Computer Gamer

Virgin Atlantic Challenge Game
By Virgin Games
Spectrum 48K

Published in Computer Gamer #18

Virgin Atlantic Challenge Game

A year ago, Richard Branson - head of the massive Virgin empire - attempted to win the Blue Riband, the prize for the fastest surface crossing of the Atlantic. To do this, a whole new design of ship was used - an ocean-going speedboat catamaran. Unfortunately his ship sank just off the coast.

A couple of months ago he attempted the crossing again in the Virgin Challenger II, a slightly more conventional-type of boat with a single hull. This ship completed the crossing in an amazing three days, 10 hours and 31 minutes, beating the record set in 1952 by the American ship SS United States of three days and twelve hours.

The game is a simulation of the crossing. You play Richard Branson in an otherwise crewless ship and have to keep the ship going by dashing around the various parts of it, avoiding collisions eating so that you don't starve, keeping the engines running at optimum so that they don't blow up, finding refuelling tankers, and controlling the Branson Empire from a telex receiver.

Virgin Atlantic Challenge

To do this, you move your little Richard Branson around the three screens that make up the graphics of the inside of the boat. On the walls of the boat are various instruments and objects. These are selected very much like icons, moving your Richard onto them and pressing fire. When this happens, you get a window popping out onto the screen with the various functions or maps etc on it.

On the way, various hazards appear in your way, fishing boats, icebergs, etc, and the weather is forever changing - dictating the speeds that you can run your engine at.

This format is excellent for a simulation game, and a simulation game it is - no arcade action, very little moving graphics (except for the little smiling Richard Branson that scuttles around) - though what graphics there are are excellent. It's all balancing numbers and figures in your head - but in a most attractive way.

This is a fairly easy game and gives you some satisfaction to complete, though when you can complete it there are dozens of ways to improve your score.

My only gripe with the game is that it is easy to finish and there is only a score to beat again and again. I tend to like the ongoing games that just get harder with no visible end - though the amazing (for a Spectrum) graphics of the Bishop's Rock lighthouse are a welcome sight as you come into port at the end.