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What have trains, global warning and large nuclear explosion got in common? Read on...

The year is 2022 and it's Christmas Eve. The world has been ravaged for many years by the Greenhouse Effect and is slowly dying. As even the population have completely ignored the warnings given to them by scientists, and Earth's days are severely numbered unless something gets done pretty sharpish.

So scientists devised Operation Blind, an experiment designed to save us from our untimely demise. Two large nuclear devices have been planted at the poles of the earth. These are set to explode, throwing up dirt, steam and other debris which will block out the sun's rays and cool the world (man).

But as so frequently happens, the scientists miscalculate and far too much earth and steam is thrown up. The world is plunged into an intense nuclear winter, all civilisation breaks down and the ground freezes.

Centuries later there are still some survivors who live in cities and towns. The only form of transport are mammoths who have re-evolved and huge trains which span the frozen wastes. The Viking Union hold complete monopoly over the rail system - they are very dodgy organisation who tend to kill anyone or anything that stands in their way.

MYTHICAL BODY
Because there is a massive cloud and debris layer in the Earth's atmosphere, the sun has become a mythical heavenly body. People who have read about it want to see it again and have set out to find more about it. Of course, the Viking Union is none too chuffed about this and so kills them off but the resistance who, for want of a better word, are called The Ambivalents, have stolen the Viking Union's biggest train, the Transarctica.

Because trains are the only thing that work any more, the currency has changed. Coal in two different forms is now the way in which people trade. Lignite is the base form of currency used for buying goods and tradables, Anthracite a richer form which is used for running the trains on.

Just because you've got this massive train doesn't mean you haven't got a care in the world - there are plenty of things you should be worried about. Great hordes of wolves roam the icy wastes looking for trains, a bit like a tinned meal for them really, and as you can imagine the Viking Union aren't too chuffed at the fact that you have stolen their best vehicle.

Indeed, their battle trains are out on the rails after you. Also when you are going through underground tunnels you must watch out for Mole Men, cannibals who have adapted to living underground.

To progress you must trade with the various towns and cities and build up the Transarctica into a bigger beat than it already is, and you must put out your spies to find more about what really happened and what the rumoured Operation Sun is.

Transarctica is controlled entirely by the mouse, clicking on icons around the screen. The first screen is the engine room. This is where the speed and general movement is controlled from. You have to carry out all the usual tasks that you would on a normal steam train like building the fire, building up steam and keeping the coal burning, but remember you only have a limited amount of Anthracite.

The other carriages contain the rest of your small band of men and more importantly a scale map of the entire area you can cover with the Transarctica.

At first I thought the gameplay was a little slow but then I discovered that the clock in the corner of the screen is to speed up the play - if you click on it, it will make everything in the game run quicker including the train, so there's no hanging round.

Had Transarctiva been as graphically excellent as Dark Seed or Waxworks it really would be a fantastic. It still is up to a pretty standard but it's not brilliant. The styling is similar to the latest Bitmap Brothers release, the Chaos Engine. However, the gameplay does make up for it. A good one, definitely worth a look.



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Despite rumours to the contrary, this is not a Ranulph Fiennes simulator. You are not endeavouring to cross the arctic armed only with e penknife and a short piece of string. Instead, you are aiming to liberate the world from a post nuclear winter and domination by a group of bad guys.

It is like this, y'see. A mad scientist type called John Merrick had this great idea to get rid of the greenhouse effect by blowing up a couple of nuclear bombs at each pole. It would have been a good idea, if the scientists had not completely naffed it up and plunged the world into a never-ending nuclear winter.

Several centuries later, and thermal underwear is still fashionable, and the only transport between cities is via a huge rail network controlled by a bunch of bad guys called the Viking Union. Playing the part of a good guy who has discovered a possible way to break the hold of the winter, and thus destroy the power of the Vikings, you manage to nick a train, and set out on a mission to discover the secrets of a cold and dangerous world...

Mammoth task
I am sure you know the sort of thing. Travel between cities do a bit of trading, blow up a few enemies, chat to philosophers and follow up rumours which could lead you to your eventual destination.

To the posthumous delight of Arthur and the NUM, the only source of energy left is coal, which fuels your locomotive and acts as currency. Occasionally, a message will direct you to a newly discovered mine, where you can prospect for coal, if you have the appropriate equipment.

Cities can be of four types: commercial (selling miscellaneous goods), industrial (manufacture and sale of wagons), slave markets (work it out for yourself) and mammoth fairs. These are not big fun fairs with lots of candyfloss, but meetings where you can buy or sell any mammoths you may have bumped into on the way. Did I mention them? No? Oh. Well, given the cold weather, woolly mammoths have made a comeback. They are good for heavy transport and you can use the dung as a face pack.

You meet herds of them wandering around and are given the option of rounding a few up in true Wild West fashion. Or rather, your slaves do, since all you get is a screen telling you how many you have captured.

Occasionally, when you enter a town, a rumour (general gossip which may prove helpful) will be available. Do not worry, they are not hard to find. Instead of the usual trading icons, you get the icons for receiving rumours and research, both of which reward you with three lines of text in something close to, but not quite English. Big deal. It is usually either a fact or a hint pointing you in another direction.

Whether this makes any sense or not is another matter. You do not get anything else, just a short hint or fact. This is where the game starts to have problems. Apart from moving around the map, there is relatively little interactivity. You never really feel like you are quite in control of your own destiny, even when you are in pitched battle with one of the Viking battle trains.

Tracks of my tears
You can arm your train with machine-guns and cannons, as well as employing troops and war mammoths in order to beat up the opposition. It is all very well, but about as exciting as standing on the end of a platform taking down train's numbers as they pass you buy.

The animation for the troops and mammoths is, to put it politely, poor, and would be more at home on a C64 than an Amiga. You can move your train back and forth on a short stretch of track and blast the opponent's wagons, or send out troops to plant explosives, but you are more likely to give up in disgust. Fortunately, the train conflict can be turned off, and the result decided by the computer.

You do not expect scrolling shoot-em-up-type action from a game of this genre, but it is not unreasonable to expect some degree of choice and freedom.

As it is, it feels like you are following a script which won't allow you to improvise; more like an episode of Eldorado than Coronation Street.



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Wer sich das Transportmittel der Zukunft aus? Wie wird das Wetter? Auf derlei Fragen weiß Silmarils Antwort - in Form einer Bombastischen Mix von Abenteuer, Strategie und Simulation.

Die Franzosen prophezeien uns eine völlig verschneite Welt, in der es nur noch eine Möglichkeit gibt, die weißen Wüsten zu durchreisen - mit den gewaltigen, waffenstarrenden Zügen der alles beherrschenden Eisenbahngesellschaft "Viking Union"!

Da mit solchen Allesbeherrschern selten gut Kirschenessen ist, hat sich eine kleine Gruppe von Rebellen gebildet, die den Grund des kühlen übels erforschen und womöglich beseitigen will. Unsere Revoluzzer verfügen ebenfalls über eine Power-Train (nämlich die "Transarctica") sowie hoffentlich einen zuverlässigen Zugführer vor dem Monitor...

Als solcher bekommt man hier allerhand zu tun, beispielsweise fährt die Heldenbahn keinen Meter auf dem riesigen, ganz Europa und Nord-Afrika umfassenden Schienennetz, wenn sie nicht beständig mit Kohle gefüttert wird. Die wiederum läßt sich entweder durch Handel und Wandel zwischen den wenigen überlebenden Städten beschaffen (konsequenterweise ist der Koks auch das einzige Zahlungsmittel dieser frostigen Zukunft) oder in alten Bergwerken abbauen.

Das Schürfen ist freilich nicht so einfach, braucht man dazu doch erstens Sklaven fürs Grobe, zweitens Mammuts fürs ganz Grobe und drittens passende Waggons sowie Verpflegung für beide - vom Transportraum für das schwarze Gold ganz zu schweigen.

Davon abgesehen kann der Bildschirm-Rebell mancherorts in alten Zeitschriften schmökern, um so mehr über das prinzipielle Klimaproblem herauszufinden. Den Expressen der Viking Union, die ihm das Kohlenfeuer ausblasen willen, sollte er jedoch zu Beginn tunlichst ausweichen.

Später, wenn ein paar schlagkräftige Kanonenwagen zur Ausrüstung gehören, könnte man vielleicht eines der taktisch-strategisch ausgerichteten Duelle mit den Company-Dampfrössern wagen, bei denen sich beide Gefährte auf parallelen Gleisen gegenüberstehen und durch Hin- und Herrangieren empfindliche Teile des Gegners zu treffen versuchen.

Eine fröhliche Mischung also, die (ganz in der Tradition von "Storm Master") vor allem auch durch die Präsentation überzeugt: Die tollen Grafiken von Bahninterieur, Städten und anderen wichtigen Örtlichkeiten tragen ebensoviel zur dichten Atmosphäre bei wie die stimmungsvollen Soundtracks und feinen FX. Ganz so bunt wie am PC treibt es die Amiga-Eiszeit optisch natürlich nicht, aber wer könnte ihr das verübeln?

Zumal die sinnige Maus/Icon-Steuerung, mit der man sich in Lok und Waggons oder in den zoombaren, an "Railroad Tycoon" erinnernden Kartenscreen hineinklicken kann, über alle Zweifel erhaben ist und in der endgültigen Verkaufsversion deutsche Texte für vollen Komfort sorgen werden. Gewiß, in diesem oder jenem Punkt hätten Optionen und Rätsel ruhig etwas luxuriöser ausfallen dürfen, aber auch so geht das Game glatt als Prädikatsprogramm durch! (jn)



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It is trains, planes and automobiles - except it has not got any planes or automobiles in it.

Darren wiped the heavy droplet from his nose with the sleeve of his anorak, and peered through the grime and thumb prints that covered his thick-lensed glasses. Rain fell intermittently across the deserted platform as he calculated that the next Inter City was not due for another twenty minutes and sat back to enjoy his packed lunch.

As he chomped on his spam sandwiches, Wagon Wheel and coffee from a tartan thermos, Darran was completely unaware of the strange twist his life was about to take. Which was just as well really, for since the most exciting thing he had ever done in his life was listen to heavy metal tracks backwards in the mistaken belief that he would receive instructions from Satan, he was entirely unprepared for it.

As he sat, the eerie blue light of a time-warp shrouded him, causing sparks to fly painfully off his dental bridgework and numerous fillings. In an instant, he was whisked through the millennia, propelled by forces far beyond the understanding of us mere mortals. And then... (Something relevant to the game happens? - Ed) ...Then he was standing knee-deep in snow next to a rail line (far larger than a European standard gauge track, he noted) and in shocked amazement he stared as a massive train blurred past him, the omate snow plough throwing snow off the track with such a force that it took minutes to drift back down again. On and on it went, sparks from the funnel glittering in the icy air above the carriages.

And what carriages! Ten storeys high, entire jails rumbled past. In massive stables, mammoths snorted and munched on hay, while in glass-covered carriages, gardeners tended to their crops. Finally, gun crews serviced massive cannons and machine gun posts, while bawdy ballads were sung heartily in garrison carriages, the shutters locked down to keep out the biting wind.

'Blimey', thought Darren as silence returned, 'that was even more impressive than the 332 Devonshire Scot that I once saw at Paddington'.

On board, the captain of the train Transarctica (Who, it should be noted, is the character you play in the game, this 'Darren' chappy being the invention of a staff writer's literary pretensions - Ed) was lost in his own despairing thoughts, unaware that the acne-ridden, shivering figure he had just swept past was in fact a time traveller from the far distant past. While his personal secretary Kolotov recorded the results of the latest mammoth hunt, the captain paced nervously, running over the events of the last few months.


Darren sat back to enjoy his packed lunch

He'd believed the ancient writings that often considered heretical. He'd believed that the ice-age was man made and could be reversed. He'd been driven onwards in the belief that he could unlock the secret of Project 'Restore' so that the clouds that obscured the sky for centuries could be driven away, and to the first time in a thousand years, mankind would see the sun. Breaking the ice-age would break the Viking Union's hold over the world, so they'd fought him all the way.

Wandering down to the engine room, he was shocked that the navvies were still shovelling coal into the cavernous boiler, even though the pressure was dangerously high. If the boiler blew in these Siberian wastes it would be disastrous, but his crew refused to make any independent decisions, and he had to tell them to stop. Such responsibility meant that he was forced to spend half his days checking on the speed, coal supplies and steam pressure.

(Sorry to break your flow Mark, but what are you going to say that the game element is just an action screen consisting of a train network, along which you wend your weary way? And shouldn't you mention that the pictures, although beautiful, have little to do with the game, or that the missiles, combat and trading seem like a good idea, but are in fact duller than a dull thing? Whenever you are ready, Mark - Ed).

For months now they'd been crossing the entire European/Asian land mass in their stolen train, avoiding Viking Union bases and attacking and looting other trains. They'd traded goods like fur, salt and caviar for the essentials of tracks, slaves and soldiers, buying in areas of plenty and selling them for a profit in towns where demand was high.

They'd gone to the industrial Ruhr and bought new carriages which, along with the ones they'd captured in battle, meant that the train now stretched for nearly a hundred carriages. He'd sent out spies to report back from all over the continent, kept his coal supplies plentiful by mining, and even carefully checked his routes out by sending out scout carts.

And for what? It seemed that he'd run and fought, traded and run for months now, but never seemed to get anywhere. He'd picked up a few vague rumours about a sanctuary of warmth, on the existence of a huge lake monster and he'd read a few pages from the journal of an ancient scientist, but now he was out of ideas. What did it all mean? Where should he turn next? He did not know.

Sadly, the captain returned to his carriage, accepting the fact that he'd brought all these people on a wild and futile quest. The guilt of all the wasted lives too massive, the boredom of travelling for days too great for him to handle. He'd failed, and there was only one thing left. He reached for his revolver.

Transarctica ground to a halt as the coal burned out, and when Kolotov went to question the captain, he discovered the body. Panic rippled through the train. They were without a leader, without a quest, without hope. They needed a miracle.

A solitary figure limped out of the fog and snow, its feet gnarled by frostbite, its eyelashes frozen together. The screams and babble faded as the Transarctica crew turned and stared at this person who'd appeared out of the desolate wastes, a thousand kilometres from the nearest town. One by one they bowed before him. Surely this must be the chosen one... (So are you. Chosen for the sack, that is. - Ed).



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Even in the future trains never seem to run on time. Mark Patterson buys a ticket and settles down for a long wait.

Taking the lead from such PC games as Dune 2, Silmarils have come up with, would you believe it, a futuristic train simulation. The Earth has been turned into a frozen wasteland by a failed experiment aimed at counteracting global warming. What's left of mankind resides in small communities linked to railways controlled by the nefarious Viking Union. After reading some books explaining how to reverse the effects of the experiment, you've saved up your hard earned cash to buy a train of your own and set out trying to implement the plan.

The Viking Union aren't very enthusiastic about your attempts at defrosting the Earth, as the end of the global winter will spell the end of their monopoly on the rail lines. They're out to stop you any way they can, which includes sending heavily armoured attack trains out after you.

UP THE JUNCTION
Trading forms a large part of the game's strategy. Items ranging from petrol to mammoth dung are all negotiable commodities, and it's up to you to find out who needs what.

Towns are divided into two main categories, trading posts and manufacturing plants. The latter is where you buy extra carriages for your train. These include prison cars for transporting slaves, and missile cars for defence.

Trading posts are where you make your cash. Commodities have different values in different towns and it's down to the player to work out where cargoes are worth the most. Should you buy a town's entire stock of an item, you're going to have to wait a fair while for them to produce more of it. This prevents you depending on one cushy trade route.

TRAIN-ED KILLERS
The Viking Union are constantly on your tail, and if they catch up with your train a battle ensues. Your train is defended by a small security force, who have no objections to charging the enemy, but aren't very effective on their own. To help you out you'll need to buy a machine gun or missile car. These allow you to attack an enemy who is usually similarly armed, at a distance. Any car that takes too many hits is destroyed. If you're engine is scuppered then you're ruled out of the game.

The game's currency, lignite, brings new meaning to the phrase burning money. Lignite is a form of coal which, apart from being used to buy things, can be shoved into the fire should you run out of the worthless, but highly combustible, anthracite. Naturally, running out of anthracite doesn't bode well for your bank account.

One altogether tedious and virtually pointless part of the game is stoking the engine. Coal needs to be regularly chucked into the furnace to keep the boiler going. To do this, you call up the engine room screen, and click on one of the two blokes standing either side of the furnace, who then shovel the coal in. This process has to be repeated so often that it soon becomes tremendously boring. Unless you're a hard-core train freak like our beloved Editor, Dan, the novelty value of watching someone shovel coal in a computer game wears off in no time at all.

WEIRD COMBINATION
This is an extremely unusual game, combing elements from Midwinter, Railroad Tycoon and Dune 2 to produce something that's altogether weird. Despite its apparent complexity, it doesn't take long to get to grips with most of the features, and once you've done that, Transarctica doesn't offer much more. This is one for serious train simulation freaks only.


DERAILMENT

One effective way of preventing a train from reaching its destination is to blow up the line. For this your locomotive is outfitted with steam-powered mini-trains, which are packed with explosives. These whiz down the track ahead of you, which makes them ideal for testing whether there's any rail ahead of you or to indict mounds of damage on any on-coming vehicles. Their fuses can be set to go off when they hit a bridge or particular section of track, so timing is all important. They do have a disadvantage though. When they run out of steam they come to a dead stop, and if you carry on regardless you'll crash into it and blow yourself up.



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Daze Marketing * 071-328 2762 * £32.99 previously reviewed AF45 60%

Transarctica is a game about a train. Oh yes, it's also about the consequences of a nuclear winter after a well-meaning scientist gets his sums wrong when trying to combat the greenhouse effect. Several hundred years later, the world is in the grip of a never-ending winter, and railways are the only means of transport.

Unfortunately these are controlled by the Viking Union, a bunch of bad guys who want to keep the situation as it is. You play the part of the leader of a heroic group of people who dream of liberating mankind from the tyranny of winter.

As you'd expect, this game will run on the A1200 and A4000 only. We reviewed the non-AGA version in AF 45, and this is exactly the same game, except for the improved graphics. These have been taken straight from the PC version, because these use 256 colours. It's good to see software houses using this extra power, but it's a pity there are no other enhancements, such as improved sound, which would have been possible with the chip RAM on the A1200.

Overall, this is a reasonable game, but there's nothing overly inspiring about it.



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Dieser Tage trudelte Silmarils origineller Genremix aus Abenteuer und Strategie, Schnee, Eis, Lokführerträumen und Ökokatastrophe als überarbeitetes Turbomiga-Bonbon in unseren weitläufigen Hallen ein.

Wenn einem soviel Buntes wird beschert, ist das immer eine Reise wert - also machen wir dem waffenstarrenden Superzug "Transarctica" Feuer unterem Dampfkessel und tuckern erneut durch schienendurchzogene Eiswüsten (Landkarte à la "Railroad Tycoon"), um die Welt von ihrem zukünftigen Klima-Kollaps zu kurieren...

Gar nicht so einfach, denn die mageren Hinweise auf das, was hier zu tun wäre, sind allesamt gut versteckt, und so ist man meist mit viel profaneren Dingen beschäftigt: zwischen den übriggebliebenen Städten Handel treiben, Mammuts und Sklaven als Arbeitskräfte einkaufen, falls die Schienen mal unterbrochen sind, neue Wagons auftreiben und nicht zuletzt die Züge der am Status Quo interessierten Bahngesellschaft Viking Union mittels taktisch-strategischer Schießduelle (die man auch dem Rechner überlassen kann) bekämpfen.

All das zeigt sich neuerdings in schicker PC-Optik, der man die feineren Farbabstufungen durchaus ansieht. Die dramatische Sounduntermalung mit ihren diversen Musikstücken und FX konnte indessen ja immer schon überzeugen. Auch der Handhabung per Mausklick läßt sich kaum etwas Schlechtes nachsagen, mal davon abgesehen, daß das Game erst nach ziemlich umständlicher Handarbeit aus dem Harddisk-Bahnhof startet. Insgesamt also eine prima 1:1 Umsetzung der VGA-Version.



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The train now standing on platform A1200 has, well, a lot more colours in it.

What with this and Ishar 2 and StormMaster coming out on budget last month, those French funsters from Silmarils have been pretty busy boys lately, foregoing the usual two-hour lunch breaks consisting of brie, baguettes and quite literally crates of vin rouge, and all in order to produce some of the most off-beat and esoteric works of Amiga software that ever graced that little plastic slot on the side of your 16-bit machine.

Now, this version of Transarctica would be hugely more impressive if it wasn't for the fact that the original, ho-hum version looked pretty durned spiffing anyway. If it's fabulous fantasy art based heavily on pre-Revolution Russia that you want (which, I've got to admit, is probably a teensy-weensy, specialised percentage of you) then you need look no further, it's all here.

Unfortunately, as with the original, the gameplay isn't. Set in a future locked in a man-made ice age, you play the captain of a renegade train determined to bring back the sun by lifting the permanent cloud cover. Unfortunately for you, the ruling Viking Union's power is based on the ice age staying, since they control supplies of coal (the only fuel) and the rail network (the only mode of transport) so they're out to stop you in your tracks.


The original version looked pretty spiffing

The resulting game comprises mainly of travelling from town to town trading and picking up pieces of information in the adventure part of the scenario. There's also lots of fighting to be done, against Mole men and packs of wolves, but mainly against the rival trains of the Viking Union. Sadly, these battles consist of crappy little arcade sequences with the two trains moving to and fro on parallel tracks while infantry and mammoth units charge across the no-man's land in the middle.

After one or two goes, you've had enough, and the programmers (mercifully) give you the option of leaving the computer to work out the outcome of all the battles.

There's also a really tedious bit where you have to manually feed coal into the boiler, and whenever you forget, the train grinds to a halt.

It's hard to recommend this one, but if you like other Silmarils games, then you'll like Transarctica, but I think it's too obscure for most people.