A fireball formed at the Uskma Geiger on the planet of Myroconia is so hot it takes two years to cool enough to be touched. (Not a lot of people know that.) So what do you do when some 20-foot high metal clown comes skating towards you on its anti-gravity drive and lobs one of those things straight at your head?
Run like hell. No? *No?* OK then, blast it with your Megadeath Gammalaser? Nope, not that. What you actually do - get this - is reach out with your fireball grabbers and *clasp the glowing orb to your bosom...*
You see, you're piloting one of these robotic leviathans yourself. Called an oven (with a fireball lodged in its specially-designed Heta-sac it soon warms up in that thar cockpit), your mechanical man is in fact a huge suit of armour designed specifically for the sport of Fireball.
A cross between basketball, shot-putting and dodgem-driving, the game is played over a large area containing no fewer than eight goals - four for each team. These are paired, two to a "Dragon's Dwell", and each is guarded by a vicious salamander-type creature which pokes its head out of a doorway and spits gobs of fire at you the moment you come close to putting one away. You don't have to get one past the goalie, you have to kill 'im! How? Simply lob the fireball at his bonce (not easy while avoiding his fiery gob).
You gain possession of the fireball by ramming your opponents at max speed - and they try to get it off you by the same means. You pass the ball by pressing the Fire button briefly, or jump with it by holding the button down longer. Keep it pressed until you land again and you throw the fireball when you release.
Now this is where it gets complicated. Although the play area is quite large, all the action takes place under a much smaller dome which slides about like an upturned dish in whatever direction the player with the fireball is travelling. There are eight men in your team, but only three can be inside the dome at any one time.
Your players can jump in and out of the dome at will (though not if they're carrying the fireball) and a large part of the strategy in the game comes from jumping (had to get that cheap gag in somewhere). Also, if you collide with a lower wall or get zapped by a dragon, you're sent out of the dome for immediate repairs and another of the men lurking outside the dome takes your place.
And all the time you're scooting around the floor underneath your dome (it's called Eddy, by the way), you can be running into various colour-coded posts for eight different extras, such as "serious heat resistance", "bonus lifeforce" and "shocking death". Ouch.
When you get to a goal, the dome locks onto it long enough for you to dodge the dragons' flaming phlegm (hughie, anyone seen hughie) and try to land the fireball on its scaly noodle.
The graphics are very, very impressive. Your view of the dome offers a genuine 3D perspective, with players in the background growing progressively smaller with distance, and the dome sliding across the floor as smoothly as an iceberg on an oilslick. And the game starts with an excellent animated sequence of your little man climbing into his oven.
Sound is less impressive. It's competent enough, but features the usual instantly-forgettable Jean Michel-Jarre-on-a-xylophone soundtrack and zap-whoosh-thunk sound effects.
Most dubious of all, though, is the gameplay. Complicated doesn't mean deep, and after half an hour swapping fireballs with the enemy 'bots, scooting to and from over the same bit of pitch ad nauseam and generally coming as close to scoring as our boy Mark Higham after a curry, you get to thinking that maybe Fireball isn't the most interesting game in town. Playing against the computer you get eight different teams of varying 'ardness to play against, but it's probably only in human versus human mode you're going to get any real thrills.
Graphically excellent, Fireball fails to grab. It's a game that's been polished so hard you just slide off.