Crossing Europe by train is a chancy move, now Mastertronic set out to convince us that it safer by car, even across France.
Locomotion is based on a train race across Europe, through ten of its major cities in fact. The game really seems to capture the European spirit - as you journey city to city you will find that the locals have torn up and rearranged the tracks, they have even gone so far as to place themselves, their cars and sundry objects in the way.
The playing area consists of a box with 55 squares, one of which is left empty to allow room for the others to be shuffled about. On most of the boxes there is a piece of track, it may be a bend a 'T' junction or simply a straight piece. The player must re-arrange the boxes so that the track is continuous, thus allowing the train to make its way to the next station. As each screen is completed more track boxes are replaced with obstacle boxes which include cars, trees, boulders and Europeans. Clearly these cannot be included in the track so they must be kept out of the way. The more squares that the train crosses the more points are awarded to the player and extra points are given for passing through squares with water or coal symbols.
The puzzle is very difficult to solve and quick thinking is essential to build up a complete unbroken line. The authors have thoughtfully included a feature that will arrest the trains progress while you think, but even so you are only allowed one minute between stations.
Most of the screen is taken up with the playing area, however, on the right hand side the name of the destination station is given, below that a clock shows how much of pause time you have used and the number of lives remaining. Initially each of up to four players have three lives each.
Control keys: cursor keys
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair 2, Fuller
Keyboard play: very quick
Use of colour: fairly simple
Graphics: smooth neat and clear
Sound: little but good
Skill levels: 1 but each screen gets harder
Special features: a superb 'trick ' loading screen which describes the game idea excellently - a bit time consuming though
'To be frank I am pretty useless at these sort of games, the bit of track that I needed always seemed to be at the other side of the screen. The facility to stop the dead in its track was much needed but I would have preferred a delay facility more in line with British Rail standards, perhaps a couple of hours, by then I might have a got the situation under control. One of the games features that caught my eye was the loading screen, initially it is divided up into 55 chunks and gradually rearranges itself to form a picture, all this while the program pretends to load because the yellow and blue lines behind the picture are there to give that impression. I also enjoyed the demo mode which the program throws itself into when it has grown weary of my blunders. All in all a very tidy game with attractive fast moving graphics with some nice detail, such a shame I can't play it'
'Doing the locomotion could catch on again as a result of Masterttonic s new budget game Locomotion. Owing more than a little to K'tang K'tong, a game which reportedly wowed them in the Japanese cafe arcades, the game requires you to shuffle blocks around the screen. Arcade adventures? Why not arcade strategies? I think I preferred Incentives block moving puzzle Confuzion, but for the price Locomotion presents enough of a challenge to merit a place in any puzzle freaks library.'
The Locomotion moving square loading screen is something that one does not expect to see in a £1.99 game. The idea of the game is great, it too is based on the moving square principle but it is a little on the hard side with only a 1 minute pause. Perhaps skill levels with different pause times would help. If things are going okay then it's not too bad but with ten countries and no stops things are going to be difficult. The graphics are reasonable but not spectacular. Locomotion will drive you loco, it's a real tough challenge but not a game for arcade zappers.'
Remember those sliding puzzles you used to win as prizes in lucky dips, or buy for a few pence in the shop on the corner? They contained 15 plastic squares and one empty space. By sliding the squares into the space you could form them into a picture.
Mastertronic have taken up this theme with Locomotion. The idea is introduced by an excellent loading screen which starts with a mixed up picture and then shuffles the elements around until the screen is complete.
The aim of the game is to move your train from the top left to the bottom right of the screen by sliding tracks around to keep it on the rails. Moving the track would be straightforward if it were possible to keep a level head, but the train keeps moving, and the pressure is on all the time.
As the levels progress the track becomes more confused and obstacles such as trees begin to appear more frequently. Eventually it is necessary to push the pause button which allows you to hold the train for a minute whilst you frantically push track around.
A gripping game, excellent value for money, Locomotion is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Mastertronic, 54 George Street, London W1.
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