Hurtling through space, bouncy ball, hero of GREMLIN' s latest game, has to blaze a trail that others may follow.
The trouble is, the trail through space has rather strange properties. Instead of being a nice flat road old Mr Bouncy can just steam down, it's a bit full of holes. It's a bit like the 'Yellow Brick Road ' with the Shropshire District Council doing the one-way system, full of holes, bumps and all sorts of hideous hazards.
Before Bouncy's work is done, he's got fourteen different courses to blaze a trail down, so he's really got his work cut out. Each course has to be done in around forty seconds, so no slacking or back slid or trainee bouncies, there's a practice mode which allows the player to practice any three courses in an attempt to get the course time down. In practice mode, the time limit is 100 seconds, but, if you fancy your chances in the main game, it's got to be around 40 seconds, the controls are simple, forward to accelerate, back to brake, left and right to move from side to side on the belt.
The course is like an out of control flattened escalator like those ones that never work at Heathrow it's thundering down the screen towards you, and you are trying to leg it up the other way. But this is no ordinary escalator. For a start it's suspended in space, and there are bits missing. On some screens, there's more missing than there are bits! The belt is five segments wide and comes in a variety of shades. Shaded squares are easy to handle you just roll straight over them. Diagonally striped squares speed you up. Not much of a problem here, you are normally going flat out to make the time limit anyway. Next in awfulness comes the solid white squares. These jump you in to space. At full lick, this will catapult of bouncy forward just over three segments.
Then comes the real nasty ones. The horizontally lined segments have roughly the same effect as bouncy hitting a treacle-tilled lake, they kind of stick to you. Only a lot of heaving forward on the joystick will get you through these ones. Then there are the spotty squares. These totally freak poor little bouncy out by reversing the left and right controls. This unfortunate state of affairs is only corrected by steaming over another spotty bit.
Then of course there are the black segments, like there's no ground man, some cat's taken the ground away. Old bouncy ends up failing down quite a few of these.
After crashing, he gets thrown back on the belt, but without momentum, a situation leading to further disasters on the gaping bits. Once the rhythm's gone, old bouncy's in for a hard time, and the clock is still ticking away. On average, every crash costs about two seconds of precious trailblazing time.
To help on each course, the player gets four extra bounces (hit fire). This allows some of the really nasty bits to be avoided, or if the player forgets the course, and suddenly finds himself heading towards a yawning abyss, it comes in handy. The main use of the extra bounces is to get over the horizontally lined bits, or as a shortcut round a zig-zag. As these cost time, up to five seconds, it's almost preferable to crash! But the best method is to press fire just before hitting them and go sailing straight over.
Control keys: Q/W left/right; P/L increase/decrease speed; SPACE to jump
Joystick: Sinclair and Kempston
Keyboard play: responsive, and just as well!
Use of colour: rather garish
Graphics: simple looking but very fast
Skill levels: your own against the clock, with progressively difficult screens
'I must be the only person in the office not to have played this on either the Amstrad or the Commodore so It took me along while to really enjoy playing it. I'm a little surprised that there wasn't a really involved scenario on the inlay as the game really does lend itself to one. The graphics are very, very fast, and well defined too. Colour is a little suspect on some screens but you can always turn down the colour on your TV If things get too garish. The sound is a bit disappointing as the tune is primitive and the effects aren't really up to much. Once you become competent at Trail Blazer it's quite hard to leave it alone as it is extremely playable and addictive.'
'I was quite surprised at this game coming onto the Spectrum because I couldn't imagine it without all the colour, which plays an integral part in other versions. GREMLIN Seem to have come up with an effective compromise, using excellent shading, which makes up for the deficiency quite well. The tune on the title screen is pretty ancient stuff, but the game, as in the original, plays superbly, and that's the major point in its favour. I think Trailblazer is a very good conversion, and one that's well getting if it's playability you want and not graphics'
'This is obviously a game that doesn't rest easily on the Spectrum without the colour that played such an important part in the other versions. The shading works okay, but I think it affects the gameplay - it's far easier to see the colour of a square rapidly scrolling towards you than it is to see shading. Despite all that, it's a fast, addictive original game that'll soon have you hooked. The practice mode is a real plus and means you can seriously concentrate on the screens giving you trouble.'