Train Crisis will test the limits of your mind, reflexes, and patience, but the feeling of success makes frustration worthwhile.
I’ll explain Train Crisis as a math problem. Train A leaves Cleveland traveling 80 miles per hour. Train B leaves Chicago, also traveling 80 miles per hour. Oops, they just ran into each other. Let’s try this again: Train A…just ran off the tracks because you didn’t hit the switch in time. Alright, once more: train A is leaving Cleveland at 80 miles per hour, and Train B exploded after arriving back at its starting point.
Train Crisis is really hard. I don’t claim to be a master of puzzle games, but I’m no slouch. And with the amount of Skullgirls I’ve been playing this week, my reflexes should be up to snuff. Given the appropriate time to plan (which Train Crisis is more than happy to deliver), I generally have no problem in any timing-based puzzle game. At least, I thought that was the case. In reality, you could plan your attack all day before starting up the trains, but make just the smallest mistake, you’ll lose a train and have to start over.
The game starts off incredibly easy. You’re given one train and are told to direct it to the station of the same color. The first few levels are no more than hitting one or two switches and getting the single train to arrive safely. Once the second train shows up, the difficulty spikes noticeably, but the game is still manageable. The second train adds in a new element—the stop light, which forces a train to stop in a certain area for a few seconds—and requires much more switch hitting. On top of this, a second train also introduces an element of patience.
The process of trial-and-error is necessary in Train Crisis, but spending a few minutes planning the order and timing of hitting switches, stoplights, and other devices will save you a lot of time later on. Don’t be surprised if your master plan backfires, though. Once a third (and fourth) train gets introduced, you’re expected to take a lot of moves to complete a stage. Forgetting just one of them is more than enough to ruin an otherwise perfect round.
If your sole goal is to complete a stage, feel free to leave trains stuck at stoplights or manipulate switches to get them stuck in a loop while you execute your plan. However, Train Crisis uses the Angry Birds approach to levels. You’ll collect stars based on how well you do (the fewer the moves, the better). Stars are necessary to unlock a few stages and you need to complete all those stages to advance to the next era. There are two eras currently available, with at least two more on the way. There are over 40 levels right now, and that’s certainly more than enough bang for your buck.
Despite its rage-inducing style, I need to hand it to U-Play Online. The studio understands the formula for a great puzzle game. While it feels a bit too difficult at times, too much difficulty is typically better than none. The best part of Train Crisis‘ difficulty is how it never feels unfair. Every time I found myself failing, it’s because I forgot to press a switch, sent two trains charging at each other, or my timing was off. I never ran into any situations where I was left thinking “why did that happen?” as is the case with the less-polished puzzle games.
Train Crisis may not appeal to anyone who wants direct control in their puzzle games, but those individuals should at least give the lite version a shot. The challenge alone may be enough to turn anyone into a fan. For every other puzzle-lover out there, don’t even waste your time with the lite version. Buy the full game.