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Should I be excited about… Train Valley (PC)

Jon Defazio enters the valley of the shadows of trains.

TrainValley4I feel the need to first of all tell you all that as this is a train management game, there will be the need to insert the obligatory “Bus rail replacement service” joke at the first available opportunity. That is all.

You’ve got to love a train management game. It brings out the inner OCD-anal retentive obsessiveness in you in the same way it brings out the inner psychopath when it gets too much for you. Train Valley 3D has you managing track construction, setting up switches and planning out routes for your trains from A-B as quickly as possible. Which, as it turns out, is everything you need to drive you a little bit crazy…

TrainValley3Ok, so the basic premise doesn’t require much explaining. Each train and station is colour coded (or lettered, there is a colourblind option to switch on) and you have a cash countdown on each train that only stops when the train reaches its destination. The quicker the train gets there the more it earns you. You have a limited startup fund and it’s game over if you become bankrupt. Each level has optional objectives which can be completed as well within the time parameter of the level. As the level progresses new stations open up requiring you to lay further track and juggle extra trains all moving at once. This is where you start to go slowly mad.

The key to this game is timing. You set up your track the way you want it, the simpler the better and you set off the trains when you want. All you have to do is set the switches so the train will reach the correct station. Lather, rinse, repeat. There is also a little Train button on the taskbar that releases an extra train for a cash bonus. This is the point where I frequently came undone. I’d start getting cocky, I’d send more trains, I’d think I can handle all the switches in time. Then it happens… One train clips another at a switch, they crash. In a panic I’d try to stop the other trains, too late. I’d caused enough devastation to satisfy Michael Bay. My solution? Send in more trains!!!

TrainValley2When you get it right though, there is also a good deal of satisfaction in seeing your trains snake through multiple sections of track to get to their destination without crashing into each other, as long as you can keep the inner Psycho under guard!

When things are going well you do get a bit of time to stand back and admire the scenery. Now that this version of train valley is in 3D it does make a more pleasant environment to play in. Whilst it has to be said that there isn’t anything groundbreaking about the graphics there are nice touches to be noted. The buildings around the station improve and expand as more trains arrive over time and the track laying animations are also quite satisfying.

TrainValleyWhilst it all looks rosey, there are a few issues that I had with the control system. Track laying can be a bit of an issue sometimes. Turning track 90° results in a backwards 180° being laid instead which is annoying at the best of times. There can be issues at times with connecting 2 sections of track together as there are very limited ways the track will connect.

This does bring me to another matter. Once all the stations open on a level you can find that space to lay track is at a premium and that some of the stations are really too close together sometimes. It does leave me wondering if they maybe have got the balance of spacing out the stations right and your track placement becomes somewhat ineffective. Sometimes you have to place large and awkward sections of track in just to connect one new station to your main loop of track. Tunnels and bridges that are rather important for expanding your track are only built by the game itself. Surely being able to build them in pre-selected areas would have been the better choice?

TrainValley1Whilst I did find the game lacking just a little bit in longevity, the version I am using is a pre-release one and will have 24 levels instead of the 12 I was able to play. Hopefully the new levels will be able to keep up the unique and varied feel of the ones I was able to play.

So, to buy or not to buy? That is what it boils down to really. If the developers are able to finish the full 24 levels and keep working on the little problems, this will work out as a great little game. It does have the right ingredients of planning and micromanaging with that drive to keep pushing yourself to finish each level with a better and better result. If it stays on track (bah, bad pun), you could have a solid management game that’s well worth your time and money.

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