Pretend it is the 67th century. Galactic federations have come and gone, Twin Peaks is still on telly. In this distant future, though, there are not any wars, but everyone is not at peace. Inter-galactic lawlessness if rife, providing the military with something to shoot at.
You command a squadron of up to six deep-space battlecraft, chosen from a list of a possible 30. The ships have different weapons, armour and manoeuvrability. You also select the pilots of your vessels (from a list of several races and sexes).
Right. You have got the pilots, the ships and hopefully the bottle. It is time for combat. Firstly, you will get a briefing on who you are fighting and why. Then you move to the map: a rectangle divided into a hexagonal pattern. The ships move around from hex to hex in any direction, but if they leave it, they are deemed to have scarpered without trace, and cannot take part in any further battle.
Put a hex on
At the start of combat, your ships face the enemy's at long range and you take turns to manoeuvre into a position where you can open fire (ideally from behind an unsuspecting target). Each ship flashes as you decide what orders to give. Then all the ships chug around the hexes, hopefully putting you in a position to blast the twisted space crustaceans in the enemy ships.
You then try to avoid getting blasted and hope your shields last longer. And that is it. It is all in two dimensions. It is all on the one hex grid and it is all like a sort of Battleships game. You simply control where your ships are heading, how fast they are going and which weapons they are using. Everything else is done for you.
When any ship is hit, a damage screen is called up. This lists in impressive detail the state of every system on-board (including which have been knackered by the attack). The screen appears for any ship which is hit. If it is yours, you have the option to jump to safety. What constitutes safety in deep space, surrounded by fighting craft, razor-sharp wreckage and lasers is not made clear, though. Kills result in Prestige points being awarded. These will buy you better craft and weapons for the next bout of conflict.
The game does not run in real time, there is not any sense of excitement or urgency about it. There is a two-player mode, which assumes you can convince somebody that Interceptor is interesting enough to play. It does not add significantly to the amount of fun you will have.
Interceptor was originally a board-game. The idea worked there because it was not too complex. This is its downfall on the screen. It is far too simple. The rigid, easily-anticipated game, so unless your mouse slips and cocks things up, you cannot really lose. Well, your pilots could all desert through sheer boredom...
The atmosphere is spot on. If you are a sci-fi fan you could easily get immersed in the different types of ship, aliens and history of the Federal Empire. There is a wealth of detail, so your imagination can get into warp speed. But it will crash back to Earth painfully when you start playing the game proper. It is not 16-bit stuff at all, and no amount of frills and scene setting can hide what is a boring game. Space cadets should steer clear of this hulk.