ST Format


Interphase

Author: Mark Higham
Publisher: Image Works
Machine: Atari ST

 
Published in ST Format #4

Interphase

Just imagine being able to record your dreams on a CD player, so you can relive them later. Not just ordinary dreams, either, but fantastic ones in which all your senses - sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste - feature. Welcome to the world of Interphase.

Unfortunately, things haven't worked out too brilliantly. The mega-bucks companies have caught on to the potential of these "Dreamtracks", and are seeking to use subliminal images to pollute the viewer's subconscious. The Dreamers who create these tracks are respectable types whose thoughts have been tampered with so they create politically influenced dreams. That's where you come in.

You, Chadd, are a dreamer who inadvertetly created one of these dreams. Immediately afterwards you were fired, but not before you appreciated the potential of your dream. Now you're out to steal back the dreamtrack before it can be used.

Interphase

Just like Max Headroom, Chadd's found a way inside the security machine, and is trying to direct his girlfriend around the building. He must clear the way for her so that she can find the Dreamtrack and escape (What kind of a coward sends his loved one to do anticipate your girlfriend's movements so she doesn't get blasted. She'll never forget you if you screw this one up: it'll make the time you forgot her birthday seem like a pleasant memory.

To succeed you need to open doors and disable security cameras so she can get through. You're presented with a 2D map showing your girlfriend and the droids that hang menacingly around each level. A zoom option lets you close in on areas around the map - helpful for letting you know the obstacles your girlfriend is about to confront.

Objects which stand in your way are switched off by going inside the computer, and this is where you're plunged into a 3D environment. By locking onto a specific object such as a security camera, pointers direct you around. The computer internals are split into levels and you can only pass between levels by going through the coloured squares. Objects can be scattered across any levels, and when you track it down you must blast it to change its state.

Interphase

Along the way there are all sorts of aliens that bump into you and knock away your energy. If they take too much Chadd perishes and the game is over. Energy can be replenished, however, by finding an energy zone, and docking with it.

When you've blasted an object away all you're left with is a wireframe. At later points in the game you may find you need to turn the camera back on again. In this case you must locate an object generator and make a new camera. Using your tractor beam you can pick up this object and move it back into the wireframe, making the camera active again.

This isn't all there is to the game. For the girl to succeed you have to open doors and switch off cameras in the right order so that droids don't come along and kill her.

Effects

Interphase

The graphics are astonishing. The zoom option works extraordinarily fast (the game's entirely mouse-driven) and, although the 2D map might not be brilliantly drawn, zooming in and out of areas reveals convincing extra details. And the 3D section is faultless - it's very, very fast indeed and there are so many amusing enemies you'll stay intrigued for hours. It's when you see obstacles like the frog on a unicycle (I kid you not) you realise why the game has been in development for a whole year.

Sound effects accompany all sorts of moves - from blasting at annoying ships to the move between levels inside the computer. All succeed superbly in reinforcing the utterly convincing futuristic atmosphere.

Verdict

The Interphase environment is complex at first, but you soon learn what you need to do. It's a game all about experience: the more you discover how to tackle problems, the more you'll love it. The hazards which trouble your progress are often amusing, frequently intriguing and invariably damned difficult. Apply your brain power and you'll do it in the end.

Once in a while comes a game that stands apart from the rest, totally defying comparison. It last happened with the superb Populous, which positively raced up the 16-bit charts. Now there's Interphase, with just as original a concept and graphics that do it justice. There's more than just a spark of originality here: it's bursting with new ideas. Unfortunately, its strategy element prevents it from having the same wide appeal as Populous.

That's a real pity, because some people are going to miss out on what is, without doubt, one of the games of 1989.

Mark Higham

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