One thing missing in most arcade software is
originality. Uniqueness. Although many games display a certain amount
of this elusive quality, they usually end up being enhancements;
different slants on the same, tired old themes. Rarely does a game
break completely new ground, changing the way we play with our
computers, like Pong or Pac-Man did. Such a piece of software in the
arcade genre is even rarer.
not be the next PacMan, in terms of sales, but it is a unique, new
arcade game which immediately grabbed my attention-then held it for an
extended period. The double-teaming of an addictive quality and a
simple concept is a one-two punch that will glue you to your monitor
Envision yourself as a small ball with the ability
to speed up, slow down and jump at will. You're on a vast, endless,
checkerboard-like racetrack, suspended (somehow) in space. Now, put
holes in the racetrack, add special effect squares, and you'll find
yourself starting to get the idea behind TrailBlazer.
After booting up, you choose a game to play from a
number of one- and two-player options. In the arcade game, you're
limited to seven jumps per course, each course having a time limit for
completion. Your goal is to complete as many of the courses as you can,
racking up the maximum points (points are earned for crossing squares,
with additional points awarded for extra time remaining).
A bonus round, like the Simon electronic game, in
which you try to remember, then repeat a flashing color sequence, is
good for even more points. But it's so hard to reach this bonus round
that, after a month. we still hadn't played it.
A trial game allows one person to practice on any of
the tracks, while match play pits two players against each other-and
the clock-in a no-holds-barred run for the checkered flag. While the
latter option was my personal favorite, somewhere in the main menu
should be a play option that suits everyone.
Using the joysticks, one or two players compete on a
screen split horizontally in half. Control is very simple and easily
learned. Forward on the joystick speeds you up; pulling back acts as a
brake; left and right perform in a predictable manner. The button makes
the ball jump. As you race down the track, a number of squares effect
the ball in various ways: black holes swallow you up; red slows you
down; green speeds you up; yellow bounces you; and purple reverses your
controls. In the arcade version, a flashing square kicks you into warp
speed. Yet even with all these features, the true star of this show is
The displays are crystal clear, the action fast
moving, and the control swift and sure. While each player's ball races
primarily on one of twin tracks, at times both balls are visible on one
display. For instance, as you catch up to your opponent, you can see
him in front of you. When he falls into a hole, he'll see you shoot by
him on his display. Also notable is the way in which two balls can
collide with each other, fighting for position.
Mindscape has adopted the record album style
packaging many companies are using today. These are the most space
efficient containers I can imagine. Inside you'll find a flippy with
the Commodore version on the B side, and a simple and concise manual
that completely explains the program's operation and includes control
and scoring reference sheets.
I only had a few complaints about the game. While
there are twenty-one different courses of varying complexity, which can
be combined in groups of three, I would have liked more flexibility in
selecting the courses I could play in each of the options. Also, a
randomly generated course option, one that would always keep you
guessing, would be nice.
I found that the program won't let your ball fall
from the side of the track; there's an invisible barrier acting like a
guardrail, to protect you from the chasm-a little too safety-minded for
me. Often, you have to go through the selection process after each
race, making you wait too long to get back on the track. And, finally,
high scores weren't saved to disk.
But these are only slight potholes marring the great
track record of TrailBlazer. Overall, the game is the most original
arcade action wristbuster to come down the pike in a long time, and one
of the best two-player competition games I've seen. My main complaint
is the severity of the blisters on my hands.