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Working on the Railroad

“Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon” doesn’t just hand you thrills, chills, terror and hidden treasures. You get them the old-fashioned way--you earn them building and operating the great railroads of the world. Competing with legendary Robber Barons plucked right out of the Golden Age of Railroading can keep you at your terminal for hours.

The designers of this program have created a very good simulation of a model railroad and, at the same time, replicated the world of high finance that made and lost fortunes as the railroads transformed the world.

This isn’t a game that gets played once and put on the shelf. Graphics and animation combine well with four levels of difficulty, four continental regions and real-time simulation to provide virtually limitless possibilities. No two games can ever be alike.

After choosing your region of play (England, eastern or western United States in the 19th Century, or Europe in the 20th Century) and level of difficulty, you are presented with a map and $1 million. Telescoping views of this map allow you to do a detailed survey of the entire area before you choose your starting points. Cities, towns, harbors, industries and raw materials are included so you can plan and build your route.

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The crux of the game is to get people and freight from point A to point B and to get paid for it as many times as possible. You lay track, build stations and run trains in an effort to profitably exploit supply and demand. Mail and passengers wait in Hamburg to reach Paris; lumber in the vast forests of the Northwest is shipped to the paper mills of Denver.

Logistics alone will not keep the iron tentacles of your empire alive and growing. Keeping in touch with your broker, carefully reading your financial reports as they are presented and watching the stock prices and net worth of your three computer-generated competitors is critical to the health of your railroad. Hostile takeovers and bankruptcy are very real threats that can sometimes be avoided through some judicious wheeling and dealing.

Game end is nothing more exciting than your retirement--forced out by angry stockholders, fired by new management or keeping your railroad operating for a full century. Rewards for your labors are not dramatic, but it is surprisingly satisfying to improve your “tycoon rating"--the computer’s evaluation of your level of managerial expertise--from newspaper editor to circus impresario. One day if you work hard enough, your tycoon rating can even reach the pinnacle: President.

“Railroad Tycoon’s” written material is worth special mention. The manual plays a critical role in the program’s off-disk copy protection, but it also provides a great deal of historic information to the railroad newcomer. This information works well to provide both background and strategy tips to the player. Time invested in reading the well-written book pays off. The technical supplement and templates provide easily understood installation, reference and problem solving information.

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“Railroad Tycoon” is published by MicroProse Software, Hunt Valley, Md. It runs on an IBM PC/XT/AT/PS2, Tandy 1000 and most compatibles. It requires 512K (640K with VGA) and color monitor. A mouse is recommended. List price: $59.95.

MICROBITS: Walt Disney Software is turning two of the studio’s high-profile summer movies, “Dick Tracy” and “Arachnophobia,” into computer games. Watch for them to come out this fall. . . . Disney is also busy bringing some of its classic characters to the computer terminal. Games in the works: “Duck Tales: The Quest for Gold,” “Donald’s Alphabet Chase” and “Mickey’s Runaway Zoo.” . . . Maxis, creator of the popular “SimCity,” is preparing to roll out “SimEarth,” which will let you explore the ecosystems of various planets.

LETTERS: We welcome letters from readers and game players and will publish some in future columns. Questions, game hints or comments may be about specific games or on topics of general computer entertainment interest. Sorry, but we cannot answer letters privately. Write: Computainment, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

RAILROAD TYCOON

Rating:

* * *

* Fair

* * Good

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* * * Very Good

* * * * Excellent


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