Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Train Conductor 2 Review for Android

The following review was posted on on December 28th of 2011. It was originally written during the wee hours of Christmas morning whilst watching Community and waiting for my entire family to wake up and start cracking open presents. I had to wait through a long breakfast of my mother making juice with her new blender and a large amount of toast, bacon and eggs to be made. Between breakfast duties, I got a lot of games of Train Conductor 2 and showed it off to my relatives. 
They were amazed something like that existed, let alone on phones. Those with Smart Phones even bought it with their new iTunes cards they got over Christmas. It was awesome. Firstly, the creators are Australian and secondly, the game is tons of fun. It's hard to criticise something that is so much fun. That's why I rarely complain about sex or Futurama or Community or the works of Christopher Nolan. It's just too much fun and great to look back on, but I think any criticism, no matter how petty, just shows how jaded I really am.

I'll probably get to a point one day where I won't be able to take a glitch here or a bug there, but till then, I'll smile, let it slide and just shrug my shoulders. No game is perfect...although some do come close...Train Conductor 2, in it's simplicity, fun and light-hearted nature comes very close. 

I recently got an Android phone - my first smartphone - and while I was glad to have a navigational tool and have something to help me on my way, I was also looking forward to playing some of the games I'd constantly heard about. The games for the Android aren't really dissimilar from those on the iPhone, but hey, I have an Android and I'm loving it, so why not check out a few games?

However, I was stumped from the get go. Most of them I had heard in passing or were on the iTunes store, so I was drawing a blank. I eventually heard someone mention a new game called Train Conductor 2, a game by Australian Developers Voxel Agents. I was a bit hesitant at first, I mean how much fun can conducting trains really be.

The game is in the vein of games such as Flight Control, not just for it's transportation aspect, but also it's game mechanics of moving your desired mode of concern to where it's meant to be. I was going to get Flight Control, but I remembered that I'd purchased it off Steam some time ago and think that was enough. Flight Control is a bit repetitive and the music - while catchy - can also be a bit repetitive. Train Conductor 2 never has that problem.

I often praise games with great sound and music but I always feel like some games just capture the spirit of where it's set or where they're coming from when it comes to the sound design and music.  TC2 definitely has that . The game takes place in the greatest country in the world: America - if you didn't get that from the title. You play a train conductor in Miami initially and you have the cool sounds of a breeze and the gulls then a nice bit of funk begins to play as you're told by a red-headed girl that you will need to make sure these trains get to where they're going.

It's as simple as that.  Four tracks, several trains, no time limit and  you have to make sure they don't crash into one another. The game is quite lenient with close calls with the game which adds to the excitement.  But if your trains are going to crash, they will crash. The game relies on fast reflexes and strategy.  As you see one track light up, you may have to stop another train in it's tracks on number 4 just so you can slide the next one in from number 2.  But wait, there's another one coming from number 1.  What do you do then?

The game's difficult curve is mixed with over 7 different levels.  Each level is barely similar to the last but plays with a new mechanic. However, these mechanics are usually just for the level itself and often don't help too much for future levels. This excludes levels such as New York and Seattle which make sure that you are focusing on blocked passages but other levels seem to be too dissimilar to warrant that much change in game method. It's all fairly standard but still can be a lot of fun if you've got a few minutes to kill. Starting off with the Miami level Voxel focuses on making sure you can just manoeuvre your trains from one track to the next but once it becomes dark, the night takes over the game.

Ghosts and Aliens roam the American countryside messing with your trains. These are my favourite levels as they aren't restricted to the game's toughest mechanic of crossing trains while making a move. The ghosts and demon trains will simply float through one another and it is magnificent during the challenge maps to see ten of them flow perfectly to where they're going in just a matter of seconds.

The game looks fantastic and has 3-D trains on a fairly 2-D background but there's always something going on. During the Miami level a shark swims under the bridged tracks.  During the Roswell level you'll see agents come and go and during the New York level the underground can be quite lively.

The game really situates itself with it's location and even though it kind of uses stereotypes it never really detracts from the game. It's a bit like if they sat down with a big whiteboard and started with a bunch of levels and then just listed everything they could about those cities. Oh and finally, the character design of the girl is incredibly well-done and cute even. But during the Seattle level she seems to have a minor crazy streak when you run over a yeti, saying  I don't know what that was "but I liked crushing it."

In fact I tried doing the tutorial later on to show someone she said that and she followed it up with "I feel like a sandwich."  Despite the lack of voices I feel like they have her character, if a bit mentally skewed, down to a T. Oh and there's also some evil guy during the ghost levels but I think he just runs an old amusement park and is getting away with it due to a lack of meddling kids.

The game looks like a triple-A title from the guys at Rovio or Half-Brick but it's just an indie studio here in Australia. The game's design and music is never boring or ever a problem, and levelling up to the next map is never a chore as it accumulates how many trains you've conducted over the entire game. The levels do get a little bit out there at times with the paranormal levels such as the Seattle level where yeti-like creatures hide in the snow and block your path. I was half expecting Bigfoot to slowly come in Frogger style and cause havoc with the tracks and then you'd have to fix them.

The game has some strong leaderboards and even with a few thousand downloads I cannot recommend this any more than I have above. I know I'm usually meant to critique these games harshly but I feel like this is one of those games that just knows everything about what it's doing. The only criticism I have is that I wish there were more levels and that there were a Free trial version for iPhone users. I think the game is almost perfect even for just a mobile game.  I could imagine it being a great little XBLA or Steam game that you could smack on for a few minutes and enjoy yourself.

The game was reviewed on a Samsung Galaxy S II. The game is available on the iPhone and iPad

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