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iPhone Game of the Year?…’Train Conductor’ [Review]

TrainConductorI play a lot of games for DIYgamer. Usually, I like them and sometimes I feel indifferent. But Train Conductor, the latest release from the Voxel Agents, is an exception in every way. Flight Control left a huge imprint and games have tried to follow its formula since. But for as much as it laid out a formula, the game was unique and hasn’t been replicated since. Most of the titles that followed the formula added their own flair and surrounded a different type of vehicle, like glpeas’ Carcophony. Who would have thought that traffic control would ever be this fun?

Train Conductor is an extraordinary title on the iPhone/iPod Touch. It breathes excellence in every aspect and deserves to be checked out by anyone that is an owner of the platform. And all of this is before we even start the review! But I’ll get to it now, provided you can promise me you will try it out.

Gameplay

In Train Conductor, you begin your first day and the directions are laid out for you. Watching over several tracks, you must make sure that the numbered trains make it to their respective tracks (e.g. a train with a number 1 goes to the number 1 track). This is done by sliding your finger from one track to whichever desired; the train will follow. 1_AlicespringsLet me emphasize this: the controls were PERFECTLY. You’re never pissed off about not being able to control a track or train because the Voxel Agents made sure the controls were remarkably fluid. The addition of being able to stop a train by simply tapping it eases the stressful gameplay and makes the controls even better just by a simple mechanic.

With four different Australian areas and cities, the challenge grows as you must eventually manage a higher number of trains and train tracks. Some of the trains will be longer than the others. For example, if a train is carrying gold it will have a more hefty load and you’ll find other trains will crash into it more easily. A whole other level, however, is achieved by the “Ghost” mode. This mode is easily accessed by tapping the day button, which will turn it into night. When turned into night, a complete parallel ghost world is revealed. These are the same four cities, but packed with different gameplay mechanics. For one thing, while the ghost trains cannot crash into one another, they also cannot be stopped. Skull trains must make it to their designated number otherwise your conducting shift will end. This mere tap of an on screen icon gives you an entirely different reason to play by different rules. It drives your level of addiction over the edge because if you’re bored with daytime, you can go to nighttime and vice=versa. 3_Melbourne_graveyardHopefully, future updates will add new tracks for both. Eventually, it becomes hard to decide whether the daytime or nighttime are superior.

Another excellent mechanic is the ability to speed up the trains. This will not accelerate the time, but rather only the trains. It provides for an even greater challenge but also feels more gratifying as you see those points stack up high! Overall, the gameplay in Train Conductor is so astonishingly addictive that I cannot praise it enough. It is by far my favorite iPhone game of the year in 2009 and while it may follow a formula, The Voxel Agents have added that bit of originality and style to make it their own. Simply put, the gameplay is fucking awesome.

Style

Train Conductor looks beautiful. The animations are smooth and the art is magnificently done. It’s simplistic, cartoony, but has a stylish flow and is downright adorable. While I usually mention the music and sound effects in the Everything Else section, this time I’ll move it up to the Style section because they complement the art style so damn well. Everything about the game feels good, from the menu screen to the gameplay.

Story

Perhaps the only thing Train Conductor lacks is a story. But for a game like Train Conductor, incorporating a story will not make it much farther than just plain cheesiness. It’s fine as is and story doesn’t even cross your mind when you’re playing the game.

Everything Else

The replay value comes in not with only the addiction, but with Plus+ integration. 4_MainMenuI have 430 out of the 850 total points that can be achieved by receiving all of the game’s Awards and I’m dying to finish this review up and get more. With leaderboards, the chance to talk to friends, connect to Facebook, and other abilities that Plus+ offers, the game seals the deal. Listen, I’m being honest with you here: do not look past Train Conductor. This is the game you need to get. You will love it and it will reward you. For $1.99, there is absolutely no other bit of pleasure that can be acquired which is worth more than this. You will not regret it, mark my words!

Check out the Voxel Agents at their official website.

[The reviewer obtained a free copy of the game for review purposes.]

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