Train Valley Review: Back On Track
The essential track building experience of Train Valley comes to consoles for the first time.
Game: Train Valley: Console Edition
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Flazm, Blitworks
Website: TrainValley (train-valley.com)
Did you ever watch Thomas and Friends and thought "Man, that stationmaster's job is so easy"? Well, let me tell you, Old Bailey's job was NOT easy.
Train Valley was released on PC a while back but has made its debut on consoles. The game starts you off with a scrapbook-style UI that jumps you right into the action. You're presented with a top-down 3D world that makes you feel like you’re playing with your toy trains. Except unlike with a toy set, they blow up and take away a part of your soul when you swear you made that route correctly. Each mission has a set number of objectives. To my confusion, however, it wasn't always clear what was the one objective that would progress me to the next mission. Going bankrupt is an immediate mission failure. The better you can connect your stations and the better you can get your trains to their appropriate destinations, your chance for success gets - well - better!
We're scrapbooking, y'all!
There were some things with the help tooltips that made me scratch my head. Some prompted me to remember how I did it before, but at that point, I had just started the game. Most of the UI is symbol-based and that works for the most part. You can speed up the game and even pause it (when you have a brain and use it). The one thing that I was frustrated with was the fact that the arrow that you used to navigate throughout the map is unusually tiny. I appreciated that the arrow did snap to only a few items based on what mode you’re in but still made me release some trains when I didn’t want to more than I’d like to admit. I wasn’t also a huge fan of the fact I had to cycle through the modes with the bumpers. While it worked, it didn’t feel like the most efficient way to do it. Maybe having the option to hold the bumper down and bring up a wheel would be a nice touch? This game was meant to be played on a mouse and keyboard, but I still give the developers credit for making it mostly playable on a controller.
When you do get the tracks set up and even figure out how to make those fancy junctions where trains can switch between different tracks that I’m calling transition triangles (patent pending!), there is a sense of accomplishment. Seeing your little trains get to the right place safe and sound put a smile on my face. In the same but opposite way though when you see your mistakes happen, you can only watch in horror as your poor trains collide with each other. Also taking out precious train tracks, which of course cost money! As you progress through the missions they throw in more stations for you to connect and manage. Once that happens, all bets are off. I recommend using the pause menu to assess the situation when you can. Otherwise, you will be in for a world full of hurt and shame.
Me: I've finally figured out how to play this game! Game: Oh really?
Overall, I appreciate trying this style of game and I'm especially thankful that it didn’t have as steep of a learning curve as a game like Cities: Skylines. If you like trains and like a challenge, Train Valley is for you!
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