Did you know? When developing their hit title Pocket Planes, NimbleBit was originally going to make the game Pocket Trains, but instead opted to embrace the power of flight instead of traveling across the countryside via boxcar. But whatever compunction they might have had about choo-choo-choosing the trains has apparently been dealt with, as Pocket Trains brings the power of the railroad to Android with all of the charms we’ve come to expect of their light resource-management simulations.
Video game developers face something of a conundrum every time they produce a new title: Change too much, and people complain that they aren’t getting the same experience they fell in love with; change too little, and they receive criticisms of being uncreative, things growing stale, or the whole thing just being a cheap cash grab. Cursed if they do, and cursed if they don’t; rarely is there a safe middle ground.
Fortunately for NimbleBit, though, they’ve not only found a solid spot on that middle ground, but they’ve firmly planted their flag there, and we’re alright with that. Characters and trains fashioned after retro-style game graphics race past more realistic backgrounds that zoom by like a blur. Taking a closer look allows you to watch as the humble Bitizens carry out their lives and routines in the train station and in the various cars you’ll be carrying down the tracks.
Even the cars themselves manage to walk a fine line, being “cute” without being so much so that you would consider them “childish.” There is a wide variety of different cars to haul down the tracks, including dining cars ranging from fine to fast food to ice cream and even pizza, as well as arcades and other finely-detailed amusements. These cars are shown in a cutaway view, so you can watch what is going on inside, while other cars containing shipments of various cargo are amusing in their own way. Our favorite so far is probably the shipment of pickles, which you can see swimming in brine through the transparent pickle jar-like train car.
The music which plays throughout these journeys is also suitable, and even a bit relaxing– a nice bit of travel music to accompany your travels as you watch your Bitizen passengers, take in the scenery, and occasionally tap the screen to pick up some extra cash.
Riding the Rails
Of course, Pocket Trains isn’t just about going from place to place; heavens no, you’ve got a business to run! Trains cost money to operate, and it’s by taking on different jobs to deliver various passenger and cargo cars that you’ll not only earn enough to keep the trains running, but also to expand your empire.
In total, there are six licenses you can acquire at a cost of 50,000 coins each. You’ll begin with a small area of Europe, which you can grow to earn more money before taking on other continents such as North America, Asia, South America, Africa, and Oceania. Put in enough time and money, and soon you’ll have locomotives criss-crossing all across the globe! But one thing at a time, as you’ll likely want to gain experience in Europe before branching off to new lands.
There are many factors to consider: Certain trains are assigned to certain lines, and you want to make sure you have the right engine for the job, with more powerful vehicles taking on the longer routes. You’ll occasionally need to purchase fuel, and engine parts eventually wear out, requiring maintenance or replacement. You’ll need to purchase extensions for lines, assign an engine to that part of the map, and even build new engines by opening crates you receive or find on your many journeys. And everything, every last bit of it, costs money.
All Aboard the Money Train
Pocket Trains is a free-to-play game, but fortunately, it doesn’t carry the usual overbearing stench that many games of that type do as they work so hard to badger you every step of the way to separate you from your hard-earned real-world cash. There are no huge leaps in difficulty requiring you to grind the same little bit of gameplay countless times in order to afford whatever you need to stand a chance for a little longer through soft currency.
The big factor here is time. The wider you expand your railway empire’s reach, the longer it’s going to take for trains to reach from one side of the continent to the other. If all of your trains are currently en route, you might find yourself with little to do. Fortunately, there is a boost which can deliver a train to its destination instantly, but requires Bux to use.
Generally, you can buy Bux using hard, real-world currency if you wish, and it will speed things up considerably. If you choose not to, however, you can still enjoy what Pocket Trains has to offer at a slower pace. If you choose to watch as the trains move down the tracks, you’ll spot coins floating by periodically, occasionally replaced by Bux or even a crate with supplies. Tap on one of these to claim them, and they’ll help pad your pockets to stay in business a bit longer. As noted, doing jobs will also bring you money, with certain ones paying you in Bux and crates as well, and so you don’t feel– pardon the expression– railroaded into running up your credit card bill just to enjoy the game a bit longer.
A Bit of Gaming Goodness
Incidentally, if you’ve played other NimbleBit offerings such as Tiny Tower or Pocket Planes only to find that they weren’t to your cup of tea, then odds are Pocket Trains isn’t going to do much to change your mind, shy of any unaccounted for obsessions with locomotives. On the other hand, if you’re enjoyed those past offerings and are looking for the next logical evolution of the concept, then look no further! Similarly, if you’re new to the whole Nimbleverse, then Pocket Trains is a great place to start.
Now, all we need is Pocket Automobiles, and I think we’ll have a complete trilogy on our hands!