A-Train HX Xbox 360
Here we are with Artdink’s latest foray into train management. A specialised yet popular genre that’s seen fairly large sales by the likes of Transport and Railroad Tycoon. I appreciate this is a weird genre in some respects, especially on a hardcore gaming console, but clearly there’s a market. The original series started life on the Amiga and PC, while A-Train 6 was released on the PS2 three years ago. Climb aboard as I take you around what this game has to offer.
The basic premise in A-Train is a simple one. Rather then make money as such, the idea is to make money AND increase the size of your city. So the population grows and you achieve your targets, and to do this you have to build a railway. You’ll initially start with a town or two and from there you can decide the types of area you wish to promote. The initial towns will provide some housing and some people but you also need various business sectors to make them work for you. You also need money, and you need resources. Initially you’ll see that your railway disappears off the fairly large map you inhabit. This is your first source of both people and freight. So to start, you’d build a new railway from one of your initial towns to a point on the map, then from there build your first industry to promote growth of that industry. Once you’ve built your first passenger station, you’ll need to build a freight station to import resources. Without these the area around the station simply won’t grow. Once your freight station is built you’ll see paddy fields appear and then small houses and as the game progresses, providing you supply freight – the business sector will start to grow. Business sectors will consist of retail, commercial, industries and tourism.
Industries will usually consist of factories and these will produce the materials (well – boxes!) that provide the resources for your areas. Without them the area will not grow and so the population will cap and the target will not be met. Fewer people means fewer profits and your business will demise. Money can also be obtained through dealings on the stock market. You see, the problem with building a railway is you should always build for the future and make it bigger then you have too, but to do so means running at a loss. The stock market allows you to make massive gains to therefore keep investing. This is pretty much how a railway works in the real world too. Well – a Japanese one. It’s a simple case of buy low, sell high and make profit. Then build more tracks and trains, or even ports and airports.
So why does it appeal? Well the game works on various levels. Firstly it appeals to those who want their own model railway along with a massive city, plus those who’d like to imagine what its like running a railway in a real-time environment. It’s not quite the same I grant you, but as accurate as it needs to be without going into massively deep micromanagement. Watching trains go about there business has a nice soothing effect on some people and this game adds to that some lovely soothing jazz music. (The jolly intro music wouldn’t sound out of place in a FF game!). Another factor is it also allows people to try out complicated railway and timetable systems although I grant you, this part won’t apply to everyone.
Graphically the game looks basic but functional. Once the cities grow it looks quite impressive and you have the option of ride the trains in your city through the driver’s eyes. It’s also fairly atmospheric with the seasons represented quite well and typically but soothing spot effects. Sadly, although there are lots of roads, no cars are present, although for some strange reason you do get Blimps and planes flying around. I’m sure I spotted a UFO too!
If you feel the pace is too slow the speed can be increased, saving you “real time”. In all it’s a game that will only appeal to certain people but it’s also one of those titles that’s enjoyable to watch.