Grab your engineer’s cap and blow that whistle, it’s time to conquer the iron road with Train Valley. At first glance and after playing tycoon games with vast maps it’s easy to think this game is for the young. We were challenged within the third level, losing trains and going bankrupt.
The maps fit on one screen but they’re populated with random buildings, rocks, debris and trees. This means that if you fail your mission and reload the map, you may still need to layout different routes.
Laying track and connecting the stations that are built for you is the first step, then comes the highlight of Train Valley. When trains are ready to depart, a bell is sounded and an icon shows at a station indicating which station it wants to go to. You need to organise a route and click the station to send it on its way. You could be brave and juggle multiple trains on a route, we did and found a train we thought was clear crashing into another.
Sending trains on their way, you are in control of the points they will cross. As a train you’ve previously sent heads over tracks in the opposing direction, it’ll change automatically so as not to de-rail. This is where we found ourselves thinking a route was fine but didn’t take into account other trains already on route. Next thing we knew there were trains going in the wrong direction or crashing into each other.
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This logistical nightmare is just so much fun and you’ll find the stress of managing so much lingering in your chest. You don’t need to worry where the stations go, Train Valley handles that for you. Stations, tunnels and bridges will appear as the level progresses. Stations don’t always pop up in the same order either, further forcing each play through to be different.
There are four countries each with six areas to play. The first five will have goals like earning a certain amount of money, avoiding crashes and more. The sixth area is a free-for-all where your only goal is to finish with as much money as you can. Take all that you’ve practised and juggle the demand of each train for a determined amount of time.
The time you’re given in each area is shown as a month/year on a progress bar. This changes depending on the area, but as each year finishes you’re hit with an annual tax. This is where we came unstuck again, besides being surprised by two trains colliding. If you spend too much money laying track and destroying scenery the tax could send you bankrupt. If you go bankrupt, the area fails and you’ll have to give it another go.
The financial restriction is a great little mechanic because a train may not make it to a station in time to provide the income you need. This forces you to use the track you’ve laid so far and make decisions on which trains you’ll set in motion.
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The longer a train takes to get to its station the less money it’s worth. As time progresses so does the power and speed of trains, but faster trains will lose money faster as well. So, leaving these trains in the station will cost you more than you expected. Train Valley doesn’t indicate what type of train will be pulling out of the station. As it leaves, that’s when you’ll find out how fast it’ll be travelling. You may need to stop a train momentarily to stop it from crashing into a slower train.
You can stop trains at almost any moment and tell it to reverse direction or continue on once it’s stopped. It takes a small distance to stop but it can be enough for a panic move to not work and you’ll lose both trains. Sometimes we were forced to lay track in a way that a train needed to go over a set of points then reverse into the station.
The only real criticism that we have for this game is the music. It’s nice but it gets repetitive really quickly. We played with the music off from the second level onwards. This didn’t really detract from the game and we didn’t expect a full orchestral set for a game this size so don’t let it sway your decision.
Train Valley doesn’t have or need difficulty settings, it’s a set of challenges that’s left to you to fix. Loading is fast and when we failed, we wanted to get right back into it and try again. Also when we didn’t complete all the goals, those goals are now on our to-do list. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, you can pause the game at any time. This allows you to look at what’s going on and make decisions at your own pace. That being said a surprising crash or incorrect station will always happen.
Train Valley is only $9.99 USD ($13 AUD) this game is easily worth $20 USD in our books. It’s a bargain price and you’ll re-visit this over and over. Amazing effort from the 3 man team.
Official Train Valley Website