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(c) 2000 James Burrows

   
 
  Review by
Sean Masterson

 

 
Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Southern Belle
1986 Hewson Consultants
Programmed by Mike Male & R. Hillyer
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the fifteenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: June 12th, 1986).
 

SOUTHERN BELLE
Hewson, 7.95 cass, keyboard only


To be honest, I think this game was thrown at me because nobody else knew exactly what to do with it. It isn't every day we get steam train simulations to look at. This one has been around for some time on other machines but only now have Hewson given it a belated debut on the Commodore.

The package consists of a fold out instruction booklet, historical notes, an explanation of how a real steam engine works and the game itself, all packed into a medium sized cassette case. The game is a simulation of the famous engine that used to make the London to Brighton run during the early 1930s.

The manual clearly explains the controls and contains a map of the route the train must take, listing all the stations along the way. Coupled with the explanation of the inner workings of the locomotive, the player can soon gain a firm grasp of the purpose of each control. To make things easy, however, various options are available once the game has loaded, which allow limited control of the train. This way, the computer can look after certain areas of operation while the player gains familiarity in other areas.

Various types of run are also available. The player can select timetable runs, stopping at each of the stations in turn, non-stop runs or attempt to break the speed record from Victoria to Brighton in the record breaking run. Different runs assume difficult loads and variable schedules to complicate matters for the player. There is also a 'problem run' which tests the player's abilities to deal with the various difficulties that may beset a driver. During any run, safety speed limits are imposed along various areas of the track. Thus a player's performance is judged at the end of the run in three areas; economy, safety and timekeeping. Finally, there is a demonstration run.

The main screen layout is dominated by the centre view which displays the controls of the engine and the view of the track ahead along with certain landmarks (such as Battersea power station), all shown as black and white line drawings. The graphics are not astounding but they do give enough information for the player to assess his or her surroundings. They are, unfortunately, a little jerky.

To the right of this area are two displays. One is for gradients showing, in both linear and numerical form, the gradient of the ground currently beneath the rails. The other displays the distance in miles from Victoria and to Brighton, both displays are constantly updated throughout the run. On the left of the main display are three areas. At the top left Speed, Coal, and Water levels are shown. Below that is a realtime clock. In the lower left area there's a signal display. At the base of this screen, scrolling messages appear to inform you of any problems.

The player can control the whistle, fire, regulator, brakes, cut off, blower, injector, firedoor and damper -- all in all, pretty thorough control. The game has been cleverly designed in so much as it allows the player to gradually work up to the most complicated style of play whilst having variety in the intermediary period. There are all kinds of skills to be acquired, from learning how to cope with emergency stops, handling signals and making the supplies of coal and water last, to the relatively simple task of pulling into a station (especially at Brighton where the train will crash if you overrun).

     

There is no doubt that the author cares a great deal about the subject matter and, at the cost of lavish aesthetics, has developed a program that comes as close to demonstrating the real thing as any game will ever come on the 64. Unfortunately for me, that wasn't enough. I soon found the simulation tedious. There isn't the same sense of freedom you get in a flight simulator. What you do get was too limiting for my tastes. I suspect that this will only appeal to the aficionados of the era and subject. Having said that, you have to admire the attention to detail, right down to the differing intensities of puffs of steam and what they mean. For 8, Hewson can hardly be accused of asking too much.

Sean Masterson

   


Presentation 94%

Oodles of choice; all options as clear as day.

Graphics 70%
Clear, but slightly jerky and somewhat dull.

Instructions 88%
Well written and precise. The player should be able to get into the intricacies of steam engines without any difficulty
.

Authenticity 91%
Excellent.

Playability 83%
Well, it is playable but some may find it monotonous.

Value For Money 88%
Cheaper than a model train set...

Overall 88%
A superb simulation of a dull subject.
.

 

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (29 Jan 2006)

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