Cult Games
1988
Sport: Management
£2.99
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

68
Philippa Irving
Chris Bourne

I rubbed my hands in glee when I took a first look at First Past The Post... No complex wargame this: just another example of that rare but persistent breed - the text-based strategy game.

The player is in competition with three other trainers whose performance records can be called up. You are already in possession of a stable of race worthy horses.

Each meeting runs three races: the one mile, the two mile and the three mile. Before the race starts, there is an opportunity to see the odds placed on each horse by the bookies and to place one bet. The odds assigned may follow a logic internal to the computer, but to me they seemed completely random.

The race itself is run in glorious dual-pixel animation, with your own horses highlighted in white and those of the rival trainers an anonymous black. They gallop at leisurely speed along a practically featureless course, generating a boredom that is almost unbearable. In the end, I resorted to reading a book while the race was on.

If a white horse has been frozen mid-gallop at the finishing post, then it's one of yours and you've won. Unrealistically, no credit is given for second or third place. If you happened to back the winner, you get the appropriate pay out. If one of your horses won, you get some prize money. Then it's onto the next race.

At the end of the day, a league table of trainers is shown. Points are awarded on the basis of an unexplained system. Next, the player has the opportunity to sell a horse from the stable. A single horse is also offered for sale, with a price tag attached. Little judgement is called for; the animal is an unknown quantity, with no history.

The horses carry their records on into subsequent meetings which is when the game first calls for a degree of strategic thought The logic is basic - keep entering horses for the races they've shown they can do well at.

Maybe something interesting happens at the end of the season and perhaps variety and humour pop up unexpectedly if you persevere for long enough. After an interminable game, however, I got the impression that it was like this all the way through. It certainly failed to inspire any spark of interest or curiosity in me. The absence of incentive to play First Past The Post for more than an hour leaves it with nothing to recommend itself, even at a budget price.

CRITICISM

60%
Onscreen presentation is smooth and attractive, but there is a complete lack of written material.
20%
Completely inadequate - no explanation of the principles of horse racing and stable management, and barely enough information on how to play the game.
40%
Easy enough to play, but the race sequence holds things up.
55%
Few graphics to consider, but the animated race not exactly high art.
32%
A non-starter.