Amstrad Action1st December 1986
Published in Amstrad Action #15
Trailblazer is another game featuring a bouncing ball - like Bounder in 3D, but faster and more dependent on fast reflexes. Gremlin lives up to its excellent reputation for high-quality games that feature both originality and good gameplay.
In Bounder, you had a landscape that scrolled underneath a ball viewed from above; here you view the ball from behind as the pathway scrolls toward you at a low angle. The aim of the game is of course to keep your ball on the course as it races by beneath. There are 14 different courses, each one of which has to be completed within a time limit. Nearly all of them are extremely difficult.
Each course is made up of five lanes, and each lane is broken up into squares so as to form a grid. The squares come in different colours that have different effects on the ball when it hits them. And of course they are interspersed with gaping holes in the path which have to be avoided. The square's properties can be used to avoid the holes. But if you fall into one you lose valuable time and can mess up the rest of the course through bad positioning at the restart.
The four special coloured squares are white, yellow, green and blue. White causes you to bounce, yellow speeds you up, green slows you to virtually a stop, and blue reverses the controls. You'll need to use white and yellow squares a lot to complete courses. The green and blue are nothing but trouble and can really mess up a run.
Any of the fourteen courses can be practised with an increased time limit so that you can become familiar with it. In the game proper you have to complete the courses in order and against a much tougher time limit. They aren't forgiving of mistakes - one wrong twitch and you'll be off. And possibly you won't be able to recover to finish the run, because you're thrown back onto the course moving and may be completely out of position.
Apart from guiding the ball left and right, you control its speed. High speed is essential for completing courses in time, but tricky sections can be taken slowly. You also start each course with a limited number of 'manual' jumps, which are handy because there's not always a white square there when you need one.
As ever with Gremlin games, the graphics are superbly done. The scrolling path gives a good impression of movement. The music is nice too. But the clincher is the gameplay: very tough but very addictive. The courses are extremely hard and have to be practised until you're familiar with every part of them. But once you are it's very impressive and great fun zooming down them at full pelt leaping over and past the yawning holes.
First Day Target Score
This is a real tough one that will have you glued in front of the monitor. It's just as well they put in the practice mode because even learning the first couple of courses isn't easy. The scrolling path is great, although I thought it would have been nicer to have a larger ball. This one really put me through my paces. For anyone who likes fast action this is terrific.
Green Screen View
It's not easy telling which coloured squares are which - it can cost you vital split-seconds.
P. 14 very tough courses.
P. Fast, scrolling path gives good impression of movement.
P. Wonderful when you complete a course without a fault.
P. Very addictive as you try to get courses right.
P. Very simple features that work well to produce a tough game.
N. Perhaps too fast and too tough for some.