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The instructions aren't very helpful and it took ages to get to grips with this game, in which time I grew to loathe the music and respect the game. I've played more exciting arcade adventures, but even so, I enjoyed
Time Trax -- eventually.

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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!
Time Trax
1986 Mind Games/Argus Press Software
Programmed by Paul Clancey
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the sixteenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: July 10th, 1986).
 

TIME TRAX
Mind Games/Argus Press Software, 9.95 cass, joystick only


A mixture of science fiction and pure fantasy sets the scene for this latest game to emerge from the Mind Games label. You are one of probably very few survivors of the holocaust. Your cellar is still intact, though it appears the rest of London has disappeared. And so has your colleague, Dr Uriah Winterbottom. You thought the old quack was somewhat unhinged, always warbling on about now he could have avoided all of this mess if only he had had a little more time. He's dead and gone now. But his notes are not.

The notes and charts refer to the Evil One -- Eight Minds, Runes -- hmmm! With little else to occupy your time, the notes provide an interesting diversion. They suggest that some long forgotten battle took place in Earth's past and that the forces of evil won. Ever since then, when mankind has been on the verge of moving on to greater things (well, that's what the manual says), it has been thwarted by some great catastrophy created by the evil ones. This is because the eight minds have had to open time portals to search across the aeons for their treasured possessions. By doing so, they leave entry points open for the baddies. Your quest is to restore the imbalance all this meddling has created and make sure that this time mankind makes any necessary transition without any undue interference from the nasties.

It involves travelling through the different ages of man, trying to appease the eight minds by returning to them their now scattered possessions and finding a combination of tiles that will allow casting of the correct spell to close the time portals and seal out the evil ones forever.

The screen layout consists of two main components. The top half is the action window where your character, controlled by joystick, can be manipulated through rooms and portals on his quest. The bottom half is basically an information display. To the left of this section is the visual display for objects discovered using the look option or, during a meeting, one of the images of the Eight Minds. Below this is a fat red heart. This is an energy display. Blood drains from this heart as energy is used up during the course of the game. When it is entirely black, you are deceased.

By using the joystick, options may be highlighted until the desired one is selected. Below are four storage boxes, each with its own status light. When an object is being carried it appears in one of these.

Below these boxes are two windows. On the left is a real time clock, which is used to determine when certain time portals open. To the right is the tile storage box. Up to ten tiles may be stored at once, although there are fifteen in the game. Just to the right of the main storage boxes are the function buttons. These include a pause button to suspend game action, a resume button to revert control from options to the character on screen and a cancel button to prevent you from doing things you might instantly regret.

Finally, on the right of the screen are the tile test and eye display areas. When four tiles are in the tile storage area, they may be moved to the test area. The eyes displayed in the box then react to their presence in a kind of mini Mastermind game. A closed eye means one of the tiles does not belong in the group. Half open eyes indicate the right tile in the wrong place and a fully open eye indicates that the right tile is sitting in the correct position. When a correct combination of four tiles is achieved the game will end. However, the game cannot be won unless all the Minds have had their personal possessions returned to them.

Tiles can, incidentally, be used in pairs to create spells. The player is really working in the dark unless he finds a scroll. Reading a scroll will reveal which two tiles can be combined to make a spell. However, it does not reveal the effect of the spell and of course the necessary tiles still need to be acquired.

Another problem lies in the use of weaponry. There are three weapons, each needing different forms of ammunition. The pistol needs bullets, the crossbow needs bolts and the wand requires gems for its power. The complication arises with the fact that different weapons only work in certain times zones, yet without a weapon, staying alive is impossible for any reasonable length of time. Moving out of a screen and then going directly back is one way of avoiding the nasties but this leaves little time to search or trade with any of the Minds you may meet.

The screens themselves consist of four levels, each scattered with interesting objects to investigate and obstacles which may or may not be impassable. Chests, for instance, require the correct key before they can be opened. After a chest has been unlocked, it may contain useful items or just provide a good place to leave objects for a later stage. One of the objects that can be found in chests is a bottle. There are actually several of these and they contain potions which, when drunk, restore up to half of the player's original strength.

     

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Time Trax is a difficult game to get into and play. The graphics have lots of detail and variety. The plot is interesting and the gameplay intriguing. Unfortunately the playability suffers until you really get into the game, and despite useful appendices, the manual does not help make this task easier. The theme tune is reasonable, but annoys after a while. These are, however, my only criticisms of this cleverly devised game. Not exactly the kind of thing that's going to appeal to the blast 'em out of the sky freaks, but it's demanding and enjoyable if you persevere.
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Presentation 76%

Awful loading screen and flawed manual, but the on-screen presentation is good.

Graphics 81%
They won't knock you off your seat but there's lots of colour, variety and everything has been put together nicely.

Sound 69%
Above average tune that doesn't hold interest as long as the rest of the game
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Hookability 67%
Not the easiest of games to get into thanks to the manual. Still, curiosity should save the day.

Lastability 81%
Highly complex play is rewarded by plenty of challenge.

Value For Money 75%
Lots there for your pennies.

Overall 80%
One of the more interesting (if demanding) arcade adventures to have appeared recently. But patience is a virtue.
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Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (17 Aug 2006)
Only the first of the above screenshots existed in the original review.

Can anybody rip the SID tune out of this one?

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