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Hudson Soft
1983
Arcade: Action
£5.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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49
Chris Bourne

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
Lives: 3
Originality: very high, nothing else like it

CRITICISM

'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.'

General Rating: Amusing, fun, hard and reasonably addictive.

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Screenshot Text

Snakebirds and Redmen on the 9.15 - can you Stop the Express?