Stop the Express was a much underrated game on the Spectrum about a year and a half ago, and now it's available for the C64 with slightly improved graphics and sound. For those who haven't seen it, Stop the Express puts you in a typical James Bond style scenario.
You have to work your way to the front of a twenty-carriage train which is speeding along. The object is to reach the front and stop the train before it crosses the border. Up against you are Red agents who, as Red agents usually do, want to stop you stopping the express. The first ten carriages are negotiated by running along their roofs, jumping the gaps while ducking their bullets. The last ten have to be negotiated by running through the compartments inside the train itself. Here too, of course, red-coloured baddies track you and try to stop you from reaching the front of the train, and towards the front of the train is certainly swarming with them.
The game starts when you are dropped off on the last carriage, lowered on a rope from a helicopter. As you work your way along the top of the first ten carriages, the evil agents follow up and throw knives. These can be dodged by ducking at the right moment. To help you fend off their filthy foreign aggressive ways (now this is a real strange bit), birds fly towards you from the front of the train and by jumping at the right moment you can catch them, hold onto them and then release them at the agents to send them tumbling from the roof. You can only catch one bird at a time, so it's advisable to make the best use of them and avoid wasting any.
When you reach the tenth carriage, the action cuts to the inside and a similar routine is adopted, except this time you have to use the roof straps to hang on to avoid knives, and in close combat a kick replaces the friendly birds.
At the risk of being keel-hauled I would have to say that the C64 version of Stop the Express isn't quite as good as the old Spectrum version, for one or two reasons. The hero isn't as detailed a graphic and in the gameplay I cannot understand why the overhead stanchions don't have to be ducked, because this added another skill element. On the plus side, the sound is far better of course. There are some very nice touches like when you get knocked off the train by a baddy, you fall to the rails and sit there, stunned, while those carriages you have already negotiated flash past you. This is a game of timing skill, as the events are not random from game to game, so you must learn the rhythm, improving each time you play. By the end, it requires a pretty good memory to win out! Generally fun to play and quite addictive as well.
This was a big favourite of mine when it first appeared on the Spectrum over a year ago and I was somewhat disappointed to see that the game hadn't been improved upon in any way other than better sound FX and a better definition on the enemy agents. The shocking yellow hair of your agent had gone - it's been replaced by a rather flaccid blue rinse style. The scrolling was surprisingly jerky and in fact the Spectrum version was smoother. I was also peeved that you could stand up going under the stanchions, something that certainly didn't feature in the original. This made the game that bit easier and even more disappointing, but due to the overall compulsive nature of it I still found myself enjoying this version as much as the original.
Above average packaging, but lacking in options.
Nicely detailed, but not so nicely animated or coloured.
Not too much in the way of sound FX but what there is, is effective.
Frustrating and challenging enough to be addictive.
Once you've done it, it'll probably stay done.
Value For Money 78%
Worth shelling out an ill octopus for.
By no means outstanding but certainly a good little game for the price.