Developer: The Voxel Agents
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

There are plenty of line-drawing and traffic management games in the app store. Heck, there are even a lot of railroad games. Train Conductor combines elements of all three for a very stylish mash-up that feels fresh from the on-set. The experience is very fun and undeniably polished, albeit somewhat short-lived as presently constituted.

The core gameplay of Train Conductor involves routing trains, as you may have guessed. Each map has up to five horizontal tracks, and engines can arrive from either direction. A signal will briefly flash before each train arrives, letting you know which track it will be on and in which direction it will be heading. Each vehicle has a number on top identifying which track it needs to be re-routed to. You can touch an incorrectly routed train and then drag to the appropriate track. Lifting your finger places a temporary, diagonal track segment that the train can travel on to reach its correct destination. As multiple trains speed by the screen, it’s your job to manage the increasing flow of traffic. If at any point 2 trains collide, it’s game over. Besides being able to redirect traffic, you can also tap on a train to stop it, and re-tap to have it proceed. It has to be said, the controls work absolutely perfectly and never let you down as you juggle all of the incoming trains.

IMG_0299There are 4 maps in total that represent the Australian cities of Alice Springs, Cairns, Sydney, and Melbourne. Each successive location increases in difficulty, and can be unlocked after traveling a certain distance in the previous one. Some new obstacles are introduced along the way, such as a Gold Rush train that is several cars long, and broken tracks. There is a lot of attention to detail on the various maps, and throughout the entire game interface in general, such as little animated elements in the background that add flair and charm to the game.

Each of the 4 cities can also be played in an alternate Graveyard Shift mode. More than just a cosmetic switch from day to night, the Graveyard Shift transforms all the vehicles to ghost trains. The gameplay is transformed as well, as these speedy ghost trains can safely pass through each other. Since there is no fear of collisions, the Graveyard Shift is more about speed versus precision. The number of trains flying by is amped up, making for a more frantic experience. The later maps introduce skull trains that must absolutely be re-routed to the correct track. If you miss one of the skull trains, your shift comes to an end.

All of the maps in Train Conductor are played to a finite time limit. Once your shift ends, you get a score based on how well you’ve done. As you successfully route consecutive trains on your shift, a multiplier builds up that nets you more points. Allowing a train to leave on the wrong track negatively impacts your score and gives a hit to your multiplier. There is a small fast forward button that lets you speed up the flow of trains, while not affecting the pace of the clock. Since each play session is pretty short, the fast forward button becomes absolutely crucial to getting a respectable score. Global leaderboards are available via Plus+, as well as over 30 achievements.

IMG_0305Unfortunately, Train Conductor is currently lacking a survival mode. It is very easy to unlock all of the cities, and then the main incentive to continue playing is to get a higher score or to finish collecting the virtual achievements. The maps themselves are easy enough to complete a shift at normal speed, but that won’t get you much of a score at all. Permanent fast forwarding then becomes the only way to score big, making completing a shift close to impossible and not as much fun. A survival mode is pretty standard fare for a line-drawing type game, and it is easy to imagine how mind-bending it could be to alternate between the two different game styles of the day and night shift as time passes. Luckily, Voxel Agents have stated they are working on this for the first update, which would be a great boon to the re-playability of the app. There is so much potential for more continents/cities or obstacles in the future, and I am eager to see what the future brings for this very solid title.

The Voxel Agents have put together a highly polished app that looks good and controls perfectly. The only thing currently holding it back is a slight lack of depth, which can feasibly be addressed via the intended updates. Train Conductor is a stylish pick-up-and-play title that forges its own track amongst some crowded genres, and stands out as a result.

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