The never ending pursuit of acquiring “stuff” is what drives our insane world’s economy and ensures that we all adhere to the 40 hour work-week. From the strip-mine in South Africa to your local high-end jewelry shop and all stops in between, the production and delivery of stuff requires storage and transport. Such is the premise of Transport Tycoon – getting stuff from point A to point B while making a profit.
If you’re an aging gamer like myself, Transport Tycoon will be a familiar title to you. The original game was released for PC somewhere around 1994 and received plenty of praise. As the owner of a transport company, it’s your job to invest in the infrastructure needed to get a sprawling map of hamlets bustling with economic activity. You begin each scenario with a wad of cash and a few competitors itching to get the jump on your business. Most towns on the map start out small and are ripe with people itching to travel as passengers on your future public transit systems. You’ll also notice various raw material and processing plants scattered throughout the landscape that currently sit idle. By connecting the raw material sources to processing plants (coal and iron to a steel plant, for example), you can begin to reap the rewards of the industrial revolution.
At its core, Transport Tycoon is all about making things move – be they people or raw materials or manufactured goods. In order to start the wheels of your future empire turning, you’ll need a transport vehicle (bus, truck, train) and two or more destination points on the map. When transporting people, buses and trams take care of the transportation between stops. Each stop that you build has an area of influence that “catches” passengers over time, and your bus or tram will relieve each stop of a certain number of caught passengers (pick up) while unloading others (drop off) for profit. By creating a route for your bus or tram between a number of these stops, you can effectively move folks around and kick-start some income generation. After you’ve banked some cash (or taken out a sizeable loan), you can begin linking “industries” – raw materials and their processed goods – which often requires lengthy and costly rail lines and train cars.
Raw material plants such as oil refineries, coal mines, and livestock farms, tend to get placed a ways away from their processing counterparts. Longer distances necessitate more track and larger deliveries, but the method of connecting the points remains the same – stations placed nearby a plant or factory will catch the materials until something comes to pick them up. With these types of deliveries, you typically have a source and a destination for materials (coal to the steel plant) whereas passengers get on/off at every stop. Regardless, you still make money off of the final delivery.
As your buses and trains go about their business picking up and delivering cargo, they’ll start to randomly break down causing you a hitch in your profits. The more your vehicles move, the more they run down and will eventually need to be replaced. Getting the most out of each trip will save you some vehicle cost, and new vehicles become available for purchase as time wears merrily forward, adding new performance and capacity upgrades.
UI That’s Meant For PC
To help visualize and select which areas you want to begin working on, Transport Tycoon provides several layers on top of its standard mini-map. At any time, you can also access any of the game’s various information screens to analyze your profit margins, vehicle performance, or competitive performance over the other companies in your game. Transport Tycoon possesses a depth and complexity the likes of which (sadly) you’ll only see on PC ports, but because of this the screen can get rather crowded and difficult to navigate. Zooming in and out is accomplished by pinching the screen, but I felt like I could never get zoomed out enough to get a good picture of what was going on. While zoomed in, it was easier to select boxes on the grid to build things in, but I was too zoomed in to get a feel for where a road or train track was headed. You can easily tell that this was a game designed for PCs. And old PCs at that… the graphics are terribly blocky and dated.
That all being said, sim-games like Tycoon or Sim City all seem to suck you in by encouraging you to constantly build, analyze, and improve your infrastructure. Despite its throwback graphics and clunky UI, Transport Tycoon is addicting once you get used to how it all works. My biggest gripe, aside from learning how this whole catch system worked, was in getting roads and tracks to behave like I wanted them to. The maps feature elevation changes which must be taken into account when laying tracks, so you’ll be building raised structures quite frequently. For some reason, it was really difficult to properly select these raised structures in order to continue building them once you’ve moved away for a minute. After a long while of trying to finish what I started, I discovered that you can actually select the top or the bottom of a single track square! Here, I’d been assuming it was all one piece. This will make more sense once you start playing… I tended to constantly get hung-up on trying to build a train track exactly how I wanted it while my competition (of course) knew exactly what it was doing. Luckily, you can pause time if you hit a construction snag.
For the $6.99 price tag, Transport Tycoon gives you a good selection of scenarios to play and the end of a scenario challenge doesn’t mean you have to stop there. Any scenario can be run indefinitely in sandbox mode, letting you better develop your clockwork empire and maximize those profits! There are a couple open source Transport Tycoon games on the Play store in addition to this version and all seem to have similar ratings, so you might want to try one of them out before jumping on a purchase. Despite the dated graphics and track-building frustrations, this game is oddly addicting and detailed in terms of mechanics.