PUBLISHER: Excalibur Games
DEVELOPER: Whoop Group
RELEASED: September 28th, 2017
Disclaimer: A Steam code was provided by the developer for review purposes on PC.
I have a confession…Thomas the Tank Engine was a show I watched almost daily during my childhood. There, I said it. But seriously, I really did love that show. Watching it made me ended up pleading my dad to get me a model train set, which he eventually did. After that, every time the show came on I would set up my train set and pretend I was a part of the show. Playing Tracks really brought back those fond memories.
Tracks is a very simple game. It takes a wooden model train set (the most basic of them all) and virtualizes it, giving you what is pretty much a supercharged wooden train set. The game invites you to build your own tracks however you see fit. You can make it big or small. Straight or curvy. Flat on the ground or high in the air. The choice is entirely up to you. When you’re done, these tracks can be shared with friends or through the Steam Workshop. Tracks features a very accurate physics system, which makes level building all the more interesting. While you’re free to get as crazy as you want, just keep in mind that the laws of physics still apply. In other words, if you send your little wooden locomotive up into the sky, it’s going to be a comet when it comes back down.
The game includes various other items that you’d expect to see in a real train set like little passengers, buildings and scenery objects. All of them are kept in the virtual Toy Box which can be opened at any time and you’re free to place the items wherever you want and can use how many you want. The flexibility that Tracks offer is on par with most games that have custom level builders. If you’ve ever played something like Rollercoaster Tycoon, then you’ll feel right at home assembling your set in Tracks.
While I do like the flexibility that the game offers, the editor does need a bit of work. It functions fine most of the time, but I wish it was a little more fluid to undo and redo your last action. Being able to select multiple items to move or delete at once would also be nice. I found these omissions to be rather odd, but certainly not game-breaking. No doubt they could be added in a future update. Speaking of updates, having more content would certainly be appreciated it.
Tracks offers a lot of creative freedom, It just needs a tad bit more content.
In its current form, Tracks only offers three environments: a totally white void, that same scenery but with night lighting, and a ‘modern apartment’. It why the blank environments are there, as they allow you to really build your own custom scenery to your liking. But it would be nice to have more vibrant set pieces like the modern apartment. Another lightweight aspect of the game is its content.
There are currently only two game modes: Free Play and Passengers. The former is self-explanatory. As for the latter, you’re tasked with building stations and tracks in the apartment environment at specific locations where little wooden passengers spawn. The whole mission lasts just a few minutes. It was interesting, but I wish there was more of it.
The simplicity of Tracks doesn’t stop at its gameplay. That theme even carries into the presentation. The various objects in the train set look like actual toys. But while all of the assets are high-quality, the overall visual presentation is rather simple. But the simplicity really fits this type of game. It won’t knock your socks off, but it is really pleasing to look at. Everything just looks soft, in a way. That soft nature also definitely applies to the music. The whole soundtrack consists of piano melodies which really drive home the childlike nature of the game. Tracks is the kind of game you play on a quiet rainy night wrapped up in a warm blanket with some tea. It’s just pure bliss.
— THE BOTTOM LINE —
There’s room for improvement, but Tracks is already shaping up to be very charming.
Overall, the recurring theme that Tracks has is simplicity. The track editor is incredibly easy to use, the visuals aren’t overly-ambitious and its soundtrack consists of almost lullaby-like melodies. All of this creates an incredibly relaxing package that’s definitely a lot more soft-spoken than most games today. This really is the kind of title that’s good for either young kids, or just creative gamers looking for some decent quiet time. While I enjoyed its simplicity and the nostalgia trip, I can’t help but feel like there should be more content. A few more trains, environments, and missions along with more flexibility in the track editor would make Tracks even better. Thankfully, since this is currently an Early Access title, more content is already in the works. I can’t wait to see how the game shapes up when it’s totally complete. In the meantime, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go if you’re looking for a nice relaxing track builder.