Trains seem to be in the news this issue, what with Blaby's Casey Jones and now this original game marketed by Sinclair. Hudson Soft is the Japanese company who have been releasing games in Britain recently. Anyone who has ever wanted to do one of those scenes in movies where the hero runs along the tops of the carriages on a moving train, can now have a go!
The ITA Express has fallen into the hands of the evil Redmen. As Special Security Agent, your task is to stop the train and apprehend the vile criminals before they reach the border. You must reach the front carriage and unlock the motorman's cabin, avoiding the thrown knives of the red rotters and their fists. Your only weapons are your wits, skill in timing and the likeable Snakebird.
The screen shows the carriages of the moving train, almost filling the playing area. You are lowered from above on to the roof of the last carriage. The train's motion is indicated by the backward scrolling ground beneath the train and the flashing telegraph poles behind it. As you run forward, the carriages slowly scroll backwards. Thrown knives are ducked by falling flat and the gaps between carriages are negotiated by jumping. If the pursuing redmen catch up with you, or one of their knives hits you, you are flung off the train, which sails on without you.
Occasionally a snakebird flies past. Leaping up will enable you to catch one, and pressing the fire button will release it to attack your pursuers. Just below the score line is a caution signal which flashes whenever an overhead electric stanchion is approaching. Running your head into one of these is painfully fatal!
If you get through the first screen, the scene cuts to the interior of the carriages - a sort of cutaway view. Here the hero must use the passenger hanging straps to swing up and avoid the redmen, or it's possible to leap over them, even kicking them in the teeth. But watch out for the ghostly red things that inhabit the straps as well.
The first stage is ten carriages long, stage two is the same before the motorman's cabin is reached. Each redman thrown from the train scores 100 points whether it is the released snakebird or a kick which sends them flying.
Control keys: a bit of a handful - A or J/D or L run left/right, Q or I/E or P to jump left/right and X or M =down, CAPS or BREAK to fire
Joystick: ZX 2
Keyboard play: difficult with so many keys, joystick recommended, but very responsive
Colour: very good
Graphics: very good, large and detailed
Sound: above average
Skill levels: 1
Originality: very high, nothing else like it
'This is like a scene from a James Bond film. A very original idea nearly always sells cassettes - this is original and great fun to play. The train carriages are well drawn and colourful. 'You', your enemies and the snakebirds all move very fast. The sound isn't bad, with a clicky effect resembling the wheels going over the rails. One disadvantage with keyboard play is the number of keys needed to move and operate your man. One of the better games that Sinclair has just released.'
'The graphics in Stop The Express are quite impressive, probably because the train carriages are so large and colourful, but there are lots of other neat details, like the telegraph poles and sagging wires which can be seen above the roof and below the wheels. Also the overhead electric stanchions move in perspective as they flash by above you. Should you fall off the train goes on by - the exact number of carriages you have already got across. This is a game which requires nifty timing and responses, but which lets you improve, since the same events happen each life so you get the hang of it eventually. Very addictive.'
'No help is given from the snakebird once you are inside the express, so you must time your jumps and kicks very well. There's also this awful thing hanging up on the hanging straps which is after your blood. On top of the train it's worth being careful with your snakebirds, as they are only effective for the length of one carriage, falling off at the end. Also, you can only carry one at a time. This is a highly original idea with imaginative graphics which also has just the right sort of ingredients to make it fun and addictive.'
Use of Computer: 58%
Getting Started: 78%
Addictive Qualities: 85%
Value for Money: 83%
Stop The Express is another game that has a very simple idea behind it which has been improved upon by adding good graphics and sound. What you have to do is to get to the front of the train and Stop The Express which has been hijacked by the infamous Redmen. As the review stated the game is played as if it were a scene out of a movie. First of all you must run across the roof of the train dodging obstacles such as knife-throwing Redmen and gaps between carriages. Then after you've got passed a certain number of carriages the scene switches to the inside of the train where you have to get to the front of the train and stop it.
I think Stop The Express is one of the most original games I have ever seen. It surprised me to see that it wasn't a Crash Smash and seeing how popular it has proved in the Hotline I'm even more surprised. Perhaps this was because of the low Use of Computer mark it received as a result of all the keys there were to use. But after a few goes I found less keys than stated could be used and the game played just as well. It's still a good game and has stood the test of time well.
Stop The Express was one of the few games that was underrated. By rights I think it should have been a Crash Smash. It's still fun to play and its popularity in the Hotline proves this. The graphics are good and the scrolling of the train and telegraph poles is excellent. Stop The Express just goes to show how a simple idea implemented well can make a game as playable now as it was 8 months ago.
(Ben) I think 'Use of Computer' should go up to about 75 because you can play using only 5 keys but as for the rest of the ratings they should stay as they are.
(Rob) Most of the ratings still stand except for the ludicrous 'Use of Computer' which should be about the 70 mark. Otherwise the game hasn't lost any of it's original appeal.
MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
CONTROL: Keys, Sinc
FROM: Sinclair, £7.95
A swashbuckling adventure this, with graphics rarely equalled on a Spectrum.
You take on the part of a very cute-looking secret agent with green suit and a bright yellow mop of hair. Right from the start, when you see yourself lowered down a rope on to the roof of a moving train, you know this is going to be a special mission.
Your aim is to stop the train by reaching the front of it, 20 carriages away. But what a train! Beautifully drawn in blue, red and green trim, it scrolls handsomely across the screen as you move along it, leaping from carriage to carriage.
No time to enjoy it though, because evil red agents (the KGB, no doubt) are climbing on to the roof behind you and hurling knives at your back. Fortunately, although you have no gun, you're a very athletic person. You can run in both directions, jump up, left and right, and lie down to dodge knives.
You can knock the reds off the train by kicking them, but a much safer (and more entertaining) method is to use the 'snake birds' which fly overhead. Just leap up and catch one, and then release it so that it wriggles along the train devouring anything red in its path.
With some practice it's possible to get half-way along the train, whereupon stage two begins. This time you're inside the carriages and the red agents are attacking you from the front. You must leap over them, while dodging ghost-like creatures overhead.
Should you manage to reach the front, you simply try again with more reds to avoid.
One nice touch is that after you've perished you can see a complete replay of your mission. Indeed, as I write this, am happily watching myself reach within two carriages of the front. Makes you truly proud to belong to the CIA.
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