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A-Train logo

Im fernen Japan brachte Artdink diese Mischung aus "Railroad Tycoon" und "Sim City" ins Rollen. Maxis ließ dann westliche PC-Eisenbahner zusteigen - jetzt werden endlich auch Amiga-Tickets verkauft!

A-Train Wie es bei den SIMulanten von Maxis üblich ist, gibt es eine Hires-Version für den gehobenen Hardwarefuhrpark und daneben eine immer noch schöne, auch von Disk gut spielbare Lores-Variante für Standard-Amigas. Die isometrische 3D-Grafik leidet zwar unter NTSC-Streifen und wird auch deutlich ruckeliger gescrollt als am PC, dafür kriegt man selbst in der niedrigauflösenden Version verhältnismäßig viele Details, annehmbare Farben und den stufenweisen Wechsel von Tag und Nacht geboten. Speziell wegen der hervorragenden Satelliten-Ansicht ist die Geschichte um einiges übersichtlicher als "Railroad Tycoon", und was die logische aufgebaute Steuerung via Maus und Pop-Up-Menüs angeht, wird selbst der hausinterne Klassiker geschlagen. Die Musikuntermalung erreicht locker den Roland-Standard, und die grausigen FX sind dankenswerterweise nur selten zu hören.

Soviel zur Technik, inhaltlich muß man sich zunächst einmal für eines von sechs Szenarien entscheiden, deren unterschiedlicher Schwierigkeitsgrad vor allem von der Beschaffenheit des Baulands abhängt - je gebirgiger desto kurviger und damit teurer, sprich schwerer. Denn um die Lok gleich aus dem Schuppen zu lassen: Im Grunde handelt es sich bei A-Train um eine hochkomplexe Wirtschaftssimulation im Gewand eines Märklin-Baukasten! Es lassen sich dabei zwanglos drei Phasen unterscheiden, deren erste im Aufbau eines funktionsfähigen Schienennetzes besteht. Als nächstes klatscht man Wohngebäude, Fabriken, Golfplätze, Freizeitparks etc. drumherum, auf daß sich städtisches neben den öden Schienenstrangen entwickelt. Der wirtschaftliche Höhepunkt ist dann der Weg an die Börse oder ins Immobiliengeschäft, wo man mal eben 50 Millionen Dollar schettteln sollte - oder pleite geht und von vorn anfangen darf...

A-Train Klar, wer seine Weichen falsch stellt bzw. einbaut, wird mit Zusammenstößen nicht unter zwei Zügen bestraft, doch ansonsten fährt die Bahn hier quasi von selbst. Nein, das Problem besteht eher darin, einen vernünftigen Fahrplan aufzustellen, um damit auch Gewinne zu machen! Je tiefer man in die Thematik eindringt, umso mehr Fragen tauchen auf: Welche der 19 Loks brauche ich als nächste? Soll man dieses Gebäude leasen oder kaufen? Noch einen Kredit aufnehmen oder nicht? Was macht die Computerkonkurrenz? Welche Aktien steigen, welche fallen? Gottlob kann man für all diese Gewissensentscheidungen nicht nur etliche Finanzierungstabellen und Wirtschaftsstatistiken einsehen, sondern auch insgesamt 20 Fachleute um Rat fragen; zudem ist die ebenso dicke wie englische Anleitung eine große Hilfe.

Somit ist A-Train alles andere als ein Spiel für zwischendurch, doch Eisenbahner, die keine Angst vor anspruchsvollen Wirtschaftssimulationen haben, sollten getrost auf diesen Zug aufspringen! (mm)

Amiga Joker, February 1993, p.72

A-TRAIN
(ARTDINK/MAXIS)
EISENBAHN - SIMULATION

77%

"ICE-KLASSE"
Amiga Joker
GRAFIK
ANIMATION
MUSIK
SOUND-FX
HANDHABUNG
DAUERSPASS
59%
59%
72%
14%
85%
80%
FÜR KÖNNER
PREIS DM 109,-
SPEICHERBEDARF
DISKS/ZWEITFLOPPY
HD-INSTALLATION
SPEICHERBAR
DEUTSCH
1 MB
2/JA
JA
SPIELSTÄNDE
NEIN


A-Train logo

All aboard. Dan Slingsby tries out the service in Maxis' new sim. Cold teas and stale sarnies will be available in the buffet car.

C A-Train ontrary to popular belief, I am not a trainspotter. Yes, I do possess a beige-hooded anorak and I'm sometimes prone to spots, but that doesn't mean I spend my weekends at Doncaster station frantically scribbling down engine numbers and hanging around public toilets. Strange, then, that I should be so completely hooked on Maxis' latest release, an in-depth train management simulation that's so detailed it even allows you to set the switching points on the track and work out a timetable for up to 25 passenger and freight trains.

It's not just a train sim, though. There's the 'triple challenge' of developing a railroad network, building a thriving metropolis and investing all your surplus cash to create a burgeoning financial empire. Yes, I know what you're thinking, this all sounds a bit like Sim City with trains, and you wouldn't be far wrong, except that it's a hell of a lot more involved. Whereas Sim City used commercial, industrial and residential building blocks to piece together a city, A-Train involves setting up a mass transit system to get things moving. Running a successful railway stimulates growth in the neighbouring hinterland, with residential blocks, factories and offices being built around the stations. Once you've started to develop the land, the computer takes over adding its own residential and commercial districts. Pretty soon, major roads begin to appear, land prices soar and you're well on your way to becoming a property magnate.

There are six different scenarios to choose from at the start of the game and these range from building up a rail network from scratch or developing an existing one, to taking over the running of a failed transit system and developing a coastal resort (check out the scenarios box for further details). To help you get the most out of the program, Maxis have written a huge 140-page manual which includes a handy walk-through guide. This details all the functions of the various icons that appear in the tool box at the bottom of the screen as well as providing useful hints, tips and strategies.

DOWNTOWN
A-Train Most of the main screen is viewed from a three-quarters top down perspective of the immediate area, which is nicely detailed. To scroll across the terrain, you can either use the arrow keys or click on the sides of the screen with the mouse's cursor. At the bottom of the screen is a small tool box containing all the commands that are necessary to get started. These include icons for the placing and laying of new tracks, purchasing trains, scheduling arrivals and departures, building stations, apartments, factories and even baseball parks. Clicking on any of these calls up a new window from where you can carry out specific actions. For example, clicking on the track laying icon brings up a new window which asks whether you wish to lay a new track or remove existing lines. The cost of each new piece of rail is also shown – this can vary depending on the cost of laying the track and which type of land you're aiming to build it on.

Next to the icons are a series of information buttons. Clicking on these reveals various financial details relating to your company such as the operating profit (or lack of one) and an operations report, as well as a satellite view to get an overall idea of how things are shaping up. There's also a bank option, which enables you to fix up loans for further expansion, and a stock market option. It's not necessary to get stuck into share dealing, but it does help diversify your interests into other areas. But remember, kids, the price of shares can go down as well as up!

Track laying is a bit complicated at first, ad it's difficult to create curved lines. I'd have liked to have seen a bank of differently shaped pieces that could have been positioned on screen instead of the right angled pieces on offer, but, with a little practice, you'll be looping the loop before you know it. The first thing you've got to do once you've started a new game is to get a track up and running and start earning some cash. A closed track with two stations at either end is a good way to begin. Schedule a passenger train to run up and down the line, position some residential units at one end of the track and some offices at the other, and you'll be in business. The most effective departure times for a train are 8am in a residential district and 6pm in a commercial area. It's at these times that most people use a train.

It's not quite as easy as it sounds, though. Buildings need bricks, strangely enough, so you'll need to purchase a freight train to bring in fresh supplies or build a factory to manufacture some. Once you've got a sufficient quantity, it's time to start to invest in some real estate and develop your residential and commercial districts. It's best to buy up the land nearest each of your stations at the start of the game as the price of this area will skyrocket later on and can provide a good source of rental or sales income.

Taxes and debt schedules are also a problem. Taxes are due at the end of the financial year, and if you haven't got the dosh to pay them, then it's effectively game over. You're faced with a 50% tax on any profit you make, a cripplingly high figure, so invest surplus cash in fixed assets before the year's end, as these are taxed at a mere 5% of their value. Get into debt at the bank and you'll receive a foreclosure notice, again putting a premature end to the proceedings.

GET CONNECTED
A-Train Once you've constructed a successful line, it's time to open up additional routes. Connecting lines can be built at angles of 45 degrees to existing lines, but you'll then find you need to pay more attention to scheduling trains if you're to avoid a pile up. The best type of line to develop is a loop of track, known in the business as a belt line. By setting up several stations around the loop, it's possible to have four or five trains running simultaneously. The enclosed land will soar in value, so if you buy it at the start, you'll make a financial killing.

Comparisons to Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon are inevitable I suppose, and it must be said that Microprose's offering is much the better game. Maxis like to refer to their titles as 'software toys' or simulations rather than games and this is reflected in A-Train's open-ended approach. Although there's a vague goal of reaching a profit level of $50 million, it's possible to keep on playing indefinitely. You also operate in a monopoly, so there's no competition, no price wars and no underhand dealing – all in complete contrast to Sid Meier's offering.

Unfortunately, A-Train runs off hard disk, so its market is pretty limited. It comes in both a hi-res and low-res option, and there's not much difference between the two except that the hi-res version is more detailed. A word of warning, though, the hi-res version needs 1Mb of RAM plus 1/2Mb of Chip RAM so make sure your system is able to cope. Overall, preferred the low-res graphics, mainly because they were less cluttered and more clearly defined. The sound is terrible, some wobbly Hammond Organ-type music and electronic bleeps and that's it.

Overall, A-Train is an enjoyable game, guaranteed to keep you occupied for weeks if not months. If you can't wait until Sim City 2000 is released at the end of the year, then give it a try.

CU Amiga, March 1993, p.p.52-53

TOOL BOX EXPLAINED

A-Train - Tool box
SCENARIOS AND STRATEGIES

There are six different scenarios to choose from at the start of the game. Each have varying geographic features and are in different stages of development.
A-Train - New town scenario NEW TOWN
Besides an old railroad line and a station, there are only small residences and ranches. The 'new town' is in the suburbs of a big city on the map, and its population needs increasing. It lacks facilities such as department stores and lease buildings, and quickly needs a profitable railway line to link to the city.
A-Train - Bay area scenario BAY AREA
There is already a large population. The problem here is how to effectively use the old railroad line at the top of the map and how to transport the materials to develop the bay area at the bottom. Doing nothing with the old line will land you in debt because of the expenditure you face in leaving it unattended. An industrial strip near the harbour will stimulate the economy.
A-Train - Resort development scenario RESORT DEVELOPMENT
This area is ripe for resort development. There's an airport nearby, but just ignore it. The old railway is too short and the materials storage area inadequate for future needs. Extend the line and buy ARIIIs. After making some money, set up a double-line railway. Sculpt the city around the mountains and lakes. You'll probably need a bank loan to develop the site's potential – try to work with one-year debt.
A-Train - Multi-city connection scenario MULTI-CITY CONNECTION
Industry is in decline. There's no cash. It's time to borrow your way out of recession. Concentrate on industrial development and then residential centres. Connect the scattered cities and villages by railroad to stimulate growth. Focus on expanding types of business but keep in mind that a rash of thoughtless development may bring a state of chaos to the local business community.
A-Train - Reconstruction scenario RECONSTRUCTION
Scenario five's city is at an advanced stage, but progress will stop if the transportation network lags behind developments. The belt line is failing to make money and must be reconstructed. Your expenses are twice your income, and lack of cash is a big concern. Remove uneconomical trains and develop new routes if possible. Buy apartment blocks and then develop the area around the lake.
A-Train - Downtown reorganisation scenario DOWNTOWN REORGANISATION
Map six has a profitable belt line and the city is already on a large scale. The industrial centre is beginning to deviate away from the centre. Traffic jams have started to appear. You're going to have to reconstruct the transport system in order to keep up with the pace of change.

MAXIS £34.99
A500
A1500
A500+
A2000
A600
A3000
A1200
A4000
OCEAN SOFTWARE, 2 Castle Street, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4LZ. TEL: 061 832 6233
 
RELEASE DATE:
GENRE:
TEAM:
CONTROLS:
NUMBER OF DISKS:
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:
HARD DISK INSTALLABLE:
MEMORY:
 
OUT NOW
GOD SIM
ARTDINK
MOUSE
2
1
YES
1Mb (BUT SEE ABOVE)

 
GRAPHICS
SOUND
LASTABILITY
PLAYABILITY

80%
10%
80%
70%
Come on everybody, do the locomotion...
OVERALL: 78%



A-Train logo   CONSTRUCTION SET

Mit gebührender Verspätung gegenüber den PC-Loks läßt Maxis seinen Szenario-Editor nun auch auf dem Amiga einlaufen – alles halb so wild, denn ab jetzt sind wir von fremden Fahrplänen endgültig unabhängig!

A-Train Construction set Neben den verantwortungsvollen Aufgaben als Strecken-Designer und Schrankenwart darf man also auch noch den Landschaftsgärtner und Miniatur-Gott in Personalunion spielen...

Kraft seines wortwörtlich erbaulichen Amtes stampft man hier Dörfer und Trabantenstädte aus dem Boden, staffiert freudlose Ebenen mit Bergen, Flüssen und Seen aus und packt ein paar lauschige Gemüsefelder, Wälder oder Golfplätze dazwischen. Natürlich finden sich auch Schienen, Züge, Bahnhöfe und anderes Einsenbahner-Equipment in diesem digitalen Bauschuppen; darüber hinaus können notorische Pleitegeher sogar ihr Bankkonto nach Belieben vollpumpen, um die nächsten 20 Inflationen kühl lachelnd zu überstehen. Und falls es jemand zu mühsam findet, die gesamte Schöpfungsgeschichte von Grund auf neu zu schreiben, kann er seine Züge ebensogut gleich durch sechs vorgefertigte Szenarien rollen lassen.

Wer bereits einschlägige Erfahrungen als wirtschaftlich interessierter Digi-Schaffner gesammelt hat, dürfte mit der handhabung dieses Baukastens keinerlei Probleme haben. Sowohl Grafik als auch benürzeroberfläche sind praktisch identisch mit dem, was das (erforderliche) Hauptprogramm an Äußerlichkeiten anzubieten hat, weshalb wir in guter alter Egänzungsdisk-Tradition eine neuerliche Bewertung einfach unter den Kartentisch fallen lassen. Unser beliebtes Schlußfazit wollen wir Euch dagegen keinesfalls vorenthalten: Wer “A-Train“ mag, muß hier einfach zugreifen, denn er kann das Leben erst wieder in vollen Zügen genießen, sobald ihm der Mann am Software-Schalter für rund 99 Kohlen sein Ticket ins Eisenbahner-Paradies ausgehändigt hat! (rl)

Amiga Joker, September 1993, p.96

SPEICHERBEDARF
DISKS/ZWEITFLOPPY
HD-INSTALLATION
SPEICHERBAR
DEUTSCH
1 MB
2/JA
JA
SZENARIOS
ANLEITUNG