I like trains and I like puzzles. Does this little game push the genre far enough or does it run out of steam too fast… Will this little train game do enough to win my love?
Train Valley is a game which challenges the player to build and manage a small railway. Players find themselves placing tracks, switching points and watching the funds (with the ultimate aim of getting trains from one station to another station of a set colour.)
Players start each map with a few stations that they must join with track. Each square of track laid costs a little money. If there is already something occupying the space then the price to demolish and build the track can sky rocket. Funds take a little more awareness to manage as at the end of every calendar year the game will tax you a set amount of money.
The question then begs to be asked… “How does one earn money?” Each train has a value which ticks down over time. Once the train fully enters its appropriate station you earn an amount of money equal to the train value. This is a nice simple technique. However, it was the the cause of a great deal of frustration at the start of the game where you must watch your funds quite closely.
Over a single game the difficulty progression is quite pleasant. Initially there is a lot focus on controlling your funds. You build tracks and only manage a few trains. By the mid game new stations requiring new track are being placed onto the map. However, by this point your funds have hit the point where they are largely irrelevant. With your large quantities of spare cash you are able to smooth out the bumps in your network. In the final third of the game you have access to all the stations, you will have connected them all up and you will have a silly amount of money. This is where you need to start sending out the trains as quickly as you can before they start overrunning you.
In addition to just getting to the end of the time for the map players are given additional “Mission Objectives” that they are encouraged to complete. Successfully finishing a map and its objectives will earn you stamps.These stamps mark your progress through the game. However, there is no story, no characters and overall little variety beyond graphic style.
Trains change as the dates change, they go faster, become longer and look more modern. But none of this was ever really enough to distract me from the fact that I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again.
There are also few barriers to success. I was only able to identify 2 loss conditions. Firstly, my most common hurdle, was lacking the funds to pay the end of year tax. Secondly, destroying a special train. Both of these end the game straight away. For me, when these occurred, it frequently driven by the random starting nature of some of the maps and some of the random ejection of trains from the stations. As a consequence, whenever I lost I never felt as though I was in full control of what was about to happen.
This game has a lovely and complete settings section. You are able to adjust through a nice selection of resolutions and adjust graphical fidelity. Options are provided for window and colour-blind modes. You have separate control the sound effects and music in the game. You are also able to rebind keys. Players are able to switch into a sandbox mode if they think they deserve to be punished.
This is a simple mobile style game at a premium price point. I am afraid that for me, all this game ended up having was its looks. While the game play is not bad, it is most certainly not anything spectacular. My concern is that it is actually boring. It is a reasonable length for a game under a $5 price point, it took me 4 hours to clear. The problem of course is that it is not priced at $5. Even as someone who loves trains I cannot recommend this game to anyone at $10. It does not offer enough for the price. Graphics alone do not make a game, so this game earns from me…