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1986
Arcade: Action
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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89
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Trailblazer is something special. Visually it reminds me of nothing so much as the 'Beyond the infinite' section of 2001 where Bowman hurtles through about ten minutes of very cosmic special effects.

As a game it's, well - addictive is too poor a word. How about dehabilitating, all consuming or brain blitzing?

There isn't too much to say about it though. The game idea is so very, very simple. It can be reduced to the following: control a ball rolling and bouncing over an abstract, geometric and flat landscape which hurtles towards you from the middle horizon. Don't fall down any holes, don't waste time. That's it.

OK, so that isn't quite it. The landscape is a patchwork of differently shaded squares and rectangles. Different kinds of shading indicate different properties. Over lines parallel to your direction of movement you'll speed up. Perpendicular lines slow you down. An unshaded area will make your ball bounce. This can be vital to cross giant chasms in the scrolling landscape. Utterly unwelcome is the dot/dash matrix that indicates that all the controls are reversed, ie left moves you right and vice versa.

The ball may move from a speed-up zone, to slow-down to reverse controls to bounce pad in seconds and you'd better be ready.

The playing area is divided into various zones. Early zones are comparatively easy, later zones just one infuriating step away from being impossible. The knowledge that it can be done, but you can't do it wrenches deep in the guts.

Different zones seem to concentrate on particular kinds of problem. Zone A is an easy mixture of the different elements. By the time you get to Zone D you start getting alternate strands of track where you must hit the bounce pad at the end to bounce over to the next track.

Part of the art of playing the game is familiarity - just knowing what's coming up where - but in the end it goes so fast that reactions and instinct take over. You think in your hands not your head.

If it all sounds a bit too daunting then take heart. Gremlin has introduced features which make the game accessible to the novice. There is a practice option which allows you to learn each section and get used to the effects of particular sequences of grids. There is no time limit, which takes the pressure off a bit, but you still keep hurtling into empty space time after time...

The graphics are extremely well done, although, inevitably there isn't really all that much to say about them. The ball seems cheekily reminiscent of the famous Amiga one and spins in a similar manner. The abstract patchwork of grids scrolls incredibly smoothly and at an astonishing speed - it's all two-colour of course but in a game which is not intended to look like anything from the real world it hardly matters.

It's a pity the game lacks a two-player options found on versions on other computers - processing time was the problem, apparently, but really, I haven't played a game so obsessively for ages.

Label: Gremlin
Author: In-house
Price: £7.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

*****

The ultimate test of your reactions. Visually astonishing reaction game utterly, utterly, utterly addictive.

5/5

Screenshot Text

Sections from the seemingly end- less Trailblazer highway. Black means gap. Other shaded areas produce different effects. Speed up, slow down, bounce.

On Level B (which seemed clever at the time). Four jumps left and not much time. Which strand across empty space will you choose?