Tracker (Rainbird) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

Computer Gamer

By Rainbird
Commodore 64/128

Published in Computer Gamer #23

When Pandora had opened the box, all that was left inside was hope. Is there hope for Rainbird's latest box?


Rainbird's now familiar boxed games have to be exceptional to merit the rather high price they demand. It's alright giving superb boxes, novellas and playcharts but at the end of the day the game itself also has to have something extra.

Tracker is a good game but not a great game in the mould of The Pawn or Starglider, and I felt that it will fail to succeed unless the price is cut considerably.

Set in Centrepoint, the malfunctioning leisure complex on Zeugma IV, the aim is to use several TRAC Skimmer craft to outwit the renegade central computer. The computer will defend itself by sending Cycloid robot ships to intercept and destroy any Skimmers under your control.

Centrepoint consists of 22 interlinked sectors which each have a complex network of trackways. Each sector is controlled by a communication centre which has to be destroyed to disrupt the central computer's control.

Initially you have three Skimmers under your control but this can be increased to eight. To guide one ship through the complex would be difficult enough but controlling several craft at one will put your mind into warp mode! Each ship needs individual attention when it reaches a junction, or node, of several trackways or when faced with a challenge from a Cycloid. Since the Cycloids far outnumber the Skimmer craft, these demands for individual attention increase as you penetrate deeper into the complex and the more cycloids you have, the more frequently you'll have to intercede.

Unattended vehicles can be placed into autopilot mode which means that they will continue in their present direction until a node is reached and then they will stop. One refinement of this mode is the ability to set a Skimmer on a non-stop course for the nearest communication centre by using a cross-hair cursor. On autopilot, the Skimmer is at its most vulnerable and must be frequently monitored to see that it isn't heading for a Cycloid.

Any of the Skimmers can be directly controlled on a 3D action screen. This is essential when selecting a specific node exit or, principally, when a Cycloid has to be blasted out of existence. The top half of the screen which normally displays the map of the complex in one of four magnifications changes to show the view along the channel of a trackway.

As you approach the attacking Cycloid, it springs into view and has to be eliminated with a shattering blast or two of your laser. If more than one of your Skimmers comes under attack at the same time you can guarantee that you will lose one so you must elect to protect the best places and leave any others to their fate.

Although Tracker is a complex piece of programming, I can't say that I was impressed with the gameplay. The strategy element is demanding but not as enjoyable as I initially imagined it would be. Not one of the best Rainbird games I've seen and a bit of a rip-off at their prices.

Oh, I haven't mentioned the novella. Probably just as well!