I’m not a big fan of trains. I’ve had so many negative experiences, that even the idea of a train-based video game makes me see red. Despite that, Train Valley was just about cute enough for me to want to give it a try. It’s a small game, with a very simple premise. You’ve got to get the trains from point A to point B, on time and without incident. Seems pretty easy? Well, it is up until you add points C, D, E, F, G and H.
Mechanically, the game is actually pretty neat. You are able to add or delete terrain, objects and rails as you please, which makes building a versatile train track fairly simple. Which is definitely a positive, as new stations will pop up all over the place, meaning you will have to redesign tracks on the fly. While that may sound like a bit of a bugger, you’re given some top tools to help you out. The first of which is the ability to pause time – okay, it’s not groundbreaking, but it is incredibly useful. The second is even more useful, which is the ability to rewind time. Having the ability to prevent a train crash, and then to get the train to reverse to prevent any damage, is an absolute God send.
The presentation of the game is pretty incredible too. It’s not just that the graphics are well-rendered and colourful, but also that there is a wonderful soundtrack. All combined, the game is so peaceful that it’s difficult to get frustrated with. When new stations pop up in seemingly impossible locations, just to piss you off, you still will struggle to raise any anger at it, because it’s just so relaxing. The best bit is that none of it is, at all, overstated. The graphics and the soundtrack just fit together perfectly, harmonising so wonderfully to fully engage you in the game.
Despite the relaxing nature, Train Valley is still a challenge. Even though stations are scripted to pop up in certain locations, when you first play the map, you won’t know where that is. That is what makes the game such a fun challenge. You always have to be as direct as you can between stations, while still leaving open the possibility for further expansion. This is the level of thought that I really enjoy in a strategy game – always thinking of future moves. It could be five, ten, or fifteen moves ahead, but you always need to be prepared for the possibility, and that kind of thing really appeals to me.
First Great Western class
Granted, the game is pretty simple, but it still requires some explanation. Every game does, and the developers shouldn’t be so cocky as to think theirs doesn’t. Unfortunately, Train Valley’s tutorial is incredibly light. There’s so much that is left unsaid, which would really help players throughout the game. Money management is especially light and can be very frustrating to keep an eye on if you’re not a frugal person.
When developing a game, it’s always hard to consider every angle, and every person who might play it. Making allowances for disabled gamers is, however, a very important part of any game’s development cycle, and it’s disappointing that the developers failed to give it ample thought for Train Valley. While I do praise the game for having a bright, colourful and gorgeous display, colourblind users might struggle with it a bit, and that is a bit of a shame.
The Final Word
Train Valley is fun, but not fantastic. There are some basic flaws in it that could, and probably should be fixed. It’s nothing major, but it is a bit frustrating that there are some basic things that have been missed out. It’s also not great that it isn’t disability-friendly, as that is a major thing for developers to consider these days. Overall though, the game is really very solid, and getting your trains to run around smoothly is a fun little challenge that you can dip in and out of.