The early stages of Train Valley: Console Edition are a bit of a struggle. The controls feel whack, the action is fast and unrelenting, whilst the need to balance many elements is enough to have you on the verge of quitting.
But stick with it, understand that slow and steady wins the race – and that the pause button is your friend – and you’ll discover a game that is highly addictive; clever in what it does. Yet, even then, no matter how well the BlitWorks and Flazm teams have attempted to translate from the mobile and PC scene, piling tons of actions onto a console controller in the best way possible, it’s that control scheme and user interface which occasionally sees Train Valley: Console Edition derail; moving from frequently fun and fluid to a frustrating fever.
Train Valley: Console Edition comes with two different game modes – a main Classic career in which mission structures and objectives come to the fore, and a Sandbox mode for you to play around in, forgoing any worries about fundraising or box ticking.
It’s the Classic career which is easily the most appealing of the two options and whilst the Sandbox works as intended and will let you fall into the fast flow of Train Valley with ease, the lack of overall goal hampers it.
That’s not the case should you decide to work through set objectives of Classic, as you are dropped into single-screen worlds and tasked with building railroads in hope of connecting towns. See, throughout Train Valley: Console Edition, various trains will be found in these individual towns and cities, needing to get on with their business, gaining access to their neighbouring locales. Running a track from one to the other, in the straightest, most simplest way possible is the name of the game, but as you’d expect, it’s not long before lines start crossing each other, sidings are required to host locos and switches need to be amended.
With numerous towns in play at any one time, Train Valley fast becomes a complicated affair, as you attempt to deliver the colour- and logo-coded trains from one place to the next. What starts utterly simply, really does turn into a puzzling test of the mind, as you drop track, demolish it again, and rework lines to best suit.
Everything you do in Train Valley costs cash; each tile of the land coming with a different cost attached. For instance, a single empty, plain tile will be cheap to build a railway on, but should you need to chop down trees, remove the habitat of animals or smash through pre-existing structures, the price rises. With a constantly moving calendar system pushing you through the months and years, with taxes to be paid and bankruptcy always on the cards, you’ll need to ensure that your track is viable, but also as cheap as possible.
The only way to earn more money in Train Valley is to deliver those trains to the correct cities on time. Each comes with an initial value, but as they sit in a holding town, that price slowly decreases. Getting them out and on their way is key to earning the biggest of bucks, with the shortest routes the most cost effective. But shortest doesn’t always work in Train Valley.
For the most part it’s up to you to control the deliverance of these trains. Holding in place until you are ready for them to move, as well as having the option of slowing them down and stopping them out on track, should mean that Train Valley turns into a fever pitch of carriage jenga. But it works brilliantly, as you go about ensuring the correct trains end up in their required destination.
You don’t always have total control though. Occasionally things will start moving in a more automated way, with ‘guest’ trains popping up and moving through your world. These are well signed and signalled, so you’ll usually have plenty of time to react. The nice thing about this is the ramp in difficulty only really starts to come into play in the latter stages of the five unique worlds that play host to Train Valley, and so any skills or strategies will have been well earned before the trickier moments.
The Career will have you working through five seasons – Europe (1830–1980), America (1840–1960), USSR (1880–1980), Japan (1900–2020) and Germany (1830-2020) – with visual amendments recreating each scenario well. Apparently Train Valley also covers real-life events too, but the likes of the Gold Rush of the 1800’s, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the actions of World War II and the Cold War have mostly passed us by, really only feeling like nice little fillers. We’re blaming the pace of the action and the need to fully focus on the layouts and amendments of our railways to worry too much about what is going on around us. If we see a train, we want it to get to its destination pronto – we care little for what type of train, or the era that it comes from.
That Classic mode will also provide you with mission objectives too and whilst nailing these advanced requirements isn’t essential for progress, a ‘stamp’ system certainly gives reason to replay and redo previously taken in levels. With a stamp in hand for each objective you tick, there is a ton of replayability in Train Valley: Console Edition and a real reason to want to go back over previous stages. That’s helped even more by the random setup and nature of each stage – rarely does playing through a second or third time feel like repetition. When you consider that there are thirty train types present and a similar amount of stages, credit must go to the Flazm team for providing such a high level of content.
Train Valley: Console Edition looks and sounds great too. The sounds are all fitting of a railway puzzler, whilst visually it’s well detailed and easy to see what is going on; something which is utterly required for a game of this nature. Creating a maze of railways is easy, with a simple hold and drag system in place, whilst demolishing what is no longer needed is just as well worked.
But it’s that control scheme that lets things down a little. Train Valley: Console Edition is occasionally – and too regularly – totally frustrating, and that is all down to one simple thing – a pointer.
Attached to your controller bumpers, moving through tabs that let you amend switches, build and demolish track, send trains on their way or even push forth bonus locos for extra cash, the basics are all great. The system is fast, intuitive and well worked, ensuring that after a little while you’ll find yourself flowing from one system to another, all without a care in the world.
But actually being able to pinpoint where you want to create these actions is a whole different story. Utilising the d-pad or your thumbstick, you are left to manoeuvre a small pointer across the game board and it’s here where struggles commence. See, this pointer is tiny, properly small, and easily gets lost in the detailed environments. It’s a real hassle to pick up this arrow in the mayhem that is taking place, and even more so to use the controller to get it to sit where you want it. We’ve sat here for well into double figure hours playing Train Valley: Console Edition and have thoroughly enjoyed what we’ve taken in, but even now, we’ve still found ourselves struggling to dial in on specific pieces of track, certain trains or various towns. When timing is all too key in a game, and you’re left getting flustered by the inaccuracy of the inputs, something is wrong.
Yes, we’d put much of this down to the move from the mobile and PC scene to that of console controller, and there are certainly ways to get round it – pausing the action extremely frequently before getting your building needs in, is one – but it does occasionally mean this otherwise brilliant little railway puzzler becomes a source of annoyance.
Train Valley: Console Edition is one that we can see ourselves going back to for weeks – and possibly months – in the future. The highly addictive, simple-yet-complex nature lends itself brilliantly to a game that can be played for a few minutes at a time, or – as we’ve found – as hours pass. There are serious frustrations with the control scheme and UI, but other than that this is a super little game that will keep you on your toes at all times. Just remember, that pause button is your friend.
Train Valley: Console Edition is available from the Xbox Store