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The player builds a path for their unstoppable locomotive by moving tracks which will allow it to pick up passengers.
Loco-Motion is basically an updated version of a sliding block puzzle game where the player can move pieces horizontally or vertically within a frame to complete a picture. However, the presence of a constantly moving locomotive complicates matters. The player controls the playfield and the aim is to guide the locomotive around the tracks to collect the passengers waiting at the stations located around the edges of the screen.
The player uses a joystick to slide a piece of the track into the vacant square. The locomotive is always moving, but the player has the option of making it move faster to get to the passengers more quickly by using a button next to the joystick. The player must avoid crashing the locomotive into the dead-end barricades (shown as a yellow 'X'), and also ensure that it does not run into the edge of the gap or a barrier at the playfield edge, either of which costs a life.
Eventually, the passengers waiting too long at one of the stations will be replaced by a countdown timer. If the player collects the passengers before the timer counts down, the value of the counter is added to the score. If the timer reaches zero, a "Crazy Train" is added to the track and the player must prevent the locomotive from crashing into it. When there is more than one Crazy Train on screen, there is the possibility to make them crash into each other and score a bonus. However, doing so will create a new pair of dead ends on the playfield, or destroy a station if the collision occurs inside it. If a bonus counter reaches zero at an unoccupied station, it will be destroyed.
As the player moves the pieces of track around, the route the locomotive will take is highlighted in yellow up to any dead end.
On higher levels, there are special pieces of track that have one entrance and three different exits. The player cannot choose which exit the locomotive takes from these, as it is picked randomly. Bonus points are awarded each time the locomotive crosses one of these pieces of track, but they do make it tricky to plan a route to a station.
A level is cleared when there are no more passengers to pick up, and the player then moves onto the next level which is a different layout, bigger or smaller with more dead ends. Also, the bonus stations appear more frequently and, on later levels, one or more Crazy Trains will be on screen at the outset.
If the player creates a closed loop of track and rides on it for several seconds, a "Loop Sweeper" appears which moves around the loop behind it. If the Sweeper reaches the locomotive, the player loses a life. Sweepers can be crashed into each other or into Crazy Trains to destroy them.
An extra life is awarded at 10,000 points.
|Travelling across bonus lines (lines which connect at junction)||150 points|
|Picking up passengers at each railroad stop||100 points|
|Crossing each block of train track to reach railroad stops||10 points per block|
|Completing a level without any stations being destroyed ("Perfect Clear")||5,000 points|
|Completing a level after some stations are destroyed ("Clear")||1,000 points|
Bonus station points are randomly determined, with a beginning high of 2,470 points.
The Intellivision and the Tomy Tutor were among the platforms to which Locomotion was ported. Meanwhile Activision was working on a similar game called Happy Trails which included strikingly similar gameplay. Happy Trails was released prior to Locomotion and saw great reviews, forcing Intellivision to release Locomotion at a reduced price.