|Developer(s)||Tim and Chris Stamper|
|Publisher(s)||Ultimate Play The Game|
Tranz Am is an action video game developed and published by Ultimate Play The Game that was released for the ZX Spectrum in July 1983. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States and centres around a racing car driver on his quest to obtain the Eight Great Cups of Ultimate, which are scattered throughout the country.
The game was written by Chris Stamper and graphics were designed by Tim Stamper. Tranz Am was one of the very few Spectrum games also available in ROM format for use with the Interface 2, allowing "instantaneous" loading of the game (the normal method of cassette loading could take several minutes). The game received mostly positive reviews upon release: praise was given to the game's graphics and simple controls, while criticism was directed at its confusing interface.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States in the year 3472. Eight Great Cups of Ultimate are dispersed around America, and the player's mission is to obtain all of them. Petrol is in short supply and the only way to re-fuel vehicles is to find petrol pumps, scattered across the country.
The game is presented in a top-down perspective and involves driving around America to collect the eight trophies whilst avoiding natural hazards and kamikaze cars, which attempt to crash into the player. The player has a limited supply of petrol and must collect fuel at regular intervals by driving over petrol pumps. Obstacles include trees, boulders and destroyed buildings. The overworld has an invisible border which causes the player's car to reverse automatically to ensure that they do not cross the game's boundaries.
The interface displays a list of comprehensive data: a map showing a list of key cities in the contiguous United States, petrol gauge, speedometer, remaining lives and engine temperature. Every key city in the game contains at least one petrol station. If the player drives too fast for too long, their car will overheat and slow down. To save an overheating car the player must drive below a certain speed or stop entirely to allow the engine to cool.
Ashby Computers and Graphics was founded by brothers Tim and Chris Stamper, along with Tim's wife, Carol, from their headquarters in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1982. Under the trading name of Ultimate Play The Game, they began producing video games for the ZX Spectrum throughout the early 1980s. Prior to founding Ultimate, the Stamper brothers had backgrounds in designing arcade machines, but no marketing experience in the video game sector. The company were known for their reluctance to reveal details about their operations and upcoming projects. Little was known about their development process except that they used to work in "separate teams": one team would work on development whilst the other would concentrate on other aspects such as sound or graphics.
Tranz Am was one of the few Spectrum games also available in ROM format for use with the Interface 2, allowing "instantaneous" loading of the game when the normal method of cassette loading could take several minutes. The game used the common technique of placing planar sprites with image sprites atop another, which often created graphical errors and overlapped colours on the console. The game was also able to run on the 16K version of the Spectrum.
The game received a mostly positive reception upon release. Computer and Video Games praised the game's controls and accessibility, stating that they were "easy to get into" upon the first try. A reviewer writing for Home Computing Weekly found the game to be "compulsive" overall, but noted that the game did not live up to the promises made by the description on the packaging. Simon Lane of Popular Computing Weekly praised the game's graphics, sound and presentation, stating that they were of "a very high quality" and that Tranz Am was an "original game" in comparison with the other games released by Ultimate. Lane criticised the game's interface, however, stating that he found it difficult to "concentrate on everything all at once". Lane also added that the game did not reward the player enough for collecting all of the cups, displaying just a short congratulation message before inviting him or her to begin again. A reviewer writing for Your Computer magazine heralded the game as a program of "outstanding achievement", considering that the game's playing area was calculated at "600 times more than the actual screen area".
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