Set in the not too distant future, the world of Interphase comes at a time when everyone has a lot of spare time on their hands, due to the total automation of most industries. As a result, the leisure industry has expanded beyond all recognition, and one particular form of entertainment has come to dominate: the science of Dream Recording and DreamTracks.
DreamtTracks (recorded patterns of imagination) which are produced by multi-national corporations but the 'Dreamers' are being subliminally brainwashed by the power classes who are peppering the DreamTracks with pro-government propaganda. Quite frankly, this isn't cricket. And one Dreamer swears to do something about it.
Chadd (the Dreamer in question) builds something called the Interphase, which sproings his mind inside the Security Computer - where he can basically bugger up the whole caboodle. It's a bit like a cross between Tron, Max Headroom, Joe 90 and Lassie Finds Yet Another Boy Stuck In A Dangerous Mineshaft.
Dunc: Right. You have 12 floorplans (the different levels) to study and you have to allow your 'girlfriend' to pass from one end of each floor to the other without walking into any hazards. For instance, there are video cameras which, if they spot her, will relay the information to security droids who will then track her down and kill her. Turning a camera off, then, is a good idea, but to do it you have to go into the other bit of the game - the 3D world 'inside the computer'. You can summon up info on what the camera 'off-switch' looks like and fire up the navigation computer (which will show you the way to go) before you plunge into this weird world.
It's really like being inside a rather bizarre computer. All you need to know is that the animation is absolutely first class. Oh, and your 'ship' is controlled entirely by mouse, so get a ZERO mouse mat. (Out soon!) Once you've tracked down the camera switch, shoot it, and the camera is turned off. Time to go back to the map screen to plot your chick's assault further.
As you progress through the levels, you'll encounter all manner of hazards to interact with in the 3D environment: locked doors (er, you need to open them), turntables (they send guards off in directions of your choosing), pressure pads (you need to avoid them. Um, and sometimes you don't), electrified floor (frazzles the guards, unless your chick touches them first in which they frazzle her), workshop systems (where you can manufacture items you have accidentally blasted and then realised you need). And there's more, but this is a mission of discovery, so I won't spoil it for you. Basically it's a case of looking at the map, thinking "how on earth can I do that?" then sussing it out and going inside the computer to carry the plan out in shoot' em-up style.
So how does the mix of brain power and razor-sharp reactions match up? Is it a perfect blend or are you left wanting to jump out of your top window? Um, no actually. To my way of thinking it comes down too heavily on the cerebral with not enough thought to the zapping.
The shoot 'em up element isn't demanding enough to satisfy someone who wants to 'get things before they get him'. Maybe it gets a lot harder on the later levels, but the trickiness of the strategy element can bog down the most ardent shoot 'em-up fan until he (or she) just gives up. Maybe I haven't applied enough 'thought' to the problems at hand, but there you are - that's how I feel in IQ tests. On the other hand, the dedicated strategy buff might well find the 'arcade' sequences (regardless of the impressive graphics and sound) something of a bind.
However, there's a 'sub-set' of people with the IQ of Sire Clive Sinclair, the reflexes of Roadrunner and the patience of a lighthouse keeper, who will love this game. It's a blinkin' clever little idea and though difficult, it's implemented with sheer class.
Sean: Let's face it, the chances of getting the brain of a technical genius and the brain of a mega game designer squodged into the same skull are practically nil. So, when a game like this comes along, pushing back the graphics barriers in huge chunks, fun-wise they're generally as exciting as playing tiddlywinks with your auntie who died last year.
ImageWorks, doubtless aware of this problemette, got round it by getting one person to design it, and another person to work on the actual gameplay. Two brains, two specialists, and two skulls.
Well, almost. It's the fastest solid 3D ever but to be honest, this fact doesn't impress me too much. The graphics will be improved on eventually, or maybe within months, and excellent games have certainly been created without stretching limits, so barrier-breaking is no real indication of playability. The one way to judge any game is by comparing it to other currently available on the market.
Fortunately, Interphase manages to create a believable, imaginative 3D world, and pack in an addictive challenge to boot. You will be able to tell from the screenshots that Interphase has truly astounding graphics, but what you won;t be able to glean, is the smoothness and speed with which the screen updates - scrolling is too simple a word to describe what happens. This smoothness, which I would put on a par with some animated films, really does create the feeling of 'being there' more than any other computer game I've played. Basically, the graphics are superlative. In addition the sounds are very 'science fictiony', and again contribute greatly to the overall atmosphere of the game.
The actual game, once past the cyberpunk scenario, is a sort of strategic shoot 'em up. Each level begins with a thorough examination of the map, and a route must be planned ahead for the girlie if she's going to avoid getting fried on an electric pressure pad or mashed by some defence droid. Even the map section is impressively presented, an indication that attention has been paid to perfecting every aspect of the game. Needless to say, the shoot 'em up sections of each floor are brilliant, and you can either go straight for your objective as fast as possible, or stroll around taking pot shots at anything that strays within range. It's brilliant fun either way.
All is not sweetness and light, however. At the end of each level is a section which involves guiding your craft through a red and white stripey tunnel. Maybe I'm just crap at steering or something, but I found this to be pretty difficult. Even if I finished a level without loosing too much energy, I generally lost loads in the tunnel. Personally I think it was all rather distracting, as it seemed to be tacked onto the end of each level for the sake of it, and it added nothing to the game. Maybe that's just me, though.
I also wonder about the actual 'learning curve', and whether it gets too difficult too quickly, thus forcing some people to reach an impasse and give up. This said, I suppose some smart arse is bound to write in within about two days with the complete solution.
Still, chucking my personal gripes through the round window, I am certain that on one who buys Interphase can fail to be impressed by the mix of astounding graphics and addictive gameplay. It's a thoroughly fab game and I wouldn't hesitate recommending it to anybody.