Amstrad Action1st November 1988
Published in Amstrad Action #38
First there was a tank, then came a hydrofoil. Now it's time to trundle off into the past at the footplate of a train, all courtesy of Electronic Arts. Their latest venture into the world of simulations is set in wartime Germany. You take the part of a resistance fighter who, along with a colleague, tries to steal a train with France's art treasures on board. (Will the person taking the train from platform four, please put it back?) The works of art are being shipped to Berlin to use as leverage in the impending German surrender.
The question you, I and they want to know, though, is whether Electronic Arts make it four excellent games in as many months with their latest offering, or are have they, as it were, run out of steam? Play begins at the station in Metz where you must first capture the train. You stand towards the rear of the train and give Le Due covering fire as he tries to reach the signal box. Germans are hiding in the railway buildings and pop up occasionally to fire at you. Get your retaliation in first or the game's over. When Le Due reaches the box you choose the difficulty level: easy, intermediate or expert. You then have to cover Le Due as he returns: then it's time to depart.
The view switches to the inside of the tram's cab and the simulation part of the game takes over. You have six things to operate in the cab: throttle, furnace, brake, forward/reverse lever, steam blow off and whistle. There are also three dials which indicate steam pressure, engine temperature and speed. When your engine is all steamed up release the brake, open up the throttle and away you go. Keeping the pressure up is essential, so periodically fill the furnace with coal: run out and you've had it! Keep an eye, too, on steam pressure, which can be released with the blow off lever - let it get out of control and the engine could blow.
To change direction, you have to stop the train and move the forward/reverse lever. Don't flip the lever when the train's moving, though, because the gears will be destroyed and the train can only travel in the direction it was going when you switched the lever. (Signals are sent with the whistle, of which more later.)
There are four other screens which can be called up: front gunner, rear gunner, map and status. The gunner screens are used to shoot at any attacking enemy aircraft. On the map screen a small cross represents the train, blobs are stations and rectangles bridges. If a station or bridge is blue then the Germans (hiss) have control of it: pink means the resistance have it (hooray). A status screen shows the damage sustained by the boiler, brake and art and also how many of the enemy you've killed. Your score is calculated using these figures.
You have to reach Riviere before dawn and there are a myriad ways to achieve your destination. A network of railway lines covers France and there are many points at which you can change track. You need first to signal the resistance - who'll switch the points for you - with one, two or three blasts on the whistle.
As you travel towards your destination you need to stock up on coal and water, which can only be obtained at stations. Before you can refuel the station must be captured. The sequence is very similar to the start-up phase and more Germans stand in the buildings. If you capture the station you gain some intelligence information, often being a warning that parts of the railway network have been destroyed. A message can also be sent to the resistance to tell them to capture a bridge or station, or arrange for repairs to the train. You don't have to stop in a station: you can just go straight through.
Bridges are a much more dangerous proposition altogether. If the bridge is held by the resistance there are no problems, but German-controlled ones are guarded by boats. Trying to go straight across a bridge is fatal, since the boats easily pick you off. To cross a bridge you must first stop at the bridge and then blast the boats out of the water. Once they've all been sunk you can safely cross. Too many hits on the train and it's game over.
Sound is fairly simple but good - just machine gun effects and several different train noises. The graphics of the cab are good: but the rest are more functional than anything else.
I had high hopes for The Train on Electronic Arts' recent record, but... It's still a good game, but it lacks that certain something to make it a truly excellent game. The mixture of arcade elements and simulation works OK, but you do tire of the regular air attacks.
First Day Target Score
Reach Riviere on easy level.
Electronic Arts' simulators haven't been too realistic, at least as far as the CPC goes. The Train follows a groove that's getting too worn, a simulator with action sequences. If the latter were of high standard I wouldn't complain, but quite frankly they're not worth the memory expended on them. Let's hope EA's future releases display a bit more imagination and gameplay.
Green Screen View
P. Good engine room.
N. Other graphics are sub-standard.
P. Nice train effects.
N. No tunes.
Grab Factor 78%
P. Combination of arcade and simulation works well.
N. Air attacks are irritating.
Staying Power 82%
P. Three levels of difficulty.
P. Tricky to complete on all of them.
A very good game, but not quite up to recent EA standards.