Publisher: Cascade
Machine: Commodore 64

Published in Zzap #36

Traz | SJ | GH | PG | Verdict


Continuing the great Breakout tradition comes the latest offering from Cascade... Traz (the Transformable Arcade Zone).

Initially, three options are available from the title page: one and two-player modes, or entry into the construction set. Choosing either of the former options launches the participants into the game proper, which follows the task of escaping from Traz, an electronic prison, by breaking through each of the penitentiary's 64 cells.

Each cell is displayed full-screen and contains neutron bricks, all of which are destroyed on contact with the ball to reveal possible exits. Cells often have more than one bat, which are directed via the joystick and operate at two speeds, dependent upon whether or not the fire button is depressed. In two-player mode control of the opposing bats frequently swaps at random.


Cells also include indestructible blocks and a number of other fundamental components, such as traps, monster generators and refractive glass, which sends the ball off at variable angles.

When a brick is destroyed, it sometimes releases a mystery power pill in the shape of a question mark, which has a predetermined effect on the ball or bricks. These include gravity affected balls, fast and slow balls, dividing balls and lasers. Whenever a ball makes contact with the electronic 'goal', a life is lost - from both players in two-player mode.

A map of Traz can be accessed at any time to display the cells already visited and the current location. Once all 64 levels are breached, a gap appears in the outer perimeter and freedom is attained.


The program also supports a construction set which allows all the parameters of the game to be altered or an entirely new, sixty-four cell prison to be created.


The saying that the simplest ideas are often the best definitely applies to the Breakout genre, and Traz is further proof of this. Graphically, it's great: fast, bright and colourful, varying from psychedelic to downright gaudy.

Movement on the ball is smooth, and when there are several on-screen at one time you'll need more than one pair of eyes to keep track! A nice touch is the random element which allows any of the 64 screens to appear at the start of play, making each game that little bit different.


I enjoyed playing this game, but it's not perfect: there are one or two niggling faults, such as odd deflections from the edges of the bats, the overall difficulty of some screens (completing all 64 cells poses rather an immense task) and the annoying dependence on luck to remove the last few blocks.

Still Traz is fun and has a brilliant screen editor to fiddle with when you get bored.


This is the most addictive game I've played for ages. It requires an almost schizophrenic mental agility when you're trying to defend four 'goals' at the same time, especially if there are nine balls on-screen!


The extra features such as the refractive glass and mystery pills are brilliant, and the action can become unbelievably hectic as your reflexes are stretched to the limit.

The presentation is similarly excellent, having some very clever and imaginative screen designs, all of which are frustratingly compulsive. Graphically, Traz is very good: large, bright and extremely colourful backdrops with well-animated (if simplistic) sprites.

The sound is unusually inventive for a game of this type, which a strong title tune and decent in-game effects.


The package also contains the definitive Breakout construction set. Traz is more than just a customised clone: it's a superb game in its own right.


Since... Traz came into the office, Zzap! Towers has been resounding to 'oohs' and 'ahs' as members of the team struggle away in two-player mode. Some would say that any Breakout-variants coming out now have missed the boat.

Well, if Traz were a closer copy of the Arkanoid-style of game then I would have to agree, but as it stands it definitely has sufficient innovation to make it worthwhile.

Frantically juggling nine balls with two horizontal bats and two vertical bats is a real laugh - even more so when you collect a question mark and the balls become invisible, begin spiralling or zip off at MACH 4.

The variety and imagination that has gone into designing the screens, coupled with the idea of putting all the levels together to make a maze gives an extra urge to progress. On top of all this is one of the most comprehensive screen editors you'll ever see, making Traz something worth getting your hands on.


Presentation 93%
Adequate instructions and options, excellent screen display and fully comprehensive construction kit.

Graphics 81%
Well-designed screens and convincing ball movement; reasonably bright and colourful.

Sound 60%
Slightly annoying title tune, but unusually good in-game effects.

Hookability 91%
The combination of devious Breakout format and individual customisations proves instantly addictive.

Lastability 86%
Sixty-four levels of compulsive and often frantic action, with a screen designer for rainy days.

Overall 87%
A revivifying enhancement of a tired theme, and a compelling game in its own right.

Traz | SJ | GH | PG | Verdict