Publisher: Enigma Variations
Machine: Sam Coupe

Published in Crash #86


Sphera, one of the most feared prison planets owned by the emperor of the Rigel IV system, a place where many people have gone in - but hardly any have come back out. Having been sent here for a crime you didn't commit, you seek revenge and escape.

This seems impossible until you stumble upon a broken-down supply ship. Before the repair droids begin work, you sneak aboard and hide until the ship is fully operational. Taking control of the ship, you now have to fly through three massive levels of shoot-'em-up mayhem to reach freedom.

Blast the guardians of Sphera as they attempt to foil your plans for escape - there are loads of 'em! In some cases, you meet a guardian two or three times before you actually destroy it, so a healthy trigger finger is needed.

These end-of-level monsters include giant crabs, deadly scorpions and sand creatures, and to defeat them you fire until they're forced off the top of the screen (avoiding their deadly bullets while you're at it).

Sphera's gameplay is basic shoot-'em-up. It's a 'simple' matter of avoiding the continuous onslaught of space debris, killing the occasional attack wave of ships, picking up the extra lives, energy and weapons, then blowing away the end-of-level monster. The only things that vary from level to level are the monsters and some of the scenery graphics.

Sphera's scrolling is impressive. Backgrounds scroll by at varying speeds, interweaving with each other. This makes impressive viewing but can be confusing when you don't know what you can fly over and under. The game boasts 16-colour graphics and stereo sound, showing that the SAM can get up to. I feel that some of the graphics could've been better: if you can have 16 colours to play with, why are all the alien ships boring old white on black?

Sphera is a good example of what can be produced given half a chance. It lacks a lot in gameplay but is bound to be a hit with all SAM owners, simply because there are few other games around. With more software development (Sphera is a little rough around the edges), I predict we're in for some very exciting games in the future. Hurrah indeed!


Sonically, Sphera is very good, but the graphics leave a fair bit to be desired. The backgrounds are colourful, as are the end-of-level guardians, but the spacehip sprites are very crude in comparison.

I found the ship's controls to be slightly sluggish when responding to the hail of enemy bullets. This caused much frustration and I couldn't get any further than the end of the first level. Sphera is a blast-'em-up for well 'ard joystick junkies only (and people with milder tempers than my own)!