Creative Sparks
John T. Harris
1984
Arcade: Action
£6.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

102,103
Chris Bourne

The West has never been wilder! The driver of the San Pedro stage has been shot in an ambush and the coach is out of control. Creative Sparks bring you three different screens of action in this unusual arcade style game. Stagecoach employs an isometric 3D style perspective view where positioning of the characters plays a part in getting through. The object is to leap onto the stage, get the horses under control and drive the stage on its way, collecting passengers, boxes of ammo or gold and steering a safe course through the dangerous Sierra Peligrosa mountains, avoid the Comanche Indians, and finally arrive safely at the small mining town of San Pedro. This is everyone's chance to become John Wayne.

The first screen is called The Jump. Here you see yourself riding on your horse through a barren desert. But it isn't so barren. The sand is strewn with cacti, animal bones, graves and other debris. Running into anything will unhorse you. The computer automatically picks you up and limps you back to the horse. Pressing the fire button will remount you, but watch out for the cactus plants. Remounting near one will just cause you to fall of again. Fortunately, you can walk your horse past them. Slowing down, you see the San Pedro stage, driverless and plunging forwards to catch you up. It veers all over the place. You must now ride up behind it and leap onto the roof, then walk across the roof and take the reins.

Having gained control of the coach you must now drive it on, slowing to let passengers board. Care is required or you'll miss them as they jump up and down in rage, worse still, you could run them over. Picking up enough passengers will move you onto the second screen, the San Peligrosa mountains. This section of the game requires you to drive between the precipitous mountains, find the way through without damaging the coach too much, avoiding rockslides, and collect boxes of gold or ammunition. All the details can be seen on the map facility.

Survive the mountains for a set period of time and you will emerge onto the Indian plain. These ferocious savages will ride up, one to the front and two to the side, preventing you from steering the coach, while a fourth will attempt to jump on the stage, grabbing passengers. All you can do is get up on the roof and attempt to shoot them. If an Indian gets up onto the roof when you are up there, or when there are no more passengers left, then the game will end. It will also end if the damage points mount too high in the mountains, or you fail to pick up passengers in time on the first screen.

There are four skill levels which affect how much the stage moves about while trying to mount it, how dose you must stop to passengers to collect them, the length of time allowed for collecting gold in the mountains, how much damage a rockfall will do, and the distance from town you emerge from the mountains. Apart from the display, other information provided is damage points, number of passengers, damage points, gold and ammo collected and distance to town and time spent in mountains. This information can be accessed by a key press, otherwise the screen only shows the game.

CRITICISM

'Yep, I sure found it difficult to jump up onto the stagecoach in the first part of the game, but on doing so I rode the coach into the mountains. There manoeuvering was made easier by the helpful arrows which indicate an open ended direction, and an ability of the horses to reverse (clever horses)! This is a good game which I enjoyed; a point against it though was the Icing time between starting again after hitting a cactus- but then I noticed that you can speed this up by pressing H. Perhaps there was a lack of sound, but overall, pretty good pardner!'

'I felt this was a bit of a disappointment after Orc Attack, nevertheless, it should take a long time to master. Instructions are excellent and extensive. Playing the game is quite difficult, more so on the second screen in the mountains. Compared to Orc Attack, the graphics are rather plain although the animation is quite good. There could have been some improvement on the general detail especially the way the stage turns, which it does by rotating through 450 very suddenly, and not squashing up in perspective. This makes the turn look rather unrealistic. Good features are the bucking horse, riding indians and also the way that they drag passengers out of the coach. I would have thought colour and sound could have been put to better use, but saying this, Stagecoach will provide hours of skillful fun.'

'The perspective view of Stagecoach is a little similar to that in Ant Attack, although it looks a little ungainly when the coach is going away from you. But the animation of `you', your horse, the passengers and the indians is excellent and quite realistic. There's also quite a bit more to do in this game than in Mt Attack. Positioning yourself to jump is very tricky, especially with the cactus plants popping up from behind the coach. The presentation and instructions on the inlay are very detailed, and the overall control seems to work very well when you get used to the perspective.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: user-definable, four directions and fire needed. H speeds up remounting, ENTER for the map
Joystick: ZX 2, Kempston, Fuller AGF, Protek
Keyboard play: very responsive
Use of colour: good
Graphics: good animation with lots of detail
Sound: good tune, otherwise limited
Skill levels: 4
Lives: percentage of damage or lack of passengers
Originality: a very unusual game
General Rating: Good to very good, playable and reasonably addictive.

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Screenshot Text

"Pass further down the car please! - picking up a passenger.

There's no need to run, - there'll be another along in a minute.