I previewed the demo of Station to Station earlier this year and came away impressed but curious. I wanted to see if developer Galaxy Grove would add anything else to what appeared to be a very straightforward, very easy railway builder. And while it remains so in its release form, Station to Station does have a bit more to get into.
It’s voxel-based and brightly coloured, musically scored with that kind of lazy afternoon whimsy that relaxes you without you realising it’s happening. It’s very pretty, inviting even, and never stops being charming. If they’d got Stephen Fry in to do some narration, it’d probably be a GOTY contender.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Station to Station is certainly a very likable puzzle game. You’re tasked with connecting various nodes via railway, though you won’t have to worry about any of the minutiae. This is no sim that sees you fretting over ticket prices, paying your staff, or having your railway safety checked. It’s simply a game about supply and demand.
For example, if the given level presents you with a city, your job will likely be to provide the city with certain resources. Early on that’s milk, cheese, bread, and fish. To make bread, you’ll need a wheat farm, then a flour mill, then a bakery, which means connecting all the nodes via rail in that order. You can have multiple trains on the same track, but each station you construct will have four lines leading to and from it.
At first, the trick is simply to make sure your towns have the right supplies. Each time you satisfy a node, the greyed-out landscape around it will bloom with colour. Fill the whole map with colour and you’ll finish the level. Your tracks can go up and down hills and mountains, or over rivers and through forests, but everything has a cost. It’s often cheaper to tweak the track than build a bridge, but no one cares how long a train takes to reach a destination. Click a working supply line into place and you get paid right away, which is money you’ll use to connect the next one.
As you progress, the jobs become more complex. Maps with more than one city need passenger trains as well as freight, and you’ll have to supply many more resources like water, furniture, and tools. That means linking iron mines and logging mills, building more and more complex networks. In the late game, you’ll need to construct the nodes themselves, which adds a whole new dimension to the challenge as you try to figure out the best placement for a particular farm or workshop.
As new buildings arrive on a map, thunking down out of the clear blue sky, you’ll also unlock special cards that grant you buffs for a particular section of the track. They might be to reduce the cost of rails or bridges, remove forests for free, or give you special items such as luxury passenger cars or heavy freight trains. You’ll find abandoned wagons in later levels that you can reclaim for free cards or money.
While there’s certainly a right way to do it, you can get through most levels by being creative. Annoyingly though, there’s no demolish button. If you put a section of track on a station, they’re permanent, and you’ll need to reload a checkpoint or start a level all over. It’s unnecessarily harsh for such an otherwise chilled experience.
The campaign won’t take you longer than four or five hours, but there’s a custom mode available where you can set everything from the environment and size of the map, to which industry you’ll be dealing with and how much money you have. You can even opt to play the campaign with no money restrictions – which makes the lack of a mulligan option even more bewildering.
Station to Station is an enjoyable, likable railway builder with a beautiful art style and a charming soundtrack. It doesn’t last all that long, and despite a few little design issues, it’s an addictive puzzle game that offers a decent challenge without being frustrating.
Challenge increases steadily
Custom Mode adds length
No "demolish" option