Product: Crazy Tracer
Publisher: Acornsoft
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #69

You might think it strange that Crazy Tracer is not more widely known. After all, it was written by Acornsoft and probably bundled up as a freebie with a fair few machines. Ahem, or you might have played it, and hence be well aware of why it sits on the back shelf gathering dust.

Sigh. Oh, Acornsoft, it's not like it isn't a good idea. It's more like it isn't a good game. The premise is simple: you are presented with a grid of twenty or so different sized squares and rectangles. You control a paint roller icon that, by use of the ZX*? keys, can be moved around the outer border of the grid and the inner lines of the rectangles within it. Sort of like Frenzy with the playing area already mapped out, if you will.

Whether any games similar to Frenzy will always fare badly in comparison I don't know. What I do know is that Crazy Tracer is not addictive. The action, such as it is, plods along with no real strategy involved. Your nemeses, patrolling monsters also skirting about the grid, move randomly, seemingly bereft of the intelligence needed to pick you out and take you down. Everything also moves so jerkily that one seriously starts to question why Acornsoft tarnished its reputation with this release.

It's not just the sluggish game that needs some desperate TLC - there aren't even icons to help you determine your score, and the number of rollers remaining (You kick off with three!) are shown by amateurish 8x8 CHR$ definitions. On reaching the end of a game, the screen is even cleared with a BASIC CLG command. Aargh!

How much of the game is written in machine code is difficult to tell. My guess is not a lot apart from the sprites and their handling routines. The rest of the game is simply bland, a 'Roll of Honour' appears in Mode 4 and even the screen prompting you to enter your name on it is Mode 1 text only.

There aren't even icons to help you determine your score, and the number of rollers remaining are shown by amateurish 8x8 CHR$ definitions

Why is it even called "Tracer"? Surely not because on screen after screen you just trace out the same playing grid? No, I suspect the original title somwehere down the line was "Painter" because the whole point of encircling each block in the grid is to paint it (i.e. fill it with blue paint). Variations on the theme also involve paint. More specifically, running out of paint and having to return to a previously painted rectangle to replenish supply.

Seriously, there are type-ins from Acorn Programs that are more playable than this game! It's got two small saving graces - firstly the 'jump' key. This doesn't make the roller jump; it sends all the monsters headlong off the grid and into the air. The idea is to use it if you get too close to one of the monsters. You can effectively pass 'under' him safely. Secondly bonuses in the form of cherries appear in several rectangles during play, potentially allowing you to take a risk to gain a score bonus.

Being a later game from Acornsoft, it's got all the bells on like joystick and sound options plus disc compatibility. Yet these cannot hope to compensate for gameplay that is clumsy and mediocre, and where success happens more as a result of chance than strategy. Believe me, there's nothing 'Crazy' about Crazy Tracer. What should Acornsoft have called it? 'Paint, And Watching It Dry' to my mind.