With a concept like this, Mining Rail 2 was always going to be onto a winner. Described as a roller coaster game, you hurtle down tracks in a mine cart as fast as possible and try not to fling yourself off the tracks. And despite the developer’s best intentions to ruin the experience with a series of fundamental issues, this remains a game that is tons of fun.
Mining Rail 2 has a simple premise; you start in your mine cart deep in the mines and must use the momentum and steer into the corners to get to the safe station at the bottom of the track as quickly as possible. Along the way you need to reach up and grab coins and collectibles – you literally throw your arms up in the air like you are on a roller coaster.
Controlling your kart is all done with the left thumbstick: pushing left or right tilts the kart, pulling back applies the brakes and pushing forward puts your arms up in the air. It’s a simple game to control. Other than the thumbstick, Y will allow you to summon one of the helpers when prompted in the top left corner, and B pauses the game. That’s right, the B button. Not the Start/Options/Menu that it has been on every other game since the dawn of man, but the B button. And I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve fallen foul of this stupid button configuration.
Each track has three objectives. Firstly, you will need to just simply complete the track. Then, complete one ‘lap’ flawlessly, before attempting the trickiest – to complete it five times in a row. Each time you complete a track, the time to complete the next one gets a little shorter. Fall off the track and you can restart from where you fell using the jewels you collect on the way down.
You can’t simply just let gravity take over though and hope for the best. You will need to lean into the corners at the right times to avoid coming off the rails and dodge obstacles that you will need ridiculously fast reactions to notice. There are also numerous collectibles to pick up on the way down. These can be coins to then spend on upgrades, jewels to use to retry levels, or one of the two helpers; the skeleton and the golden eagle.
The skeleton is found in the mine portion of the level and basically grants invincibility, as collecting the green skull plops a skeleton on the back of your cart to take over driving. Certain levels will allow you to race against the skeleton on those levels that have split tracks, with the prize being a blue diamond, that is worth 10 jewels. The golden eagle is found in the outdoors section and helps you collect the various items on the way down, so you don’t need to worry about them. It can also squawk to ward off rogue deers or goats that have wandered on to the track.
If this is starting to sound like a fever dream, then wait until we get to the bonus levels.
Between the eagle squawk and the constant pickaxing sounds within the mines, it has to be said that most of the sound effects used in Mining Rail 2 seem like they have been recorded on a potato. There isn’t one good sound effect in this game – not even the fellow mine kart driver clapping you as you reach the safe station. Which is a shame because some of the musical tracks really help to build tension as you risk taking a corner at full speed because you are a few seconds behind the clock.
There is an options menu to check the sound volume but in yet another ingenious button configuration, the sliders for sounds are all assigned to the right analog stick. It would make a bit more sense if this was alluded to but instead you have to spend another five minutes figuring out how to use the menu screen.
There are ten areas in total, with ten levels in each. Complete all three tasks on every level in an area though and you can unlock a bonus 11th level, providing you find the corresponding closed-off mine shaft hidden away and break through the barrier.
Sadly, there isn’t really much to distinguish between the different areas. Once you are out of the mine sections, all the outdoor areas look identical, save for a different name on the level select screen. Later areas update the mining areas with new features but again, these do feel repetitive.
Completing just ten tasks across an area unlocks a level of the Ghost Mine, the aforementioned bonus levels. Down in these mines there are bats, more skeletons, a creepy mist that whispers as you go through it, and spiders. There is a lack of lighting to make these levels trickier, and even when out in the open the only thing to light your way are sconces dotted along the edge of the track. But even despite the archaic graphics, this is a pretty creepy setting with the lights off. And then the comedy laugh from the skeletons completely ruins the ambience.
There are 48 achievements in Mining Rail 2, and like the button configurations, it does things very differently. In essence, all the achievements are collectibles in the same way – raising your arms up for the coins and jewels; the achievements are floating trophies that you must grab as you go past.
Beyond the litany of issues raised in this review, Mining Rail 2 on the Xbox One nails the most important thing: fun. And for that reason alone, it’s an enjoyable game. It is laughably bad in places, and offensive to the ears, but completing the tasks and aiming for the safe station against the clock is undoubtedly a lot of fun. And there’s a fairly decent challenge to completing all the tasks, with later tracks incorporating all manner of twists and turns to throw you off the rails. It won’t win any awards – unless there is one for Best Mining Roller Coaster Game of the Year, in which case it’s definitely in the running – but Mining Rail 2 is certainly worth a look.