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Virgin Games Ltd
Strategy: Management
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

On 29th June this year, Richard Branson and the Virgin Atlantic Challenge Team broke the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by sea. Now there's a game based on the trip, so you can have a go at setting a new record and even win the Blue Riband for yourself.

The game stars Richard Branson but in this case he's going solo as there's no crew to assist him. Richard must scamper wound the ship whenever the onboard computer alerts him to a hazard in his path, a fault in the ship's engines and so on. But before Mr Branson can even contemplate any potential problems during his voyage he must make sure that everything is ship shape so that he can begin his trip.

Scamper up to the cockpit and start the engines. Not too stow or your fuel will run out before you can rendezvous with the refuelling tanker, and not too fast or else Atlantic Challenger will break up. The voyage is split into three stages as the Challenger cannot carry enough fuel to get across the Atlantic in one go. The position of each refuelling tanker is shown in the radar room, along with the bearing and number of miles between you and the fuel. Once you have the bearing of the next tanker, you can scamper back up to the cockpit and set the Challenger on course. Once Atlantic Challenger is within 100 miles of the tanker, it shows up on the radar screen, and you drive by sight rather than autopilot. Aim the boat at the tanker and re-fuelling takes place automatically.

The screen shows a cut away section of the Interior of Atlantic Challenger covering two screens. The rooms in the boat contain equipment which is used via a window system. To use a facility, stand Richard in front of it and press the fire button. This opens the window option onto the screen. When you've finished with say, the Telex machine, another press of fire returns control to the main game.

Mr Branson is a very busy man who makes a lot of money. Just because he 's battling across the Atlantic, doesn't mean he can ignore his business empire. The telex machine continually informs him about various deals in progress, and you must decide whether or not to accept them. Huge amounts of money can either be won or lost this way.

Apart from the boat, Mr Branson must be refuelled Richard must eat quite large amounts of food to keep his stamina up for the gruelling voyage. If you neglect to keep him fed, his performance begins to suffer and he can't scamper around so quickly. To put some food in Mr Branson's tummy, he must be positioned by the galley window: a press of fire delivers the grub.

In the map room the ideal course which Atlantic Challenger should be taking is shown, along with the three re-fuelling tankers. The engine room shows the stress factors, temperature and the speed in knots. If the engine gets overheated or any of the levels get too high then the boat breaks up and sinks.

Mr Branson can fail in his bid to break the Blue Riband record in several ways: he can starve to death, crash the boat or rupture the engines. If the boat sinks, its time to 'Bring out the Branson' - he always escapes intact and is rescued by a waiting helicopter.


'I can't say I'm enthralled by this game. Quite frankly, it's boring, and for the price, it can only be described as a rip-off. At first, the little caricature of R. Branson is quite good, but soon, going through all the same actions, steering the ship, receiving telexes, and all the rest of it gets tedious. Playability is fair to start with, but as it gets more and more repetitive, it loses that and also any addictiveness it might have had. Reasonable graphics, but the game isn't worth a fraction of its price.'

'Yawn! The Virgin Atlantic Challenge game is a real waste of time and your money. Just running around changing your bearing and speed, eating, and making the odd executive decision isn't really my idea of fun. Graphically, this one is a bit on the poor side. Your character is a nicely detailed, jolly caricature of Richard Branson but your ship is very dull and undetailed; there are many attribute problems too. The sound is also pretty useless - there are very few spot effects and no tune or engine noise. Generally, I don't recommend this one as it is highly over priced and unplayable.'

'Lovely graphics on Atlantic Challenger but the game is very boring. At first Atlantic Challenger proves quite interesting; and waiting for the telex to give you the option to buy certain things is good fun but after a while you soon suss out what to buy. Everything else on the ship is very easy to use and requires no skill at all. The obstacles that appear in the way scarcely vary and are all very easy to avoid. The graphic of Richard Branson is very accurate and looks very jolly all the time - even if you starve him to death! VAC contains very little to keep anyone interested, and is far too expensive.'

Control keys: I left, P right, 1 up, A down, SPACE to fire
Joystick: Kempston
Keyboard play: no problems
Graphics: neat caricature, and some good details
Sound: none to speak of!
Skill levels: one
Screens: 3 main screens
General Rating: Not a terribly exciting or entertaining simulation.