Stop the Express
Hudson Soft - 1983
Machine: ZX Spectrum
Genre: Platformer, Character Shooter
In 1983 most games on home computers featured small monochrome barely animated characters looking like this or this moving around a static backgrounds. So when a game came a long with a character that looked like this moving along a huge scrolling train all in glorious technicolour it was greeted with stunned amazement.
Stop the Express is a thrilling ride on top of an express train, your aim is to make your way to the front of the train and, as the title says, is to stop it. Along the way you get crooks throwing knives at you and gantries to duck under, if either get you, you end up on the tracks. There are also birds that will knock you off but if you jump, you can catch them and throw them at the bad guys.
That’s pretty much all there is to it and with only two stages to the game, each only one minute long, you may think it’s seriously lacking in staying power but you’d be wrong. Stop the Express is so damn hard that despite it only being two minutes from beginning to end it will take hours of practise just to get past the first level. The whole game runs at an incredibly fast speed and every jump and duck has to be perfectly timed or you’ll find yourself on the floor. Constantly dying after just twenty seconds play and finding yourself back at the start can be a little frustrating but the game is just so addictive that you’ll be coming back for more until you’ve cracked it. When you finally do stop the express the sense of achievement is akin to finishing any of the great sprawling adventures like Ocarina or Half Life.
I’d love to be able to tell you that Stop the Express changed computer gaming instantly but it didn’t, for years afterwards computer games went back to being basic and slow. It was only the influence of the third generation consoles and arcade machines that brought this sort of fast and thrilling game play back to the 8-bit computers, leaving Stop the Express as landmark years ahead of its time.
Jakey 22 Jun '08
World of Spectrum's Stop the Express page - An incredible resource, all the detail you could need.
JD Games Retro Remake - A PC remake of Stop the Express, lacking some of the charm but a good game none the less.