With all the big name video games out there vying for every gamer’s attention in the digital space, it’s a wonder how the little guy can survive in this hotly contested industry. That being said every now and then a smaller, yet just as ambitious, title comes around to catch the eyes of players and create interest all its own. With Tiny Rails (Tiny Titan Studios, MSRP $9.99) now available on Steam Early Access, this gives fans of simulation games the opportunity to play something off the beaten “track” that doesn’t come with a high cost, a lot of online smack talk and a bunch of corny one-liners to go along with it. But is this the simulation game many should be looking for or a title that could be “derailed’ before it ever leaves the station?
In what essentially amounts to a throwback experience, where kids in the past were given maybe a Lionel or Bachmann set to build and explore, Tiny Rails is a train simulator that hearkens back to those days and tries to regain that kindred spirit albeit without the worry of the engine falling of the dinette table. The story’s premise, building the locomotive corporation given to you by your grandfather into a dominant force within the industry is obviously a similar goal of virtually every simulation game out there. True, this is a port of the popular mobile game and even if one has spent a great deal of time in that realm, there’s still enough for most returning fans to find continued interest in playing it one more time.
With Tiny Rails, it’s all about balancing the challenges that constantly keep putting up the railroad sign sort of speak that for the most part can keep players engaged as they construct that growing railway company of theirs. Whether its controlling the type of products one hauls, the amount of money collected or facing the stiff competition from opposing train companies, the game tries its best to always have the player thinking about what steps are needed before the next time their train leaves the station. Careful thought into mapping out train routes, dealing with passenger’s requests and feedback, repairs and coordination of supplies and currency are crucial in order to continue the growth pattern in a positive direction. Customization options are available in the game and some of the choices can leave the player smirking as they send out a train set with a pizza, taco or sushi car or something else that may provide even more interest with playing the game. When it comes time to leave the game for a while, no worries because the game will be working in the background so upon returning the progress made while gone can provide new and interesting challenges upon return.
Tiny Rails has its caveats, some of which stemming from it being a port from its mobile origins. It’s retro-bit graphics hold up a tad better on the smaller viewing areas of a phone or tablet than on large monitors or flat screens which can be a distraction for those who played the previous version extensively. Pacing of the game can be a sore point as the transitions when in the station and even the engine itself (before upgrades) can make those that are on the impatient side unwilling to commit to the game long term. The game lends itself to be very laid back with trouble situations never really making itself a great cause for alarm for the player. This can be awesome for those searching for a relaxing experience but those seeking something more intense may find solace in something a bit more hard edged.
Tiny Rails is a gaming experience that surprises more than it can and should be expected out of a mobile port heading uphill into the PC train station known as Steam gaming. Where others have died or been rebuked when moving to a higher platform, this title wins due to its charm and ingratiating spirit fondly remembering the origins from which it came from both simulation gaming-wise and also from a historical standpoint. Even while away from Tiny Rails, it becomes very easy to start thinking about what exactly is going on in that locomotive world that they’ve created. Which in all honesty you could say is one of the best compliments someone can give about a game playing experience. (Stars review will be released upon final build of the game and be located right below the final paragraph.)
(Please note that for this review, Pop Culture Cosmos/Game Source did receive a review code/model/sample from the Public Relations Firm, Developer and/or Publisher responsible for distribution to the press.)