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Virgin Games Ltd
Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K
SpeedLock 4

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Nick Roberts, Paul Sumner, Mike Dunn
Chris Bourne

Recently obsessed with inflatable objects, Richard Branson attempts to cross the Atlantic in a balloon. The screen is divided horizontally with Branson's Virgin Atlantic Flyer occupying the upper airspace and his rival the lower.

Accompanying each craft is a controllable eagle, with sonic-beam eyes. Using these weapons the tame eagle can destroy aircraft and the pots of paint and puncture bombs which they drop and which can cause the balloon to lose height. And contact with the large fire-belching missile destroys the balloon and its crew.

But each enemy destroyed by your eagle's beam earns you points.

And each eagle can leave its own balloon, travel to the other playing area and there wreak havoc upon your rival's aeronautical ambitions.

However, these birds have limited energy, reduced by every wing flap and by contact with a rival's sonic beam.

The altitude of a balloon can be controlled using a burner icon. But activating this uses valuable fuel, and if fuel falls to zero the balloon falls and the intrepid airmen are dunked like biscuits in the North Atlantic.

The balloon can also gain height in the summer sun's warmth, but likewise drops seaward when the darkness of night descends.

Children borne by a surfeit of balloons are occasionally carried upward. Shooting these levitating brats incurs penalties, but the eagle can rescue them for big bonuses.

To add to Branson's pickle, rival eagles can push the Virgin balloon off its planned course.

There is a two-player option.


'Virgin seem to spend most of their time writing games without much playability, just to promote Richard Branson's attempts to get in the record books. Most normal CRASH readers will soon get bored of this.' NICK

'You'd have thought that after the mediocre boat-race game (Virgin Atlantic Challenge Game, CRASH Issue 32) the folks at Virgin would have come up with something better - but they don't seemed to have learned from their mistakes. This balloon game is even more tedious and irrelevant than its predecessor. Whet graphics do appear are good, which goes to show that if they'd spent more time on the game it could have been a decent product. As it is Trans-Atlantic Balloon Challenge has very little content, though games of this genre need holding power. It's much more fun to follow Branson's ballooning on the telly than to play the game.' PAUL

'Yawn! As if the event itself hadn't been overhyped to the point of internal collapse, then the game itself has. Is this what all the adverts are trying to sell? The graphics are poor, and the colour choices are appalling. Tedium sets in after about two minutes (a new world record, surely!)' MIKE

Control keys: Q up, A down, O left, P right, SPACE fire
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Use of colour: vivid
Graphics: poor
Sound: annoying spot FX
Skill levels: one
Screens: transatlantic scrolling
General Rating: An improbable and unplayable shoot-'em-up.


Screenshot Text

Graceful birds alight on your balloon, the reassuring him of a distant aeroplane... a moment of tranquil repose in Trans-Atlantic Balloon Challenge.