When I think back to my teens there aren’t many games that I remember taking up many hours of my time. There are some titles that got me sucked in, and left me fully immersed with no sense of time passing whatsoever. With these games, I’d often sit down after dinner, and before I knew it, it’d be 2am and I had 4 hours to sleep and got up the next day for my early shift. One of them was Grand Theft Auto 3, the other was Transport Tycoon.
Released in 1994, it’s a game where the only aim is to build a transport empire and make lots of money. And it’s back, but this time, for iPad and iPhone.
Let’s get the obvious out the way first: The graphics are dated. And there’s good reason for that. Visually, it’s virtually identical to the title that launched in the mid-90s, on 3.5 inch floppy disk. As you know, floppy disks aren’t well renowned for their huge storage capacity. From what I remember, to install required more than one disk. Possibly 4. My memory’s sketchy. Regardless, there’s no way they could have featured the top of the range graphics on a game that was available on floppy disk. When you load up the iPad and iPhone version, you’ll see the 90s graphics quality in their full glory. In some ways, it’s great, for nostalgic value alone. But, I couldn’t help but think it wouldn’t harm the developers too much to reboot it a little with higher resolution imagery. Thankfully, it’s not a game where the visual quality really affects the game too much.
Launching the app for the first time gives you a window offering you a choice of difficulties and stages. The first of which is a tutorial. I was surprised how little I remembered from the original game, and played through all the tutorials. It goes through how to build roads, railways, docks, stations, bus stops etc. It also takes you through selecting the right kind of vehicle and carriage it needs for any specific goal. For instance, you have busses, trams and trains as well as a variety of trucks. Depending on the time in history you launch your game, a certain number of vehicles will have been “invented”. The earlier you start, the fewer options there are. I definitely recommend going through the very first tutorial levels just to get used to the system.
Once you’re up and running you’ll be place on a 3D map, which you can zoom in and out of using pinch-to-zoom gestures. Controls are fairly basic, once you get used to them. In the bottom left corner is a selection of 5 icons. Each is for building. You have an icon each for vehicles, roads, train tracks, buildings/factories and the final one is for changing the shape of the land, adding in rivers trees and demolishing stuff. Once you hit any of those, you get another column of icons up the left side of the screen with more options. I could list all the different options, but, it’s easier just to say: There a lots. And you get more as you go on through the game.
Apart from the creation tools on the bottom left, there are two other columns of icons on screen at all times. Both host three options, both in the top left. The three top ones are all used to manage your company, vehicles and stations. Hitting the randomly appointed avatar thumbnail at the very top shows you your company stats. You can check up on income, check your challenge progress and even build your own HQ. Below the thumbnail icon are the vehicle management and station management icons. Lastly, you have three other options below that give you the ability to check up on competition and performance indexes.
All in all, it’s a pretty in depth game, and it’s why it’s so addictive. There’s so much to consider. Whether it’s choosing the right areas to build roads, or place stations, or even managing your company’s finances, there’s enough that you just don’t get bored. And, there are so many challenges to attempt from the scene selection menu that it’ll easily keep you entertained for a few weeks at least.
One thing I do have to commend is how the developers have adapted the game to touch screen. I’ve been playing on my iPad mini, and I am impressed by how natural it all feels. Not once did I wish I was sat behind a PC with a mouse to point and click. Perhaps the are it felt most natural was in the map view. In the top right corner of the screen is a small globe which takes you to a zoomed out view of the land mass. It’s absolutely necessary to use and helps you have a scout around to find specific things like oil refineries, or factories for planning trade routes as well as finding the most suitable cities for starting off your public transport systems. Simply swiping around in the zoomed out view smoothly takes you across the plain and makes navigating that much easier.
Apart from the graphics which I’ve already mentioned, there was one major frustration. There isn’t an option to just start your own scenario. You have to go with one of the games’ own suggested scenarios. It’d be great to have the option to start from scratch, or tell the app to build you a randomized bunch of cities and factories without any challenges set. Perhaps even being able to choose how many rival companies there are.
As it is, Transport Tycoon offers a good range of scenarios, differing in difficulty depending on the level you’re playing at. It might be a little frustrating to get started and getting used to all the quirks of building transport and routes. But once you have the hang of it, and you have a strategy that works for you, it soon becomes a very immersive and addictive game. But let’s not kid ourselves here. The people who are going to download this are the ones who played it in the 90s. It’s a nostalgic game, which you may not enjoy if you were born after ’94.
It’s available on the App Store now and costs $6.99/£4.99 (no in-app purchases in sight) and is compatible with any iOS device running iOS 5.1 or later. App Store Link.