Transformable Arcade Zone. Sounds impressive huh? Well, TRAZ is in fact ... an Arkanoid clone. But don't be too disappointed - TRAZ adds several original features to this well-worn genre.
For those unfamiliar with Arkanoid and it's many clones (not to mention it's ancient predecessor - Breakout) the basic premise is to destroy a mass of blocks located at the top of the screen by deflecting a bouncing ball using a bat placed at the bottom. Once destroyed, the player moves onto the next, more difficult screen. A life is lost each time the ball falls beyond the bat. Some blocks drop items when destroyed and these can be caught as they fall. The effect may be positive or negative - for example the ball may become invisible or the recipient may acquire the ability to fire laser bolts.
So what seperates TRAZ from the competition? First of all, TRAZ doesn't limit the player to just one bat. Or for that matter, to one axis. Fans of Jeff Minter's Laserzone will be familiar with the control method employed to control sets of bats on separate axes. With up to four bats per screen on both horizontal and vertical axes, you'll soon find yourself wishing you had an extra pair of hands. Which brings us to another unique feature in TRAZ - two-player simultaneous action. Here, one player controls bats coloured red, the other controls bats coloured blue and the colours are switched randomly to keep players on their toes.
The feature that places TRAZ above all the other brick/bat/ball titles however, is hinted at in the game's title. Yes, it's transformable. As Cascade's advertising blurb says, TRAZ is indeed, 'the world's first break-out construction kit' and allows the user to create and save their own fully customised version of the game.
If you like Arkanoid you'll love TRAZ! Although it takes a while to become accustomed to controlling more than one bat at a time, there are enough original features in TRAZ to keep you hooked while you practise. The screens are well-designed, the ball physics are well-programmed and overall, the game has a very polished feel to it. The two-player mode is a great idea and has been well executed. If I could change one element of gameplay I would label or colour-code the pick-up items. It is infuriating when you're on your last life with one brick left to destroy and the ball turns invisible! This is only a minor gripe however, and increases the challenge of the game. The inclusion of a construction kit increases lastability ten-fold. Well-designed and simple to use, it is easy to create a whole new, personalised TRAZ with minimum effort. In an overcrowded genre, TRAZ stands out as one of the best of it's kind.
|GRAPHICS - 7/10|
|The graphics are well-defined and each screen has a nice, scrolly background. Oh, and I like the big font on the title screen. Nothing to write home about, but hey - this is a Breakout game after all. |
|SOUND - 7/10|
|'Music by The Judges' apparently. Not exactly Rob Hubbard, but not Manic Miner either. If you catch my drift.|
|PLAYABILITY - 8/10|
|The inclusion of a second axis and additional bats adds to the playability of what would otherwise be a generic Arkanoid 'inspired' game. The ingenious two-player mode is great fun and the construction kit adds longevity to an already attractive package.|
|OVERALL - 8/10|
|A novel twist to the theme, TRAZ contains fresh, well-executed ideas. The result? A polished, playable game and impressive construction kit.|