Bort Transport is on the ropes. Its owners have built too fast and too recklessly, creating crazed spiral roads, train tracks that miss all of the large conurbations, and huge lonely bridges that lead to nowhere anyone wants to go.
Perhaps I'm not cut out for the cut-throat world of transport management, my creative proclivities pushing me to make aesthetic rather than economic decisions. My profit percentage crawls ever-downwards. Years slip by, and I still can't work out how to make steel.
A cold desperation sets in on the eyes of my avatar. In my head Mike Bort never wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. He wanted to be a footballer, but picked up a knee injury that forced him into taking over the family business. I sigh, and start all over again.
Transporters, robots in disguise
Transport Tycoon is a game so heavy that it will crush those who don't pay attention. Its menus are cavernous, and its scratchy graphics are covered in labels, numbers, and tiny vehicles obeying your every money-wasting whim.
Its levels are called scenarios, and in each of them you're tasked with meeting a number of criteria. To begin with it's all about moving people or things from A to B. Then the money comes in, and you need to hit performance indicators as well.
After that the game start to set time limits on your venture. Make Bort Transport successful in X years or you fail the scenario and Mike Bort Senior has even less time for his wayward son.
All of the scenarios are open to begin with, but jumping in at the deep end with an expert level challenge will leave all but the finest statisticians of our time weeping.
Everything is controlled with series of taps. You need to build roads, bridges, tunnels, and train tracks, purchase vehicles, and set them to work supplying the people of whichever island or continent you're tasked with serving.
There's pinch-to-zoom and two-finger-twist to rotate the camera, but they're a little juddery. Which isn't surprising considering Transport Tycoon is based on a game that first came out in 1994.
The level of complexity here can be best explained with an example. If you want to start a bus service you need to buy a bus. Then you need to build bus stops for the bus to travel between. When you're building these you're shown the catchment area of the stop. Overlaps are bad.
Once the stops are built you need to go to a new menu, select your bus, then choose a chunk of road to place it on. Then you need to tap the 'place bus on road' button. Once it's down you need to set a route for it to follow.
So you'll tap on the bus in the menu to open a sub menu, then tap on the bottom tab to open the 'Vehicle Orders' menu. Now you can tap on the each of the bus stops, then set a waypoint. Once all the stations are marked, tap on the big 'Go' button in the corner and your bus will toddle off.
And all that's presuming the roads are already there for you to drive around on.
Age of steam
Every piece of the game plays like a vaguely obscured puzzle with pieces that you need to connect together, leading roads over trains around bus stops to cargo bays through cities past tram lines across to factories. Oh, and then there are mountains.
It's a hectic jigsaw of things that can, and will, go wrong. And on top of all of that you need to make a handsome enough profit if you want to properly complete the scenario.
For Mike Bort it's all too much. I allow him to retire disgracefully, leaving the island paradise he was left to govern in a horrifying mess of roads, bridges, and broken down buses.
Transport Tycoon is very much like running your own transport company. And some people just aren't cut out for that.
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