The Trading Game
This is the first Reelax offering for the Spectrum. It is, as the title suggests, a trading game for one to three players (rather confusingly, the instructions and prompts mention two to four players but this includes the computer as a player). Each player controls supplies of food, oil and textiles in a warehouse. To win, these first have to be transported to nearby towns where demand for different goods varies and then traded successfully.
While coping with rising interest rates, keeping the unions happy, and dealing with random transport problems you will be faced with minor disasters every so often. Three modes of transport are available to you: truck, barge and tanker. Taken in that order, each mode is more expensive but potentially more efficient to use than the last. All vehicles need insurance before they may be put to use.
Screen presentation consists of a colour coded schematic of the area covered in the game below which is a window used to display play options and textual information. It's most unremarkable and slow to set up, but it is fairly clear and allows rapid interaction with the computer.
The game starts by setting up the number of players (whether or not the computer will play) and number of weeks the game has to last. Play then proceeds to player one's first move (this is the computer's move if it's used as a player). A number of actions are possible. Checking market prices and current stocks, insuring vehicles, loading and unloading vehicles, hiring personnel, taking out a loan and actually moving the vehicles are all possible at this point.
Unfortunately, there is little point in doing any of them. Vehicles may only move up to 60 miles per week and cost £90 per ten miles for the cheapest form of transport. Food and other commodities have ridiculous prices and various 'rival companies' offer insanely high prices to buy them off you. It's possible to win the game without actually doing anything at all (as I did on one occasion). Some of the random disasters are close to the mark: ten of my employees were found smoking drugs in the warehouse! I can't help feeling that such things are at least a little out of place in a game of this nature.
There are more problems, but I wonder whether it's worth going into that much detail. When you finally win something that isn't likely to cause to much trouble, the reward is a prompt for either a new game or program kill. There's no realism at all. Worse, there's no incentive to play. Nothing provides enough challenge and the whole thing becomes a mind numbing sequence of repetitive tedium. Some good ideas are let down by simplistic programming and the game's few good points are lost in the malaise as a result.