Sinclair User

The Train

Author: Jim Douglas
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Machine: Spectrum 48K

Published in Sinclair User #79

The Train: Escape to Normandy

Zut alors! etc. The Train, from Electronic Arts, boasts one of the ropiest themes on which to base a game I've ever come across: A huge locomotive stuffed full of French art to be carted off to Germany at the end of WWII, a group of French Resistance fighters (yourself) and as many Germans as you can shoot. (I don't know how you feel, but personally I won't be that concerned if every piece of froggy art ever contrived were lost forever, but that's all by the way). What we have is a multi-stage arcade/simulation of stealing, driving and protecting the train on its hair-raising journey from the depot at Metz to Riviere where you meet up with the Allies.

The first stage is a largely uninspiring affair involving moving a cursor around a screen depicting the train in the sidings at Metz. You have to shoot out the Germans who lurk in the windows of the shacks, each time you pot one, one of your fellow Resistance boys will move further up the track towards the signal box. Once he's there he will change the signal to green and you'll be able to shoot off 'dans le train', as they say in France.

The problem in this stage is that the Germans keep shooting back, forcing you to duck their gunfire. Since the joystick only controls the cursor, you've got to hit the space bar every time. Everything gets a bit frustrating, and this stage goes on for ever.

The Train: Escape To Normandy

Eventually, though you get on to the main driving-the-train section. The screen now depicts the control 'panel' of the train - throttle, brake, stove etc, just as you start to get the hang of things, you'll notice on your Map screen that you're about to shoot off in the wrong direction, and you'll have to go through an elaborate process of blowing your whistle a number of times to let the Resistance know that you want the points at the next junction changed to the appropriate position.

The Germans don't give up, though. They'll send fighter planes after you and you'll have to shoot 'em down in a 3-D night-gunner scenario (which isn't at all bad). Crossing bridges can turn into a real nightmare. Hordes of enemy boats mill around and you'll have to shoot them down in order to continue.

The Train, it has to be said, isn't the most exciting game in the whole world. While it's well programmed, the initial idea seems to be way off beam. It's nice to look at and would make a great movie... but a computer game? Whatever next, The Sound of Music?!

Overall Summary

Watchable, though thoroughly bizarre arcade/history game.

Jim Douglas

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