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.