Poetry in motion

Incredible Shrinking Sphere logo

COLONEL-IN-CHIEF Matt Ridley of the Sphere Corps was sick of flying a desk and was in severe danger of being referred to a trick cyclist. It was the 9 till 5 that did for him - it had been years since he'd piloted a Fighter Sphere, especially on the Death Run training arena at Sangfalmadore.

The Death Run was now really living up to its name. Bits were missing and the generators had gone crazy, making real deadly enemies. Still, better to die in combat than to keel over on the morning shuttle, always 11 minutes late.

The controls felt oddly familiar in the Colonel's hands. How the Spheres had changed this day. The mass and volume used to be set manually but now everything was preset using the Tectronic Tiles on the arena floor.

Level one of the Death Run fell easily; after all, was not the Colonel an expert in his day? At least all the details were still there - the Bonus and Penalty tiles, the Chaotic Bouncers and the Shield Energisers. Each one - except the Penalty - could be used to some advantage if the pilot knew his up from his down.

But it had to happen, and happen it did on level seven, which just happened to be the last and most hazardous level. The Colonel's Sphere decided that it was time to pack in - no fuel and only enough shields for a few hours.
It would have to be a pretty sharp operator to get to the Colonel, and since you're the only sharp operator in the vicinity, pretty or otherwise, it's all up to you.

Spheres can be controlled via normal or isometric control, the latter being slightly less confusing initially. Some of the Tectronic Tiles are so fragile that a Sphere at full mass would plummet through. Others have become critically unstable and mutate into Sphere Vapourisers.

At least you can place ammo dumps wherever you need them, although only four are allowed per level. As there are four plates per level in seven levels, and the first isn't exactly easy, there is a tiny bit of a challenge here.

ISS has been written by someone who knows a thing or two about motion. The way the Sphere spins round the periphery of a force field is beautiful. The movement and scrolling are synchronised so neatly that they don't intrude on the gameplay at all. Fours Field - the development team - does know how to produce some nice metallic effects, but the graphics work adequately rather than astonishingly.

What does deserve special mention is the theme tune. Imagine Lalo Shifrin, famous for the Mission Impossible theme, meeting those zany funsters The B-52s over some naughty sweeties. Get the idea? It's a real pity that the rest of the game effects are just boinks, thumps, pows and crashes.

Blast aliens and scratch your head in Electric Dreams' ball-shrinking stunner

Incredible Shrinking Sphere logo Zzap! Sizzler

Electric Dreams, C64 £9.99 cass, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

It's no easy life if you're a shiny little metal ball. For a start, you're shoved into practically every game that's going on: marbles, pinball, bowls, executive toys, computer games - you name it, it's got a little round ball in it.

Bet it hasn't got one, though, that can do as many things as the... wait for it... Incredible Shrinking Sphere.

You've heard of the Superbowl. Well, this is the Superball. Course, this metal mother doesn't just stay plain old average size - it can change its volume, shrink or grow, arm itself with all sorts of dead complicated missiles, wear a shield, alter its weight and absorb assassins all over the shop. Why? Well, me old son, it's a bit like this...

Zzap's Rockford: Spheres to you all! Somewhere in one of those very peculiar abstract worlds you tend to get a lot in computer games, there are loads and loads of different mazes. Each level is divided into four planes connected by lifts, and all you've got to do is find your way out.

Not easy that, 'cos floor's made up of all sorts of different tiles (see box) which alter your makeup, start decaying when you pass over them or just send you ricocheting off in every possible direction except the one you want to go in. Worse still, there are assassin generators all over the place - if you touch any of these pods or spheres without a shield, you're in prime condition for the scrap heap. Ouch.

Course, if you want to get out alive, it's no good just going all out and whizzing round the course 'cos you'll last about five seconds. What you've gotta do is use yer brain. So that makes it just about the ideal game for everybody - except Maff.

Gordon Houghton Well this makes a bit of a change, doesn't it? Actually it reminds me of t'good old days, back when I were a lad and there weren't half so many of them licences and tie-ins on the shelves. You've got to admit, this isn't quite as good as Spindizzy (that's one of my favorite games of all time, by the way) but it is extremely original, incredibly devious and packed full of the sort of puzzles you'd bend over backwards (not easy for a tub like me) to solve. If you know what's good for you, give up Mars bars for a week, wash the car, do a sponsored walk; anything (OK, OK, almost anything) just so you can get a copy of this.
Kati Hamza Any wimps out there who've been bawling their eyes out over the lack of originality in the software industry, dry your eyes and come out of the cupboard RIGHT NOW. As a hotchpotch mixture of the Marble Madness style and loads of puzzle content, this has to be one of the most unusual, original and thought-provoking arcade games to hit ZZAP! Towers since Bombuzal. The action can get really frantic, the puzzles are dead fiendish and there are loads of different levels to explore. Just goes to show you don't need a licence to produce a really brilliant game.
Maff Evans When you first pick up ISS, you might not think it's all that great. The controls are a bit fiddly, you keep getting blown up all the time and you get lost in the mazes. But once you've got the hang of the control method, you start to find your way around and place the ammo dumps at strategic points; from them on, it's really gripping. The neat graphics and sound effects only make playing the game even more enjoyable! If you're looking for something that's really different and that'll last you a long time, you couldn't get much better than ISS.
Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Black Hole BLACK HOLE LEVEL EXIT Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Level Exit
Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Binary Rebound Booster BINARY REBOUND BOOSTER PRISON Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Prison
Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Ramp Short Cut RAMP SHORT CUT DECREASE VOLUME Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Decrease Volume
Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Mass volume or Inertia Change MASS. VOLUME or INERTIA CHANGE CHAOTIC BOUNCE Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Chaotic Bounce
Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Shields SHIELDS REVOLVER Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Revolver
Incredible Shrinking Sphere: Ammo Supply DumpAMMO SUPPLY DUMP