To be honest, I’ve never really considered myself to be much of a casual games fan.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy casual games or appreciate the skill and effort that goes into making them. I really applaud the work of those who’ve made the App Store what it is today – and those who’ve learnt how to create casual magic in their bedrooms and garages. It’s no easy task distilling fun down to its purest essence in a simple mechanic that scales in complexity without losing its easy accessibility. But whilst I have enjoyed the many casual games I own, I’ve never really been as hooked on them as some of the other genres that have captured me in the past – RPGs, RTS, Adventure Games.
Enter The Voxel Agents, an Australian developer based in Melbourne, who have the art of creating pure casual fun down pat.
I downloaded Train Conductor when it was available for free on April 20th and promptly bought Train Conductor 2. In the first game you move through cities in Australia – in the second, you move through the U.S. Finally I understand what all those people are talking about when they say they can’t put Angry Birds or Doodle Jump down. I thought both those games were awesome – but I never found it hard to put them down. Very different story with Train Conductor…
Like all good casual games, the core mechanic is simple, but engaging: you have a number of train tracks on the screen (you start with three) and trains enter the screen from the left and right with numbers above their engine that tell you which track they need to be directed to. A swipe will create a temporary track to send the train on its way – but you have to make sure the trains don’t run into each other. Tapping a train will switch between stop and start. Of course, things scale up from there.
The first game has only five levels but you can also switch to night mode and play with ghost trains that don’t crash into each other, effectively giving ten levels. I felt its size was perfect – you get the satisfying sense of completion and the gameplay is such that you can dive back in and play it some more without feeling like you’re rehashing old ground. If I’d purchased the game for $1.29(NZD) I’da been more than happy with the experience I received – but for free, it’s almost a crime.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on The Voxel Agents in future!
You can download Train Conductor from iTunes (free over Easter!)