Paper Train: Traffic Review (PC)
There’s always been something about steam trains that’s captivated my imagination. It’s the turn of the century, the advancement of technology and possibility of what the future might bring. If only Paper Trains: Traffic could garner some of that magic.
Paper Trains reminds me of those air traffic controller games where you direct the plane’s flight paths to avoid collision and land them safely. Except in this case the player is tasked with ensuring trains do not collide through the use of stop/start nodes on the track. It’s a puzzle game essentially and one that puts your multi-tasking and forward planning to the test. The trains are on set paths and cannot be slowed or sped up save for the use of traffic lights that you can click to stop the train once it reaches it and again to send it on its way. Later levels introduce junctions so you can switch a train from one track to another but it’s really the complexity of the track lay outs that will vary the difficulty from one level to the next. Tracks will meander, weave in and out and cross each other meaning that the trains could cross each other’s paths multiple times at multiple points. At its most difficult you could have three or four separate situations to manage at one time. It’s a logistical nightmare that’s not for those who struggle with multi-tasking on the fly.
For each level there will be an amount of trains that you must safely direct through on their journey, often from one side of the level to the other. Some will come from left to right and others top to bottom. Should any of these locomotives collide with one another the level will be failed and you must restart. The amount of carriages on each train and the times that the trains appear on-screen is slightly randomised or at least not the same each time so memorising how your last attempt went won’t help you much the next time. The player must simply assess the situation unfolding in front of them and quickly control the traffic nodes to avoid disaster. It starts off simple enough but the difficulty quickly increases and you’ll find yourself with many failures you thought you could easily avoid.
For those who likes challenges there are up to three stars that can be awarded for each level based on your performance. If you want the full rewards then you have to make use of the boost feature. By holding space bar you can speed up time and get things moving along quicker. It’s a high risk high reward decision though as there is obviously more potential for crashes when you have less time to react. Complacency also kicks in as you want to rush through the level thinking you have it in the bag, only for two trains to slightly clip each other in passing and you have to start all over again. The three star challenge feature is something that anyone who’s played mobile games will be overly familiar with. Anything from Angry Birds to Cut the Rope has used it and its inclusion here immediately makes you realise that this in fact is a direct port of a mobile game.
Porting from mobile is of course fine and dandy but Paper Trains feels that it would be much better suited for the mobile environment. It’s very much a time-waster game as opposed to something you’d sit down with to unwind for an hour or so. I can see myself sitting on the toilet pan, red marks appearing on my legs from resting my elbows as I frustratingly make my way through 20 levels before realising half an hour has passed and the shits long dried to my arse. On desktop PC however? Certainly not what I’d be looking for on Steam but that may well be a personal preference. Some features of the game do feel particularly ported however. The boost option actually has an on-screen button to the side which you can click and hold to activate the boost. On mobile that would work fine but on PC it’s made completely redundant by the more practical use of the space bar. The decision to keep it as a clickable function is jarring but obviously ignorable for the player.
One thing I did really like about Paper Trains was the beautifully intricate art style. The levels are presented on paper with a hand drawn pencil/pen style that looks entirely distinct. It’s almost worth playing just for looking at the background images. Some levels also feature overhead planes that drop little ink bombs on the page, ever so slightly obscuring vision. It largely feels like an underdeveloped feature however as these interactions were few and far between and never really impacted on the level to a proper degree. Whether they were poorly designed features or just fun extras it’s hard to say.
Simple in its mechanics and simple in its design, Paper Trains: Traffic will either provide you with hours of multi-tasking fun or will frustrate you to the point that you never want to step foot on a train again. If you’re thinking of picking it up then the mobile version may well be the better option as games of this sort are generally better suited for trips to work (on the train!) or the aforementioned extended toilet visits. The only saving grace here is that you can’t or at least shouldn’t be able to hurl your device at the wall in frustration from failing that level again and again. For the low asking price you do get good bang for your buck with 300 levels. My only concern is whether you’re likely to play it that long.
5 Paper Train crashes out of 10