Model trains maybe a hobby associated with young lads growing up, creating evermore elaborate track designs in their bedrooms but it’s not the cheapest of past times. An then there’s the space needed, you don’t exactly want to spend hours setting up an intricate design that needs to be demolished because half the living room is now a train track. That’s where virtual reality (VR) can come in to solve all those woes, with The House of Fables creating Trains VR for some miniature railway gameplay.
Trains VR isn’t quite what you’d expect if you’re after complete freedom, as the title is built around a puzzle dynamic that sees players having to complete 40 levels of logic puzzles. These a setup like any classic model railway design, on a table-top board with rolling fields and hills and various obstacles like fences to deal with.
Puzzles revolve around you collecting stars, each one has a specific colour to match a train and only that train can collect the star(s). This is achieved by building track using a pointer from the controller. You can only build straight and curved pieces with Train VR adding other variations as needed. Should you create an intersection with a couple of curved pieces and a straight piece of track, then a switch will appear allowing the direction of the train to be altered.
As the levels progress more items are introduced to up the complexity, with pads that’ll turn the train completely around or crossed intersections that must be used. The actual build areas themselves are fairly compact and while the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive release has seen improvements, it’s still easy to tell Trains VR is a mobile port.
The actual placement of track is so quick and easy that it’s quite simple to breeze through the first 10 levels or so, building up that child-like fascination with trains that you just want to create ever bigger and more elaborate designs. Yet that becomes one of the main sticking points with Trains VR. This is a puzzle experience that almost wants to become a creative build-your-own videogame, where the constraints of collecting stars is removed for a freer more open design.
One annoying aspect of Trains VR design is the map. Unless you’re in full room-scale mode then the map movement is clunky at best. The main hub map can be moved up and down with a physical movement of the controller but there’s no zoom or twist function – something quite common and found in titles like Brass Tactics. When in a level you do then have the option to spin the table-top left and right in fixed increments, but it’s not the most fluid of actions.
Yet there is a certain cheeky charm to Trains VR, especially when you consider the option of being able to jump into one of the toy trains and control its speed or toot the whistle. It has a way of engrossing you in the task at hand as you try to design a multipath system for several trains to complete their goals without crashing into one another. There are flaws but there’s a decent amount of content for a puzzle title and it’ll make a few train aficionados smile.