There’s something to be said for racing steampunk locomotives.
Jet Trains certainly looks the part of a track-switching puzzle-esque train game. But make no mistake, there’s little (if any) brain-teasing going on here. This is a racing game first and foremost. Granted, it’s a fairly unorthodox racing game featuring linear tracks and steam engines, but it’s a racing game nonetheless. One that can be surprisingly addictive once it gets its hooks in, which doesn’t take long.
Revenge is the motivation behind the nameless and faceless protagonist’s actions. Their father was killed in a racing accident against the evil General Hellhoffen, and now they have to work their way through the ranks in order to challenge the villain and get their vengeance. Each race takes place across a series of up to four tracks that players can freely jump between as they attempt to avoid obstacles, nab power-ups, and generally blow past the competition. Shifting from track to track is handled by way of a couple of virtual directional buttons on the bottom left side of the screen while two more on the right control boosting (if available) and stopping. Careful throttling at the start of each race can earn a brief but significant speed boost, but it certainly won’t make up for smashing head-on into a wall.
The races themselves seem fairly straightforward and simple in the beginning, but as with most games Jet Trains increases the challenge fairly steadily. Before long the battle for first place begins to require strategy over simple horsepower, at least until one of the new and significantly improved engines is acquired. And let me just say, intentionally slowing down to trap an opponent on their track and force them into a wall is supremely satisfying. Although as fun as the gameplay can be, it’s also nice to see that customization has such an important role as well. I love customization options. Not only is it possible to incrementally improve each unlockable train with various elements (boost, speed, durability, etc), each upgrade actually has an effect on the train’s appearance both in the garage and on the track. It seems like a silly thing to get excited over but as far as I’m concerned more games should incorporate visual equipment representation. Did I say “more?” I meant “all.”
As impressive as Jet Trains’ presentation may be, however, it suffers a bit due to some slightly awkward localization. Grammar and small spelling mistakes are present in just about every bit of story text that appears, and while it doesn’t ruin the experience, it’s still something of a disappointment.
A bigger problem is the initial balancing of the races themselves. Once players start upgrading their train it becomes less of an issue but those first few meets seem to boil down to who can get the starting boost rather than any actual skill. It doesn’t help that opponents have a tendency to hog all the coins and boost power-ups if they manage to get in the lead. Having access to a few temporary modifications (i.e. earn double coins, unlimited boost, etc) certainly helps to ease this transition, but once these modifiers run out they’re gone for good unless players want to spend some real money on another batch.
I’ve also had the occasional crash thanks to a button not registering properly. It doesn’t happen often, and usually involves attempting to move up which makes me think I’m just getting a bit overzealous and simply tapping the wrong portion of the screen, but it can still be an issue.
Jet Trains could use a little more refinement in the early stages of race balancing, but for the most part it manages to be fun with minimal frustration. Being able to replay any and all races for the cash needed to further upgrade an engine helps a bunch, too. It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when bored iOS users are looking for a distraction, but it’s definitely worth a look.
- Pleasant and colourful visuals with notable details on the trains in the garage. Seeing upgrades visually represented on trains is also a nice touch. Despite the general simplicity, races are actually quite fun and surprisingly strategic.
- Movement button placement and registration can sometimes be problematic (although it’s more likely my own fault). The localization could use a lot of work. Missing out on a pre-race boost can sometimes mean the difference between first and last.