Title: Loco-Motion (In Japan: Guttang Gottong)
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami (licensed in US to Centuri Games)
Date Published: March 1982
Platforms: Arcade, Intellivision (M Network), Atari 2600 (M Network, unreleased)

Loco-Motion is a puzzle game that could be described as the precursor to Pipemania. It supports two players (taking turns). The player is presented with a grid of tiles (with dimensions of up to six tiles along each side). One of the tiles is missing, and by pushing the joystick in the desired direction, one of the neighbouring tiles can be slid into the free slot, exactly like a sliding block puzzle. Each tile has a piece of railroad track on it, connecting certain edges to neighbouring tiles. The available track pieces are:

  • A crossroads. (N-S, E-W)
  • Two 90° bends. (N-E, W-S) (N-W, E-S)
  • A straight path with 'buffers' on the other two edges, which turn the train back the way it came. (N-S E-E W-W) (E-W N-N S-S)
  • A 90° bend with buffers on the other two edges.
  • A mystery junction, which can be entered from any direction, with the exit direction only being shown when a train reaches that tile.
  • Buffers at all edges.
Around the edges of the grid are 'stations' that can be connected to the tracks on the grid tiles. A small red locomotive makes its way down the track at a steady speed. The object of the game is to move the tiles to construct a path for the locomotive that eventually takes it through all of the stations. To help the player visualise the path that the train will take, the route is marked with a guiding line every time a tile is moved. If the train goes off the tracks (i.e. hits the blank tile) the player loses a life. When the locomotive goes through a station, it collects the passengers waiting there. When all the passengers have been collected, the round is complete.

If the locomotive is taking too long to reach one of the stations, the passengers waiting there may get angry. A countdown appears over that station, and when it reaches zero a Crazy Train (a strange train-monster with an evil face at either end) is unleashed from the station. These monsters behave in the same way as the locomotive, although they move a little faster. The player must try to keep them on a seperate loop of track from the locomotive, as any collision between trains destroys both parties (the player can of course use this to their advantage if they can force Crazy Trains onto the same piece of track).

To further hamper dawdling players, if the game detects that the locomotive has spent too long circling the same closed loop of track, it will send out a tornado-shaped enemy to hunt it down. Holding down the fire button speeds up the locomotive. The home versions had a panic button which would randomly move the locomotive to another tile on the grid, although the original version does not seem to have this feature.

In some respects, the gameplay of Loco-Motion is superior to that of the Pipemania games that are its nearest relation. Because the locomotive only takes up one square, tiles that it has passed through can then be moved again to build different routes (and this is often necessary). The addition of enemies obviously adds another challenge. Best of all, tiles can be moved while they are occupied, meaning that the player has a chance to divert a train right up to the last moment.

The game's audio is notable considering its age, with a snatch of I've Been Working on the Railroad, and chugging and steam whistle sound effects.

A bootleg version of this game exists with the title Coto Coto Cottong. This version uses different graphics for the passengers, track, and lettering. Both versions are supported by MAME. There is a conceptually similar game on the Atari 2600 called Roadrunner. There is another very similar game on the Intellivision system called Happy Trails (by Activision).

Information about the home versions:

http://www.intellivisionlives.com/bluesky/games/credits/1983b.html

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