In a world full of simulators, it’s easy to get lost in the mix. Some players may find and experience the good ones. Others mostly land in the category of bad ones and often give up on the genre altogether. With that wisdom in my hand, I set out on a journey to find the best simulator games mankind has ever created. When I saw Live Motion Games and PlayWay‘s latest project, Train Station Renovation, it naturally piqued my curiosity. Also because I am a fan of games by PlayWay, most notably Car Mechanic Simulator (CMS) and House Flipper, the latter being one of my all-time favourite games. The studio knows a thing or two about simulator games, that’s for sure.
Train Station Renovation depicts the journey of a budding renovation company that specialises in fixing railway stations. You start out by fixing small stations in the rural areas, making your way to the mega-hubs of the big boy cities. So, without further ado, it’s time to board this particular train!
Train Station Renovation is available for purchase on Steam for $14.99.
STORY – A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE WITH SOME LOOPHOLES
The game starts out in your office where you begin by creating your company logo and registering your company name. Once finalised, you exit your computer, also your interaction point for the main menu, and are immediately in view of your premises. Take a gander in your cabin and look though the tools you currently own hung on the wall, read the tutorial book or proceed to the map to take on missions. Or maybe make your way to the next room where you see a giant scaled diorama of the entire city, complete with a set of a model train setup. The diorama allows you to assemble a model train and actually drive it around the setup. It is a really cool feature and is guaranteed to provide ample entertainment when playing.
First, you are pointed towards a book cheekily titled “How To Play” which will act as your base tutorial. It covers all the concepts and tasks that the player must learn. The tutorial is fairly simple and barring a tedious cleaning session, quite relaxing and enjoyable. Later, you can head over to the map to take a look at the jobs that you can accept. In order to select the next job, it must be unlocked, which can be done by finishing the previous one. There are 10 jobs to choose from, each progressively bigger than the last. The only glaring questions about the story are; why specialise in fixing only stations? Why is this a one-person company? What has caused such a sudden demand for station renovations? They aren’t game-breaking loopholes by any means, but they do make you wonder a little.
Jobs – A Story-Driven Sandbox That We Love
You are given a budget to work under as well as specific objectives that you must meet to finish the job. You can obviously do the bare minimum and complete the job but if you are a meticulous person, like me, you will want to take your time cleaning and fixing every nook and cranny of the station. And it will definitely feel worth it at the end. Every mission has been crafted to fit the scale and complexity of the job. The requirements themselves aren’t complex but the execution is. And a lot of motivation coz after all, who has ever enjoyed cleaning an entire railway station alone, eh? Train Station Renovation (TSR) is definitely up to the task and has plenty to offer in progression. The Sandbox mode lets the not-so-hardcore players experience the game in its entirety too without the fuss of tasks.
GAMEPLAY – GOING FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
Fans of previous PlayWay titles will feel right at home with TSR. The game has similar mechanics to CMS and House Flipper. Right from the Tablet to the Tools Ecosystem, there is a sense of familiarity. And that is a good thing. Those systems have been polished and upgraded. The Tablet is your go-to device to check on tasks, progress, buy items, and much more. It is a simple yet elegant design and is very easy to use. A feature I have rarely seen be used in a simulator game is the Scanner. It reveals all the tasks and items in a particular radius. The items and tasks glow for a short while until the effect wears off. It also has a cooldown timer before you can scan again, making sure players don’t misuse it (yes, I tried).
Speaking of tools, a tool-wheel is used to access all the equipment. Each instrument designated for a specific task. Various tools exist just for buildings such as the Brush (for painting), the Broom (sweeping and clearing stains) and the Sponge (to clear some really cool looking graffiti). You can also break and/or fix items such as benches, trashcans, shelves and more using a crowbar or an axe. The best part, however, was filing the railway tracks using sandpaper to remove the rust and using the crowbar to fix the wooden planks. You also have a skill tree feature that, other than giving certain perks and boosts to efficiency, largely goes unnoticed. The gameplay can be split into 3 main objectives:
Clear The Place
The moment you enter a job site, you’ll be greeted by a sea of garbage waiting to be picked up by you, and not in a take-me-out-for-dinner way. Believe me, there is a lot of garbage to clear and it consists of various types of trash. Interestingly, TSR has successfully inculcated Recycling into the game. You are encouraged to split the trash into glass, metal and plastic, and paper/cardboard. You can either use a segregated dumpster, which gives you money for correct recycling or use a mixed dumpster to just throw all trash in without any bonuses. The trash can be picked up continually until your container is full, following which the garbage is neatly bundled in a garbage bag for you to pick up and throw into the dumpster.
Clean The Place
The next step refers to the non-recyclable trash in-game; crates, tyres, barrels, etc. These items have to be picked up manually and carried to the dumpster to discard and if you are in a particularly whimsical (or frustrated) mood, even throw them like a javelin from a distance towards the dumpster. The second part of the cleaning is the most fun I’ve had on the game so far. Hint: It involves smashing things to bits. Armed with your trusty crowbar (or axe), go to town with the broken shelves, benches, boxes, windows and barricades and watch them splinter to tiny pieces. Lastly, the stations are filled with graffiti on the walls that sometimes you just don’t want to remove. I found one work of art in particular that my heart just wouldn’t let me clean.
Fix The Place
The final frontier in your job, actually fixing things and adding the items that are missing. You can purchase all the items from your Tablet as well as fix certain items (such as railway planks) using your crowbar. The item placement system works like a treat and gives you a lot of options to customise the station layout. Walls can be filled and painted, windows can be replaced, benches can be installed and toilets can be made functional again. Once you’re happy with your design and work, you can open the Tablet and finish your job and be treated to a nice aerial cinematic view of your station that takes you through all the parts of the station. The jobs might seem tedious but are really satisfying once completed.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – A FAMILIAR FEELING
For a non-AAA title, TSR is a surprisingly gorgeous looking game. The textures are of high quality and high-res. The lighting is absolutely on point with vibrant colours and impressive shadows. Softer shadows do appear weak most of the times and the sharp shadows sometimes look too perfect, appearing jagged and almost black. Attention to detail can be clearly seen when you’re riding the model train. And yes, the game does have a train camera view when you operate the model train. I spent a lot of my time riding around the diorama, getting derailed a few times because I don’t understand the concept of overspeeding. I wanted to see if the model could be derailed and it sure can, so props to the developers!
The audio is well-engineered and is synced with each action. Upon closer inspection, I again noticed some similarities between the sounds in TSR and that of CMS and House Flipper. There might be some recycling of assets and some shared sounds. But they surely do the job and don’t sound out the place. Background music is eerily similar to the theme music of House Flipper but the music during jobs is a refreshing take on it and does feel better. Environment sounds are spot on with the occasional location aliening every now and then. A good audio range is offered and I have no major qualms with the experience.
Train Station Renovation was reviewed on PC via Steam with a key provided by PlayWay.