As a gamer of the 80’s, I grew up with a lot of magnificent adventure games: the Infocom classics, Sierra Online (before all the ownership changes) and several other companies come to mind. Lately there has been a decent amount of adventure game activity on the platform, but it is as much about bringing us ports of old classics as actually delivering new tales. Thankfully The Train falls under the second category, and while it’s a bit rough around the edges, it certainly provides for an entertaining experience. It is a bit on the tough side, so be prepared to put your thinking cap on when boarding this transit system.
The game is told from the point of view of Martin, a “painter mage” that lives in a world where magic has been banned by a maniacal emperor. On a routine visit to your fiancée things start to go awry, and suddenly you find yourself embroiled in a mystery to figure out what has happened to your beloved. To find your fiancée you’ll need to visit several locations, interact with some interesting individuals, and solve a few mind bending puzzles. Most of the time traveling to a new location is a matter of tapping where you want to go or clicking the “back” arrow when provided, though sometimes you’ll have to interact with the environment to set of a chain of events to get you someplace new.
To use an item you select it and then tap on what you want to use the item on. An item will stay selected until you tap on it again or select another item, so if you start getting a lot of messages like “are you kidding?”, it’s probably because you accidentally left an item selected. Interacting with mini-game style puzzles really depends on the puzzle. You’ll tap, swipe, drag, tilt and more to accomplish everything that you need to. You also tap on people to interact with them. Sometimes the tapping seems overly sensitive, and there were multiple occasions where it took me several taps to clear a dialog away because it kept coming back. One thing I found rather interesting was that most every screen was at least wider or taller than the physical screen, and to move your viewpoint you use a virtual stick in the lower left corner of the screen. It’s a cool feature, but I didn’t care for what I assumed to be auto centering on some scenes because of it.
There are several puzzles in the game, both inventory based and mini-game style. My biggest issue was the difficulty of the puzzles. I found myself more often than not consulting the in-game help or the developer for tips or solutions. I do like the fact that the hint option is context specific and almost always in at least two parts, so you don’t get the whole solution if you don’t want it. I just wish I wouldn’t have had to abuse it so much. One other facet I’d like to mention is the whole idea of Martin being a “painter mage”. This gives him the ability to create and manipulate artwork. It’s actually a really powerful concept, and it’s used a couple of times in the game, but it should have been explored more in my opinion.
The visuals have a very distinct look about them. Everything is very detailed, but there isn’t a whole lot of animation anywhere in the game. There are also certain areas where the artistic skill isn’t nearly as strong – the human figure, for example. I like the artwork, but it doesn’t wow me like some of the offerings on the App Store. The sound effects are the same way. Nothing really jumps out at you, and given the locales there are some missed opportunities for cool background noise. I’d also love to see speech added to the game – who doesn’t want to hear a zombie talk? The music is really good. It has the feel of an action suspense movie, which is just what a game like this needs.
Despite any grumblings I’ve mentioned, I would say The Train episode 1 is a decent start for The Moonwalls. I was disappointed when it suddenly ended, because I was really getting into the story at the point. If you tend to spend most of your time playing hidden object style games you might find this a bit daunting (not criticizing, because I love HoGs), but for more traditional adventure gamers this is worth checking out. It’s a nice foundation for Martin’s world, and by the end you’ll want to pick up episode 2 (which should be out by the time I publish this).