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Underwurlde (1984)      

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Details (Sinclair ZX Spectrum) Supported platforms Artwork and Media
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Ultimate Play the Game
Tim Stamper, Chris Stamper, Raffaele Cecco
Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Audio cassette
UK (£9.95)
Sabre Wulf
Knight Lore
Offical game poster, Instructions
Re-released by Erbe Software in Spain

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Commodore 64  7.1
Sinclair ZX Spectrum  NR

Same title from other publishers:
Commodore Amiga

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Added: 8 Mar 2011
Despite being released alongside Knight Lore at Christmas 1984, Underwurlde was certainly in no way inferior to its 3D-touting partner. It marked the return of Sabreman in a vast and attractive game that represented a superb development on Atic Atac and Sabrewulf. It is set in a maze of caverns, rooms and passageways and your task is to escape. The nasties that materialise around you don't actually cause any direct harm, but they hinder your movement and force you into costly errors. It was slightly overshadowed by Knight Lore at the time, but it is actually a more involving title.

Issue 11 (February 1985)
Added: 27 Mar 2017
Sabre Man's back... and this time he's hell-bent on involving himself in all kinds of unholy goings-on. Ross Holman enters the demonic universe of Underwurlde to find out whether playing games of this nature is good for the soul!

Sabre Man is turning out to be Ultimate's answer to Indiana Jones - and in much the same way as his movie counterpart, Sabre Man looks set to be a standard character in many an Ultimate graphic adventure to come.

In Underwurlde, the sequel to Sabre Wulf, Sabre Man's in all sorts of untold danger in a labyrinth of rooms, caves and passageways. And if you're worrying that Underwurlde's going to be a rip-off of Atic Atac, don't - Ultimate's latest offering is totally different and totally compulsive.

Once the game's started, you see the familiar, if somewhat diminished, figure of Sabre Man... but set in very unfamiliar surroundings. The cassette sleeve reveals that Sabre Man begins his adventures in a palace called Underwurlde, and his mission is to escape alive! Sounds pretty simple... The action takes up most of the screen, except for the top two lines that are used to show the score, the number of lives left, your 'gem power', the number of weapons collected, and how deep into Underwurlde you've penetrated.

Perhaps the most notable omission in Underwurlde is Sabre Man's trusty sword. In fact, our hero starts off without a weapon to his name... but there just happens to be a catapult lying on the floor of the first room and with it, an infinite number of stones. The other three weapons, a bow, a firebrand and a knife, lie further afield, but you can hold all four at once.

After Sabre Man's stood around for a while admiring the graphics, the 'nasties' will have come out of the woodwork to annoy him. Note that the larger sprites don't actually kill your character ' they just annoy you to the point that you make some silly mistake. Of course, on the other hand, Sabre Man can be made to kill a few of the 'nasties' - a course of action I can thoroughly recommend.

After a while, I was wondering if Sabre Man could possibly die; in most Ultimate adventures I don't usually have time to think about this particular problem! Movement of your character left and right is possible - but since his jungle escapades, Sabre Man has acquired some gymnastic skills and he's now capable of jumping across vertical shafts. Ultimate has also programmed Sabre Man with a useful sense of self-preservation; every time he comes across a huge drop, he'll automatically jump rather than fall.

Getting back to dying... my first experience came when I tried to jump Sabre Man on to a nearby ledge. Of course, I misjudged it, and dropped through to the room below and ended up, legs in the air, stone-cold dead. And what do you know - everything looks different; underneath the castle, the caves are rock-strewn and you'll come across a number of bubbling craters. Having decided to jump across one of the craters, Sabre Man was found to float on the bubbles and head off to the room above. It seems a successful method of getting to the top of the maze, but most of my attempts were thwarted by a squid-like creature that seemed not to be sympathetic to the fact that I was pretty inexperienced at using the volcanic elevators.

Discovering the ropes was also more of an accident than a planned operation. Approaching the edge of a precipice, I allowed Sabre Man to throw himself into the inky blackness and, to my surprise and Sabre Man's relief, the cave ceiling seemed to hold the graphic figure there as if it was smeared with superglue! Closer inspection revealed Sabre Man clinging to a rope, which could be extended by pulling back on the joystick until... yes, you've guessed it, he gets nabbed by another of those tentacled terrors. By this time, you're feeling quite relieved that you're given six lives to complete the adventure!

Once you get the hang of the ropes, they're simplicity itself. As you've gathered from my first experience of using the ropes, though, that's not the problem - it's what you do once you're on the rope. It's essential to move downwards as swiftly as possible and keep firing; be prepared at any time to slow down or pause movement on the ropes, just in case of collisions. You also have to keep one eye out for stalactites - these can fall (at random, as far as I could see) when Sabre man jumps for the rope. Needless to say, stalactites are not the most user-friendly objects in Underwurlde.

Once you've lowered the rope to a level that you can jump off to the ground, you can always use it to climb up - you just have to remember where you left it. Of course, jumping off the rope once Sabre Man's reached the top is not the easiest of tasks but practise makes perfect.

After a few games I found that I could manoeuvre Sabre Man onto the bubbles in the rock pools, and this really was a much better technique for moving up to higher levels. In fact, I found it quite easy to jump from bubble to bubble to avoid the 'nasties', but I wouldn't advocate that technique until you've got a few hours of Underwurlde under your belt.

The only other thing about negotiating shafts that's probably worth knowing is that if you jump Sabre Man on to a gem, he'll build up the amount of energy that's indicated in the top left of the status panel. This figure is a measure of the time Sabre Man can spend falling without dying. So, collect those gems... it's worth it in the long run!

Underwurlde is split into three regions and each is watched over by a guardian. These comprise of large purple graphics sitting under ominous stalactites. And you should by now have guessed the connection between the fact that you've to find three weapons (after the catapult) and three guardians to kill; each guardian requires a specific weapon to be fired at it before it'll cash in its chips.

Once you've managed to kill a guardian, though, you'll be allowed through to the next section. Trouble is, you've also unleashed the eagles; these winged graphics will swoop down and carry Sabre Man off in their claws - sometimes they take you somewhere useful, but more often than not they don't. If an eagle does scoop you up and start flying off, you do have the ability to struggle which, even if it doesn't lead to you being dropped quickly, will certainly impede the eagle's flight.

Last, but certainly not least, you'll come across the third guardian which just happens to resemble the devil on the front of the cassette box. When I first came across this evil little graphic, I found I couldn't get past him at all - everything I fired at him was useless. Luckily, hairy hacker Dave Nicholls came to my rescue with the tip that the guardians could be jumped past. The trick is to get as close as you can to the guardian and wait ... eventually, a 'nasty' will come up behind you and knock you past the guardian. Not only does this mean you don't have to spend hours searching for weapons, but if you don't kill the guardian, the eagles don't appear - which certainly makes the game that much quicker!

Once you've got the hang of manoeuvering Sable Man through some of the trickiest situations in Underwurlde, you're ready to start mapping out the rooms. This isn't that difficult as the screens are paged rather that scrolled. However, there are 605 rooms... so the task is just a little daunting!

Perhaps the first and most important thing to master is control of Sabre Man. You'll have to be able to judge distances down to the last pixel if you're going to survive through to the end. Also, in a similar way to other Ultimate games, there's a slight delay between your entry to a room and the 'nasties' appearing ' so, if you can move swiftly from screen to screen you can avoid many pointless confrontations. You also have to be careful not to rush blindly into one room from another - if you don't know the terrain that well, you'd be well advised to check out the next room carefully... just in case there's a huge drop as soon as you enter, so you can take the appropriate jumping action.

Part of the appeal of Underwurlde must be the way the 'nasties' buffet you around from room to room like on a pinball machine ... without actually killing you. Although there are only three different breeds of 'nasty', all behave in a completely different way. On the whole, I'd advise you to eradicate them as soon as they appear - but then I walked around the whole game with my programmable joystick set to fire continuously.

Those who managed to defeat Sabre Wulf, this next bit's going to give you a feeling of deja vu. Once you've battled your way through all three sections and manoeuvered our hero past the devil, all that's left to explore is a totally unexciting area that leads up to ground level and your final escape. And then you get the message of congratulations and news of the next adventures. Watch this space in a few months' time and maybe you'll be hearing all about Pentagram and Mire-Mare ... who knows!

Personally, I think Underwurdle's a wonderful game combining luck and skill with a very frustrating backdrop of humour and, of course, Ultimate's usual high standard of graphics. I for one can't wait for Pentagram... or MireMare... or whatever it's going to be called!

Overall Not Rated

Ross Holman

Chris Bourne
Added: 14 Dec 2008
FRESH from the jungles of Sabre Wulf the Sabreman returns, just in time to make pots of money in the Christmas rush.

Ultimate has released two new games featuring the character, both with the superb graphics we have come to expect from the company, but different in conception.

Underwurlde is a sort of vertical Atic Atac. Sabreman is now given the ability to leap about the screen, and has a variety of weapons used as missiles. The task, as ever, is to escape. Monsters, which include evil plants, eagles, gargoyles, flying jellyfish and harpies which may actually carry you off, do not kill you as such but bounce you around the screen, knocking you off your perches.

The Underwurlde is a series of large chambers connected by chimneys. Fall too far and you will lose a life. To negotiate the climbs, you must either leap from perch to perch, or hitch a ride from volcanic bubbles, which steam up from craters on the lower levels. It is often easier to descend to the caverns in order to rise.

The game is extremely fast and colourful; those braggart voices which claim previous Ultimate productions are too easy will find life in the Underwurlde is no picnic. You will need to find the right weapons to deal with special foes, work out a route to the open air, and all the time maintain a ferocious pace of reactions and nimble movement to avoid disaster.

Chris Bourne

UNDERWURLDE Ultimate Memory: 48K Price: £9.95 Joystick: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair Gilbert Factor: 8

Added: 14 Dec 2008
Producer: Ultimate
Memory required: 48K
Retail price: £9.95
Language: machine code
Author: The ACG team

Swinging in the Underwurlde
Ultimate have an uncanny knack of releasing games just too late to be able to do them justice in a review because the issue is usually on its way to ‘bed’. But with Underwurlde and Knight Lore they were late enough that they missed the last issue altogether and thus gave enough time for this one! As is well known by Sabre Wulfers, Underwurlde is the second ‘Sabreman’ game, but arguments that Sabre Wulf was Atic Atac with greenery, hold little water with the new game. The perspective is different for a start — you view the game from the audiences’ view of a stage (which makes mapping rather harder), although all the locations do logically connect to make a massive maze, seemingly bigger even than the one in Sabre Wulf. But one of the principal changes, and the first time that Ultimate have employed the device, is that the nasties do not kill you off — they just get in the way. It is possible to die however! We’ve become quite accustomed by now to Ultimate’s oblique inlay cards which give the flavour but no playing hints for the game. Once again it’s a question of sorting out the hows, wheres and what fors. Sabreman, recognisably the same intrepid hero from the previous game, pith helmet intact from his encounters in the jungle, has entered the Underwurlde, to seek the Devil in his Lair and, of course, the way out... As with Sabre Wulf, scoring is by percentage of locations visited and a score accumulated by nasties killed and objects collected.

‘It looks as if the hyper load is here to stay because even Ultimate is using one now. Is the normal Spectrum loading system dead? Underwurlde is certainly no Atic Atac part three — it’s a totally original game that will keep you enthralled for ages. From what I can make out from the usual Ultimate instructions all you have to do is find your way out — simple enough, no! There are quite a few things to hinder and help you, such as the plethora of Ultimate nasties. But these don’t kill, they just make you bounce about all over the place and the only way I’ve found to die is to fall a long way. This is a mixed blessing because when you seem to be doing well, you seem to fall a lot. Sometimes it seems practically impossible to finish a game when you want to. Underwurlde must take up every available byte because the maze is so huge and complex, something that became apparent after playing for twenty minutes and only scoring a paltry 10! Ultimate’s graphics need no explanation, but an obvious item missing is the Hall of Fame (but I’m sure the spare bytes from this went to a good cause). Ultimate have come up with another excellent game featuring the walking, dancing and now jumping Sabreman (all the nasties in the underwurlde seem to have scared him so much he’s shrunk — or has he just had a wash to get rid of the jungle stink)? Underwurlde is more worthy of the 10 quid price tag than was Sabre Wulf so there shouldn’t be any complaints about that. I especially liked the volcanic bubbles on which you can stand and ride, and the eagles which carry you all over the place. This is more of an adventure than Sabre Wulf ever was, so you will have to pick up certain objects to get past certain creatures. If you don’t like the QWERT layout, then you will be disappointed to learn that it’s been used again on this game, but I found it easier to use than a joystick because you don’t need down much and the up key is also used for jump. You just can’t fail with this game, and if piracy means an end to games like this, then piracy’s not really worth it, is it?’


Sabreman takes a tumble

‘Underwurlde is definitely Ultimate’s best game yet. It has super sound and graphics, as you would expect from ACG, plus (as far as I can tell at this stage) an even more complex playing area than SW. Moving around from level to level by skilfully jumping up and down the screen is made even harder by the various Gremlins and Harpies knocking you flying in mid jump. Sabreman has lost his sword but instead he can use various different weapons for several different purposes such as getting past the guardians. I really enjoyed playing Underwurlde and highly recommend it to everyone, although it’s a shame about the high price.’

‘At a first glance, Sabreman resembles Bugaboo the flea. It’s that athletic leap that does it. This huge jump combined with the fact that the nasties don’t kill but do hinder, makes playing Underwurlde quite a different experience from anything Ultimate have done before — and it looks as though it should lead to some staggeringly high scores since killing the gremlins is essential if you are to keep your precarious balance! As usual, the graphics, movement and detail is superb — so is the sound. It is important to get a weapon as soon as you start, fortunately there is the red bubble gun, otherwise you can get hemmed something terrible by the nasties. The frustration level in this game is pitched about right, and there is always plenty going on. I liked the ropes and the large gaseous bubbles — it’s playing details like this that keep Ultimate well ahead in the arcade stakes.’


Control keys: Q/W left/right, R/E up and jump/down, T to fire a possessed weapon, CAPS to V drop from rope, B to SPACE pick up/drop a weapon
Joystick: Kempston, AGF, Protek, Sinclair 2
Keyboard play: very responsive, although the QWERT combination is awkward, all three reviewers agreed that they work quite well in this particular game
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: large, smooth, fast and detailed — excellent
Sound: very good, although it is restricted mostly to ‘contact’ noises
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 6
Screens: unknown at this time, but loads!
Special features: hyper load
General rating: excellent.
Use of computer 89%
Graphics 95%
Playability 96%
Getting started 90%
Addictive qualities 96%
Value for money 86%
Overall 92%
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The game is the second in the Sabreman series, following on from his adventures in Sabre Wulf.
The ZX Spectrum version was number 18 in the Your Sinclair Top 100 Speccy Games in 1992, was voted number 97 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time in 1993 and was voted the 17th best game of all time by the readers of Retro Gamer Magazine.


No remakes available for this title.


This title was first added on 23rd February 2007
This title was most recently updated on 27th March 2017

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