Lionel Trains: On Track

It’s a toy license. It’s a budget game. It’s from DSI, who don’t have the best reputation around. Or any reputation at all. In this case, though, conclusions shouldn’t be jumped to – the developers have managed to use the license to good effect, creating a neat little homage to the classic Transport Tycoon.

Lionel Trains: On TrackIt’s fairly straightforward: you’re presented with an overhead map on which there are a number of towns and cities, and it’s your job to connect them with rail links as you see fit, purchasing trains and attaching various cargo containers. The trick is to keep an eye on supply and demand to get some nice little earners going – one town might have bountiful wood, the next town access to a sawmill, and a third town a demand for furniture. There’s probably a sale on at DFS or something.

As Richard Branson knows all too well, running a successful transport company requires good business sense and a fair bit of money. Trains run at a cost, and if the overheads aren’t covered then you’ll be in the red in no time. Small trains are fine for just carrying a couple of passenger carriages, but for heavy duty work it’s best to opt for a more expensive train despite the extra costs.

The campaign mode is ideal to start with, as it acts as a glorified tutorial, with the first set of challenges being to join up a couple of towns and get passengers going back and forth. This mode isn’t the best ambassador for the rest of the game though, as options and space are limited. Once the basics have been mastered – which for us took longer than we imagined due to unhelpful menus – the Sandbox and Freeplay modes should be your next destinations.

Here there are choices of expansive maps – including the whole of Europe – plus you can research new trains, purchase new buildings, and more besides. Placing a post office in a town will increase the amount of mail, whereas a theme park will attract more tourists. Although you can still buy things when in debt, being in the red isn’t much fun, but it can be challenging to get back in the bank manager’s good books.

The biggest problem is the presentation. The charts used to display supply and demand could have been made easier to read, and some of the button placement is bizarre – having to hold down the left shoulder button to move around the map, for instance. We can’t be very positive about the music either, and the graphics are functional at best. Still, they get the job done and that’s all that’s needed.