★ AMSTRAD CPC ★ GAMESLIST ★ ISS: INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SPHERE (c) ELECTRIC DREAMS ★

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Balls. That's what the Sangfalmadorians have loads of. So many, in fact, they even fly them into battle. But this requires training, the passing of a 'driving test' and so on, and that's where you come in. For you've been elected as saviour of the Sphere Corps' battle training school.

They have this problem. Their Colonel-in-Chief Matt Ridley has gone a bit off his rocker. Tired of being desk-bound he went and jumped in one of the lighter spheres, and tried to complete the training arena's Death Run' (friendly sort of name) in one go. He didn't quite make it. Well, he got himself into the scrape, and so in my opinion he can jolly well get himself out.

As the brave hero of the hour however, you're not as heartless as this ruthless reviewer, and take the job (you mad impetuous fool you). So into the fray you leap -after, that is, leaping into your ball. Before attempting the 'Death Rim' though, there's a few things you need to know if you are to avoid the same fate as Col. Ridley.

The training arena is viewed from the side and scrolls around your sphere as you wander into the wild blue (well orange) yonder. The screen is crisp and clear, generally moving smoothly. It's only when high speeds are reached, or there is an exceptional amount of sprite activity, that there is the occasional flicker. Its graphic design, though, is most disconcerting, for it lacks shadow. The result is that you get disorientated, with the screen appearing to turn upside down (along with your stomach).

The Corps use the training area to give pilots experience handling their combat spheres in dangerous situations. It is composed of tiers of mazes, constructed from tectonic tiles'. The aim of the training run is to work your way through the labyrinth, proceeding down through four levels, each of which is subdivided into plates. This sounds simple enough, but there's a catch {isn't there always!), for throughout the maze are numerous ways of catching out the reckless, and sending them to their doom.

To start with, each tile contains a self destruct timer which is activated when your ball passes above it. Even though every tile takes a different time to self destruct. this effectively means there's no turning back.. For if you are foolish enough to stray over a destroyed tile you find that it has turned into a sphere vapouriser. Not something that can be considered good news. Furthermore throughout each level, just for good measure you understand, are Assassin Spheres. These chaps are annoying little devils that seem to be generated indefinitely from little cellars in the maze. Their aim in life is to collide with the Sphere and then explode, killing you both. Not much of a job but they do it with gusto (who's gusto') and annoyingly well.

Last in the long list of features out to get you., and the most important of all, is that some of the tiles you have to go over actually alter the Spheres' molecular structure. One tile makes you bigger, one tile makes you small, and some distort your volume - which is where the title oomes from.

This can be both a bugbear and a boon. Sometimes the extra manoeuvreability of the small sphere is desirable, other times a lightweight version can be useful to help you skate across a decaying tile. On other occasions your speed or weight may be altered, and the resultant loss of control causes you to career into one of the many traps scattered carelessly around the place. Ones to watch out for in particular include prisons, points deductors, pinballesque rebound pins, moving walls and countless other goodies to amuse, amaze and annoy.

On the plus side (at last something to give you a chance) you are allowed to place four ammunition dumps throughout each level. This is not obligatory, but you'd be rather silly trading your ammunition supplies for few hundred bonus points. Also throughout the network of plates there are shield generators, which give you immunity to contact with the assassin drones. This is highly desirable, because if they touch you it's Venetian Blinds time (yup curtains).

It's good to see perseverance being rewarded, and with each 50,000 points an extra sphere is gained up to a maximum of seven (chance would be a fine thing!). Points are up for grabs, by shooting assassins, completing levels and passing over reward tiles.

Points are nice, but you must exercise restraint and not to go all out for the reward tiles. Remember the timers run on all the squares. And while you're amassing points your escape route may be decaying, forcing you to sit tight and wait for the world (or at least the floor) literally to fall in around you.

One thing your sphere doesn't like is being told what to do. As you can well imagine, this causes problems when you're trying to avoid prisons, gaping holes in the floor and assassin drones. The sphere veers off to just exactly the wrong angle to avoid that 'rebound booster' and so off you go, flying into everything in your path, completely out of control. Roulette time, and you're the ball! Don't go rushing in. your life is on the line.

Having landed safely (!) on the Death Run, the first thing to do is to get tooled up. Shields and bullets are needed if you are to stand any chance of reaching the next level.

You land equipped with one magazine {hope it's AA) full of ammo, but this soon dwindles once you stait to mix it with those assassin spheres without any shields. A photon protection shield can be obtained by finding, and then actually managing to pass above, one of the tiles emblazoned with a coat of aims.

Luckily the shield 'dumps', like the ammunition supplies you drop at the outset of the game, are inexhaustible. They are though prone to decay, so don't get greedy and stay around one place continually topping up the tanks. It's best to shape up and ship out as soon as possible.

Now armed to the teeth, you are ready to seek out the way into the next plate of this level. Most of the mazed areas interconnect, but if you take the long way around you find it impossible to reach the black hole that transports you into the next stage. Yes, I did say black hole. The Chinese use bikes to get from A to B, Londoners use the tube, Sangfaimadorians use black and white holes. So it's quicker than the bus, but which would you choose?

The route becomes obvious after a few circumnavigations of the plate. Its easy to spot: the most difficult way to go between two points. Just head for the smallest corridors, the decayed tiles and the most tightly packed groups of assassin spheres. That way progress lies.

The style of game play does not change much from this original premise, it just evolves and gets ever more complex and tricky (as if controlling the sphere wasn't enough). Moving walls start to appear providing short cuts, or temporarily blocking the way Ramps replace exits, and these must be taken when the sphere's speed and mass are balanced correctly, or the ramp gives out under the weight. In some instances walls must be charged after building up speed and literally broken through, if you are to continue on your quest for the courageous colonel Ridley.

May the Fours be with you

The team that created Incredible Shrinking Sphere, Fours Field, are a group of four programmers and designers currently working in conjunction with Activision,Electric Dreams. Stefan and Anne Ufnowski, Colin Reed and Steve Green, who form the nucleus of the group, shoulder the entire conceptual and developmental workload, occasionally bringing in outside programmers to work on specific machine conversions.

Stefan has had a long and varied history in the world of games software. He started writing adventures three years ago, producing titles like Rebel Planet and the Silver Chalice-winning Kayleth. Since then he's worked on the graphics for arcade style games such as US Gold's Masters oi the Universe, Dream Warrior and Captain America. This mixed programming and design background has led directly to the development of ISS. 'We were looking for a game with a shoot 'em up element as well as puzzles,' Stefan remembers, 'a game fhat had as many mental challenges as reflex ones.' 'Working on l$$ was a very good experience for all the programmers.' says Ann. "It was one of those rare projects that was all but trouble free from beginning to end.' From the time it was designed to the day it was handed over to the software house for testing, the game took seven months to put together (late February-September 1988).

Fours Field's positive feelings about ISS stem from their strong sense of team work, with each member of the group contributing at all stages to the development of the game, right from the original design concept up to final game play testing. Their future's so bright (they gotta wear shades): the current project is Time Scanner, also for Activision and due for release this month.

Above, the Fours Field crew, Anna and Stefan Ufnowski, Colin Reed and Steve Green; and left, two of Stefan's previous projects. Captain America and Dream Warrior >>

The combination of simple concept-like a Pac Man/pinball crossbreed - and complex gameplay works well, if not perfectly. The graphics, excellent when the action is at a slow pace, become jittery when things hot up. leaving you confused, eyestrained and with a migraine. The sphere is too hard to control, and many a joystick will end its days being wrenched too hard as you sail into danger. It's like trying to control Pac Man after he's had a couple of pints of shandy on a Saturday night.

Incredible Shrinking Sphere could never be considered a fun' game to play. It is a challenge you find either enthralling or excruciating depending on your mood. The game demands constant attention, because the penalty for losing a sphere is a one way ticket back to the start of the level. And then you get to have all that fun again, yippee!!!

Eventually you make it back to base, having rescued the world's most useless Commander in Chief. What you really need is a good sit down and a cuppa. But those nice people at Sphere Corps have a surprise for their conquering hero. You're going back in -and this time, just to stop you getting bored, they've made things tougher. Ah well, such is life. It's a ball really.

TW, AA

ISS: INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SPHERE
(c) ELECTRIC DREAMS

DEVELOPPER: FOUR'S FIELD ( Stefan and Anna Ufnowski , Colin Reed and Steve Green)
A SOFTWARE STUDIOS PRODUCTION
PROGRAMMER: THE OLIVER TWINS
MUSIC: Jon Paul Eldridge / DIGITAL HARMONICS

RERELEASE: MCM (SPAIN)
PROTECTION: CASSYS CASSETTE PROTECTION SYSTEM (TAPE)

★ YEAR: 1989
★ LANGUAGE:
★ GENRE: INGAME MODE 1 , ARCADE , 3D ISOMETRIC , BALL GAME , FUTURISTIC

★ AMSTRAD CPC ★ DOWNLOAD ★

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» ISS-Incredible  Shrinking  SphereDATE: 2010-06-02
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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.