open the barriers on some of the doors. Stairways allow access to higher levels of the pyramid, but the route to the shrine is a tortuous one which can only be completed by solving a variety of mysterious puzzles.

Time may be your worst enemy in this quest, but is not your only one: poisoned dart booby-traps can prove fatal, while falling off high ledges isn't too healthy either. Your health is shown by a heart, the faster it beats the nearer a fatal heart attack. If you want you can slow it down by resting, a special function which speeds up time until your health's restored. The Freescape technique was impressive in Driller and Dark Side, but Total Eclipse uses it to its full potential, creating a sinister, claustrophobic atmosphere to suit the Egyptian scenario. The pyramid is full of nasty surprises and mysteries that will take a long time to discover. In fact I think Total Eclipse is probably the best Freescape game yet, with much more attention paid to deep game content. This is one that should keep you playing until you complete it.

PHIL ... 92%

Producer: Incentive
Bucket and spade: £9.95 cass £14.95 disk
Author: Major Developments

Search all the nooks and crannies for Ankhs and treasures.
Shoot at any symbols which appear on the walls - some of them open doors.
Top up your water bottle whenever you get the chance: thirst is not good for your heart.
Watch out for nasty mummies - shoot them to make the close their sarcophaguses.
When moving along narrow catwalks, reduce your step size to avoid falling off so easily.
Make a map of each floor level, and do some origami to make a 3-D model!

First there was Driller, then came Dark Side, and now Total Eclipse is set to blow the socks off the gamesplaying fraternity. And being an Incentive game the Freescape technique is as stunning as ever. I must say that I was slightly surprised that the futuristic scenario present in the last two games has been changed to an Indiana Jones-type adventure. The same devious puzzles and traps survive, though, and the old grey matter is given some tricky situations to sort out. But then CRASH readers are a brainy bunch so you shouldn't have too much trouble. Total Eclipse is a brilliant game which gives Incentive a hat trick of successes, well done guys.

MARK ... 95%

The only way is up, and to get there you have a colossal but thoroughly enjoyable task in this new Incentive Freescape game. As you should all know by now, the Freescape technique makes for fantastic gameplay and whatever idea Incentive put into one of these games, it's bound to be a hit. Total Eclipse is no exception, the idea of exploring a pyramid to find the shrine of the sun-god Re has great potential, and with a time limit of two hours the excitement and addictiveness soon mounts. Once you have a basic understanding of what all the weird hieroglyphics mean, and what function they perform, you can begin to get somewhere in the game. Fortunately, you can always save your position (to tape or disk) and continue when you feel like it (and it will take more than one go to complete). Total Eclipse is bigger than its predecessors but, in my opinion, doesn't beat the playability of Dark Side. Still, there's plenty more Freescape action to get stuck into with Total Eclipse and it should keep you occupied for quite a while. Incentive have done it again!

NICK ... 93%

Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: the Freescape solid 3-D is just as impressive as ever, but seems slightly faster (5-10%) than in its predecessors
Sound: no tunes, but some good, informative effects
General rating: the third Freescape game takes a new theme and is - probably - the most playable so far

Presentation 90%
Graphics 93%
Sound 58%
Playability 93%
Addictive qualities 92%
Overall 93%
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This title was first added on 19th February 2006
This title was most recently updated on 1st March 2017

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