If there’s something that I can’t get enough of, it’s the withering/worried looks sent my way from strangers because apparently screaming at my tablet on a crowded bus is strange and disconcerting. To be fair, Train Conductor World by The Voxel Agents gets very difficult. What all of these strangers don’t realize is that my pained, shrill scream-laughs come from a happy place where pleasant colorful cartoony visuals collide headlong into a somewhat sadistic game requiring a healthy amount of skill (and luck).
Things begin rather benignly on normal mode in Mons, the first European town where the levels are located. Tracks here are fairly straight and there’s only three of them to manage as you guide color coded trains (blue, red, yellow, or green) to the correct color exit as they come chugging (or screaming, depending on the scenario at play) into view from both sides of the screen. But soon, as you ramp up in difficulty, the trains start appearing more quickly and move faster. This stressful atmosphere is further elevated when time suddenly slows as trains get too close to one another. Audible gasps from onlookers and screeching brakes cause your own breath to suck in between clenched teeth while you wait for either the spark from grinding metal that signal a near miss or the thunderous crash that throws engines and cars violently from tracks.
After reaching new levels where obstructions, missing train tracks, and other deviltries are thrown into the mix, your managerial life becomes one of feverishly panicked decisions that require a surprising amount of mental dexterity. It’s hard enough that every train conductor in the game seems to be a colorblind buffoon, but these playfully demented railway hubs, seemingly designed by cross-eyed and concussed howler monkeys, ensure that the challenge never really wanes. Each level’s uniqueness also provides the drive to connect to new stations to see what new sadistic challenges await.
Given that the visual presentation is so colorful and friendly, you’d be forgiven for making the mistake that this is a fun and simple challenge. But much like the Rabbit of Caerbannog, Train Conductor World will have you wanting to give it a cuddle right before it pounces in bloodthirsty glee. Thankfully, trips to the overland map where you lazily lay track pieces down to connect cities together provide a relaxing respite from the chaos..
It’s all wonderfully stressful in the right spots. I’ve felt immense satisfaction when earning all stars on the hardest difficulty on some of the more wicked maps. It’s true that the occasional last minute train with a death wish will foil even the best laid plans, but those destructive hitches haven’t been enough to keep the Train Conductor World from becoming one of my favorite games to scream at on the bus ride home. I feel my cries of triumph and dismay are justified in full.