Back to the age of steam, when railway tracks snaked through the country and a British Rail sandwich had never been made, let alone eaten...
The eponymous Evening Star is a robust locomotive which makes the tricky run between Bath and Bournemouth on the Somerset and Dorset Line. In Hewson's simulation, you are the smoke-stained driver of this triumph of engineering. Your object is to reach Bournemouth on schedule, earning points for safety and economy.
The main screen shows the progress of the Evening Star as it puffs beneath bridges, huffs through tunnels and dashes past places luxuriating in such names as Wellow, Chilcompton, Henstridge and Binegar. But don't spend too long gazing at the countryside - there are heavy penalties for running late, especially if you choose to take out the flagship service, the Pines Express.
You control the train using a regulator for speed and a cutoff for engine efficiency, which can be tested by checking the colour of the smoke coming from the engine' s stack. Vacuum brakes, a blower, an injector and a fire door and damper also help you get the most from your leviathan of the railway track - but you won't get anywhere without water and coal, and supplies are limited.
Signals must be obeyed, or you risk a fatal collision on a one-track line; and speed limits can deter your boyish enthusiasm for driving a steam train recklessly. They must be adhered to, or you could lose safety points, or even be derailed.
And don't forget the passengers - the Evening Star has to make stops. Overshooting the station can lose you points, and at Bournemouth you might hit the buffers; brake carefully, too, or the travellers will be thrown into each other's laps and injured.
The main object of Evening Star is to reach Bournemouth with enough points to pass; options allow you to challenge a time record or try to keep up with a strict timetable.
Hewson's (then Hewson Consultants) Southern Belle, another locomotive simulation, received 84% Overall in CRASH Issue 20 two years ago.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: simple, slow-moving vector graphics: monochromatic play area, colour on gauges and borders
Sound: only the phweeep of the steam whistle...
Options: a choice of eight levels presenting different problems; a computer-controlled run is also available
'This one is more for the simulation buffs than the arcade freaks - it takes you half an hour just to digest the instructions! Some parts are quite playable, but don't buy Evening Star unless you're a train buff with a desire to control a steaming beauty.' NICK ... 39%
'So they've changed the name, but not much else is different from Southern Belle - It's all the basic repetitive actions from the last train simulation and more! And though the idea is appealing, after one trip down to Bournemouth I didn't fancy another laborious jaunt. The vector drawings are competent, and complement the footplate controls perfectly. But graphics aren't really important in this kind of game - it's the atmosphere created by accuracy that matters. So dedicated train fans will love the feel of Evening Star, but you have to be an enthusiast to enjoy it.'
PAUL ... 70%
By today's standards the Southern Belleish graphics are a bit poor, with some huge jumps in the foregound. And though the accelerated-time facility is something of a godsend, Evening Star is by turns incredibly dull and far too complicated. If you're into trains and you haven't seen or played Southern Belle, you might find Evening Star fun; but it could almost be mistaken for a rerelease.'
MIKE ... 48%
It's several years now since Hewson released its minor classic Southern Belle, a steam train simulation which took you as driver/fireman on a London-Brighton steam run. Evening Star is the rather belated follow-up, reproducing the previous format and graphical approach but in a more extensive and sophisticated style.
The game relives a trip from steams halcyon days when the mighty BR9F engines pulled trains across the beautiful countryside on a 70-mile haul from Bath to Bournemouth. Trainspotters (real ones!) will immediately know we're in a different league from the Belle. Instead of a straight 60-mile dash, programmer Mike Male and designer Bob Hillyer have recreated every tortuous twist and turn, incline and decline, tunnel and embankment. And if you don't think The Star's a runaway demon, just try to control her temper as she hurtles down the long decline to poor little Shoscombe at 75mph!
But while the Hewson boys have packed in more content, they've not zapped up the presentation. The main 'over the fireman's shoulder' view of the track and surrounding countryside is still black and white, while the 'detached moving graphics' still lurch at you as though the brakes are intermittently being slammed on.
But these are minor quibbles in a program so packed, it'll have sophisticated gamers and railway enthusiasts alike curling their toes in delight. Gameplay options are too numerous to mention, based on how many of the engine's seven controls you wish to use and in what combination. The computer automatically takes over those you omit. All the variations give you different smoke levels from which you must interpret how efficiently you're burning coal. Toggle frequently between the main screen and timetable, and you'll know how close to schedule you are.
Getting going is fairly tricky, but there's a menu of seven different journeys you can make, all with various hazards and problems, from exploding fusible plugs to smashing through the Bournemouth buffers (a trifle embarrassing). But whether you choose to toddle along the local non-stop line or to smash the Bath to Bournemouth speed record, you'll always get an inspector's report assessing your safety, timekeeping and economy as a driver. Anything over 70% is pretty good, but below that beware!
I can't see that Evening Star will be a runaway commercial success, steam trains being something of a minority interest. But it's certainly in a different class from Southern Belle and, well, you never know - it may just gather fans from gamers as well as those funny little chaps in anoraks. All aboard!
|Value For Money||9/10|
Stoke that boiler! It's full steam ahead with the sequel to Hewson's runaway train-simulation success, Southern Belle (Leave out the train jokes - OK? Ed)
And it's another I trip on a seaside excursion. . I This time ' it's t Bournemouth fro Bath on the Evening Star.
Though the game is superficially very similar to its predecessor, this particular run offers a host of new problems, one of which is that much of the line is single-track working! This was a result of the Somerset an Dorset Railway's lack of funds when they built the branch, and while later owners tried to convert as much as possible to double-track, potentially hazardous single stretches remained.
Evening Star places you in the cab of the last train to haul the Pines Express in 1962, watching a vector graphics display of the countryside as you head to the sea. Admittedly it's not quite such interesting scenery as on the Southern Belle run, but it's a much longer journey - two hours if you opt for the full game.
If you haven't played Southern Belle you'd be well advised to watch the demo for a while, keeping an eye on the controls, before steaming out of Bath with only three controls to cope with - the Regulator, Vacuum Brake and Cut Off. Pressing the relevant initial key moves the lever or dial up one notch. Adding Symbol Shift decreases it.
For the experts you also have the Blower, Injector, Fire Doors, Stoking and Dampers...
I if you hate simulations or never wanted to be an engine driver you'll almost certainly hate everything about I this program.
But anyone else will certainly find it delightful. Every bit as good as the original
Author: Mike Male, Bob Hillyer
Reviewer: Jerry Muir
MACHINES: Amstrad/Spectrum/CBM 64/BBC B/Acorn Electron
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum/Amstrad/CBM 64
The mere mention of a steam train can have a curious effect on seemingly normal people. Their eyes glaze over and a tear of nostalgia can sometimes be glimpsed.
I've never quite understood it myself. The same as I can't quite understand the strange urge which forces people to stand for hours on station platforms train spotting. Is it a healthy way to spend your time, I ask myself?
For me, it's the age of the train which causes British Rail to make the going grate. Adding soot and steam to the misery of train travel would be too much.
But not for a vast number of people. And it's with these people Hewson appears to be onto a nice little earner with its steam train simulations. Witness the success of Southern Belle.
Now Hewson is trying its luck again with Evening Star which recreates the Journey on the Somerset and Dorset line between Bournemouth and Bath.
And, no doubt, it will be just as successful as Southern Belle.
The Evening Star was apparently one of the most powerful steam locomotives to run in Britain. It was, according to Hewson, one of the "legendary" BR9F class.
Well this simulation allows you quite a few types of journeys over the same seventy miles of track. There's the training run, local non-stop run, local stopping run, full line stopping run to Bournemouth, record attempt run and a chance to drive the "Pines Express" whatever that is. There's also a demo which allows you to sit back and enjoy the journey.
The screen layout is very much the same as Southern Belle, the large part being taken up with the view of the cab, controls and line ahead. A section on the right contains messages about signals, speed and information about coal and water.
The loco is controlled from the keyboard and the number of keys involved is great. Realistic but a little confusing.
Trains may seem a little tame in the simulation stakes when you think of others around. Don't you believe it. You can still come a cropper by de-railing the train by going too fast or hitting the buffers. There's also the chance of colliding with other trains.
So, to sum up. If you bought Southern Belle and liked it, then you'll need no urging to buy Evening Star. If you like trains or ever wanted to be a train driver, check this simulation out.
Me? Well, I'll stick to the 8.05 from Enfield Chase. No simulation could ever truly recreate the horror of that journey!
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