I was wondering how to approach this preview and decided to reminisce about my own childhood memories of railways and trains…. I came up with the following three ghastly memories.
- Back in the days when state run rail service was coming to an end, a British Rail burger joint, aptly named Casey Jones Burgers, was born. They sold an iced-doughnut, stuffed with thick whipped cream. They were the size of a small baby. I used to walk for miles to random mainline London Railway stations to feast on these abominations. Praise be nationalised doughnuts
- Placing dead fish on the InterCity 125 Railway track to watch them splat… Erm… Suddenly I feel all a bit Norman Bates. I used to go fishing with my father and if we caught a Pike I would climb onto the railway tracks and…. SPLAT! This is normal, right?
- Strange old men staring over at me in the public toilets of Liverpool St station on my many doughnut trips. I was never sure as to why they were staring and what they were looking for, now I’ve grown up I realise they must have been looking for my cream stuffed monstrosities
“Why are you inflicting your atrocious childhood on us!?” I hear you wince. Well, in doing so, you may appreciate the childlike and ingenious charm of Train Valley a little more, and hopefully I’ve grabbed your attention (or you’ve made the sane choice and run a mile).
Train Valley is currently available via Early Access on Steam, created by indie studios Flazm Interactive Entertainment and Oroboro Games. They seem to have a bit of a history in the train management gaming world (which can’t be a very big world, but it is a world). You can stalk them HERE.
When I first saw the trailer for Train Valley I knew immediately I had to cover this game. A game akin to SimCity (or the superior Cities Skylines) with a cute appeal and easy on the eye aesthetics. The blurb stated how family friendly the game was and this added to my curiosity. My only worry was that it may be a touch too simple.
What I never expected was the fiendish puzzler that it actually is. Granted it is all I mention above, but Train Valley is beguiling. Behind the captivating façade lies a complex puzzler that will challenge many, and in my case, make you cry like a baby.
The concept, like most clever puzzle games, is simple. Each scenario/level you play is a different global location with a list of three objectives. You start a level usually with one or two stations, you lay a track to connect the stations; out comes the train from one station to another. There’s a sum of money that appears on the train, the longer a train takes to reach its destination, the more that money goes down. When it reaches the destination, that money goes into your wallet. The interface is streamlined and uncomplicated, comprising of a few straightforward commands.
Childs play, right? NO.
The stations are colour coded and represent Industry, Commercial, Residential areas etc. As you play, more stations will appear on that level, meaning more trains. Each train has a colour attached to it, this colour tells you the destination that the train needs to reach. Still simple, right? Fuck no! Things get splendidly complex rather fast, as you juggle your role as railway manager, train driver, signalman, builder and GOD.
OK….. I may be pushing things with God.
Trains will bump and crash, causing railroads to break, meaning money depletes fast unless you’re completely on the ball. Top this off with a fierce and fast tax system and your sanity will deplete almost as fast as your funds. Tears were shed and bumps appeared on my forehead as I repeatedly smashed my face into the desk.
As you manage to get your train to the correct town, not only are you rewarded with dosh for the bank, the said town starts to grow and evolve as well. New buildings pop up, you trains become more advanced, as does the cargo (which means bigger rewards).
It is still in the Early Access stage of development, but for all intents and purposes, this is a finished game. My only gripes were the balancing. It throws some hard puzzling at you early on, rather than breaking me in, it nearly broke me (this is from a man that breaks down at puzzles in Resident Evil and has to call his partner in to help).
Another is football stadiums. The game has a timeline that starts in the 1800’s. One of the features of the towns is modern football stadiums and they really look out of place and time. It’s a tiny thing, but it took away from the feel and vibe of the game.
Anyone that enjoys a challenging puzzler should feel at home with this game, the fiendish difficulty curve aside, its beautifully presented and wonderfully charming. It feels like a finished product and after all, who doesn’t like playing with trains?