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Andy Morgan
Strategy: Management
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

It's a cold grey, misty morning in early spring. As you walk down the quayside you stop and look up at the seagulls wheeling high above the dockyard...

So commences the amazingly long sheet of atmospheric instruction to this sailing/ finance strategy game from Atlantis. Some of this intro is just colourful background, but it does also contain warning hints about the storms and having to jettison cargo to stay afloat, sudden sea mists and collisions, arming your ship against pirates, being aware of loan sharks, paying your harbour dues, paying your crew and insurance costs and so on.

After a misspent life at sea, rounding the Horn, you have amassed a sum big enough to buy your own vessel called the Titan Trader which can carry up to 50 units of cargo. You may choose from 5 types of cargo, general goods, arms (for which you will need a license although they are obtainable on the black market as illegal cargo), coal, whiskey and bullion. You may sail between any of 5 ports, being sideways movement. Quite original for the Spectrum, and I think lots of people will find it addictive once the control factor is mastered.'

Southampton (where you start), Swansea, Liverpool, London and Newcastle and it takes one week per trip including time spent in port. Your ultimate aim is to make £1m and retire. Sounds ideal! The playing screen is divided into two areas. At the top is your bank balance, the amount you already owe the finance company including interest (it starts at ?7,000), the units of cargo your ship can carry and the types of cargo for reference. Below the line is the command area. You may elect to buy or sell, and the respective prices per cargo type are shown on the right. On leaving a port, the screen cuts to a shot of the docks with your ship sailing out. In between ports, the various hazards already mentioned will randomly occur. If you have paid your crew enough they may even repel the cut-throat pirates of Long John Quicksilva!

Control keys: simple prompted input
Use of colour: good
Graphics: clearly laid out text in Spectrum character set, neat, detailed drawings for sailing and unloading screens
Sound: simple tune and some effects beeps
Skill levels: 1


'The long intro implies that you must read through it in order to understand what is going to happen, but in fact it Isn't really necessary as the game itself is fairly standard to the type and pretty self-explanatory. As the instructions have to be loaded first and then the game after reading through them, this is a bit irritating. Fair enough, they have provided alternative short instructions, but it is a bit tedious when reloading. The game itself is straightforward and easy to play, and like so many of these games is fun. The fun. however, is probably as limited as the program, not a criticism aimed at this game alone, it tends to be common to many, that the variations allowed for are insufficient to command the attention for more than a few plays. But as the price, this is well worthwhile for those who enjoy the game of buying and selling.'

'Master Mariner presents a number of random factors that affect you which are realistic, and unusually in these games, not to severe a hindrance to playing, which increases the playability. The actual display screen is well laid out and easy to use, and colour has been nicely used to highlight certain aspects. In between screens make a nice break and the graphics are well detailed, and they don't last too long! The game gets more progressively difficult with more hazards to avoid and more debts to pay off, until it gets to the point where it is very cruel! Overall, this is excellent value for money for this type of game, and I really enjoyed playing it.'

'Nice little graphics, fun to play. Master Mariner works rather well in two, not that it's a two-player game, but it helps to have two minds working out the various selling and buying prices as you are unable to see in advance what they will be at the various ports of destinations and so able to make a decision before buying. It's probably unrealistic to expect demand and prices for commodities to alter so fast and over the extent of Britain so much, but that's a small quibble really. Pretty good value.

Control keys: simple prompted input
Use of colour: good
Graphics: clearly laid out text in Spectrum character set, neat, detailed drawings for sailing and unloading screens
Sound: simple tune and some effects beeps
Skill levels: 1
General Rating: A simple finance/strategy game, no great shakes but excellent value for money.


Screenshot Text

Leaving port on the ebb tide, The Titan Trader sets sail for Newcastle.

Lloyd Magram Shipping Co. Starts life with high hopes of retirement!