Game Reviews

Doodle Train

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Doodle Train

Ever since the Industrial Revolution ushered in the age of steam, trains have been a part of our everyday lives.

Although trainspotters and beleaguered commuters may have contrasting views about the joys of the trains, games such as Transport Tycoon have acquired a cult following and engineered a sense of fun that is at odds with the railway’s gloomy reputation for unreliability and overcrowding.

Locomotive-themed Doodle Train may not repair the industry’s image, but it attempts to add fun into proceedings with challenging puzzle play that’s good while it lasts.

Danger on the tracks

British train companies have to follow strict safety procedures to prevent accidents, but there appears to be no such set of regulations for the operators in Doodle Train.

This lack of concern for passenger welfare is clearly evident in the two main modes, Labyrinth and Build Railroad, in which you guide a train from the start to the finish in the quickest time possible without it crashing.

This is achieved by manipulating the track to create a safe passage. Early levels are as simple as tapping a few switches on the track, while later stages become gradually more complicated and introduce elements such as tunnels and pirate trains.

Build Railroad mode is slightly different, in that you're able to use random pieces of track to complete the train line. Pieces of track are dragged into position from the sidebar, while bombs are used to destroy unwanted sections. The downside of this is that you no longer control when the train is released, meaning that it’s a tense race against time to ensure the track is complete.

Snakes and Ladders

While the primary aim is to guide the train to the 'finish' line, more ambitious track formations will ensure that you collect all of the available stars on each level. Three attempts are permitted on each level before the map resets and you have to start again. There are two other types of play included in the game: Longest Railroad and Snake. The former is like a sandbox mode in which you construct a track that allows your train to travel as far as possible, with stars awarded for each square through which the train passes.

The second additional mode, Snake, is a variation of the classic Nokia mobile game.

These additional modes are initially fun, but once the novelty factor wears off they feel little more than filler and do little to increase the game's lifespan. Despite the rather morbid emphasis on train crashes, the cheerfulness of the game is reinforced by the visual style which is clearly inspired by the doodle school of thought. The western-style music does much to reinforce the idea of chaos within Doodle Train, but its repetitive nature will quickly have you reaching for the 'mute' button.

Leaves on the line

Although the levels in Labyrinth and Build Railroad modes are entertaining enough to justify a purchase, Doodle Train is let down by a short lifespan and a few minor hiccups.

The controls are mostly functional, but fail in some situations. Unless there's a free square on the grid, dragging a finger to reveal more of the map can result in a switch unwittingly being activated and catastrophic consequences for your train.

Replay value is also limited. While acquiring each star in Build Railroad mode may take multiple attempts, there's little incentive to repeat Labyrinth mode levels unless you're desperate to lower your best time.

Snake and Longest Railroad mode attempt to inject a degree of diversity into the package, but in reality they're tedious exercises that test your patience long before the different maps are exhausted.

None of these criticisms is a fatal blow to the addictive and challenging gameplay that the main game provides - it’s just a shame that it leaves you hungry for more.

Doodle Train

Doodle Train will have your thinking cap permanently affixed to your head, but extra modes do not disguise the fact that it could have benefited from more content