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Game Info:

Tracks - The Train Set Game
Developed By: Whoop Group
Published By: Excalibur Games
Released: Sep 28, 2017 (Early Access)
Available On: Windows
Genre: Simulation
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: Single-player
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Excalibur Games for sending us a review code!

Sometimes, I like to believe that the new generation is missing out — or maybe that’s just my jaded and cynical brain trying to convince my heart otherwise. I happened to grow up right in-between that point where the technology of today was in its infancy and when people still relied on pastimes such as kickball and hide-and-seek to get through the day instead of watching YouTube videos for hours. One of my favorite pastimes was playing with wooden toys, particularly train sets. Tracks – The Train Set Game is an attempt to relive those simpler days of childhood, and possibly introducing the children of today the wonders of imagination, even if its approach is rather ironic when you really think about it.

Tracks, developed by Whoop Group, is a simulation game and it has arguably the most simple premise of any game: build a train set consisting of pieces such as curves, turntables, corkscrews and so much more. After that, you are left to your own on how you want to set it up. Tracks introduces you to a rather detailed tutorial where it goes through the controls and the various mechanics. This tutorial pops up every time you start up the game and begin a project, but of course you can skip the tutorial if you choose to do so. The game modes currently in are Free Play, and Passengers, where you build a set of tracks to pick up passengers and drop them off at designated areas. As of now, the Modern Apartment is the only scenario to play Passengers in, but more areas are to be expected as updates roll around.

Whatever it is that you decide to build, you are accompanied by the soothing sounds of a piano. There are only a few pieces in the game currently, but it fits oh-so very well. It makes exceptional company as you make your imagination a reality, never getting annoying. You can still choose to toggle the music on or off if you desire. The sound effects such as the light clunks of the train going along the tracks are masterfully woven into the world. It feels so good and natural that it all gently guides you into a sense of relaxation. I could have used Tracks to do things such as catch up on podcasts and videos, but I didn’t want to most of the time.

Tracks - The Train Set Game
Highlights:

Strong Points: Full of charm and innocence; huge space to work with and with lots of scenery options
Weak Points: The cursor when placing tracks or objects when given a bird’s-eye view can be a bit difficult to spot; you can only place objects one at a time
Moral Warnings: It’s a game about wooden toy trains, obviously the most immoral thing there is

As you continue to build away, the option to add scenery comes into play. There are so many pieces to add, from buildings (like stores, houses, police stations and many more), nature such as trees and bushes, vehicles like helicopters and cars, even bodies of water and plots of land can come into play. You can also place people around and have choices ranging from businessmen to scuba divers. The graphics are such an immaculate fit for the setting and really give off that toy-like look. Simplicity really works best with Tracks as the design is so on point. The wood when viewed up close contains growth rings and knots. The attention and care to detail is fantastic. Half the time, I found myself not even building train tracks. I would make little towns and settings and be at awe with the moments I could create. One setting I made was a group of people watching the fireworks on a starry night, while the other was a bunch of businessmen gathering around for a meeting.

Further options such as changing the scenery can be accessed. You have a snow toggle, changing the color of your train (as well as saving the set for future trains), increasing or decreasing fog density and even the type of ground that your setting takes place on. One time, I had the entire area covered in water, while the train traveled by sea to an island. Pressing the Alt key gives the option to place alternative track pieces, as well as the ability to place scenery by height. There is a limit to how high you can place objects, but the limit is really (and I mean really) high! It can be so easy to lose track of time. Fortunately, Tracks gives you a reminder every five minutes the last time you initiated a save. Of course, something like this didn’t stop me from noticing four whole hours had passed when making a scene. There is so much to do, I would be here all day explaining every detail contained.

It all comes together when you finally make that setting envisioned in your mind and are ready to take a ride around. Pressing the T key will give you a first-person view within the train, and the W or S keys are to speed up and slow down. A and S are to switch lanes if it splits into two, space bar is to make an immediate stop, and the G key is to switch between two other views. Personally, the two sceneries I made were the town that I live in (with a few creative liberties), as well as a somewhat accurate rendition of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Seeing your creation in first-person, as well as from a top-down perspective, really gives off a whole different view of the process for your mind. In the first-person perspective, there exists this little whistle, and you can give it a little pull. I’ve experienced a whole set of emotions and situations in my short life; I’ve seen many things that have made people bawl out that have gotten little reaction from me. But when I pulled that silly whistle on that little toy train, a wealth of emotions awoken in me, and I just started to cry uncontrollably. It might be the nostalgic feelings I have towards wooden toys, but the charm and purity of Tracks speaks to me in a way no other game has. Even simply thinking of the whistle makes me well up with tears.

Tracks - The Train Set Game
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 100%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

A game this pure and innocent shouldn’t exist — and yet it does. In a way, I refused to believe it at first, as I had to find something even a teeny bit morally concerning. I don’t know if this makes me a bad person, but I placed people on the tracks and tried to run them over with the train. Believe it or not, the train simply goes right through them! I failed in my quest to find a moral inefficiency in Tracks; Whoop Group has defeated me in that aspect quite decisively. In the case of CCG, that is a rather good thing to fail in.

As much as this game invokes so many positive feelings within me, there are a few flaws that I’ve noticed. The cursor can be quite difficult to locate if you zoom the camera out too far. This does make large-scale rearrangement a bit annoying as you have to constantly zoom in and out to locate the cursor. When placing objects, they can only be placed one at a time, with the exception of people (only 20 max at a time). I would really like to see an option in a later update that lets you place multiple objects at once, just so I don’t spend minutes placing trees one by one. This rather short list of complaints are minor at worst and do not take away the overall enjoyment I get from Tracks.

Tracks – The Train Set Game has been in early access for over a year as of this review, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who loves trains. If you’re an adult or parent who liked playing with wooden sets as a child (or even now), buy this game. If you have a computer savvy child, buy it for them. Buy it for your friends. Tracks is such a wholesome, virtuous work, that it may just be therapeutic. As long as your mind is creative and imaginative, Tracks can easily last dozens of hours and possibly even hundreds of hours. The developers are constantly at work to make this the best wooden train simulator on the market, with more pieces, more areas, and even other game modes in development. I want to see this game everywhere; for consoles, tablets or phones, and especially in VR. Tracks would be incredible in a virtual reality setting, and I hope they can get to that point in the future. I wish Tracks, Whoop Group, and Excalibur Games great success in bringing this game to the eyes of the public, and their future endeavors.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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