Tracks: The Train Set Game‘s title pretty much tells you everything you need to know. This is a train set that’s also a game.
When I was a young’un, I always wanted a great, giant train set that I could customise and design however I wanted. You know; a bit like the one that Reverend Lovejoy has in The Simpsons. Alas, I never did get one. I at least get to channel my desire for model towns through Lego in the real world, but Tracks: The Train Set Game allows you to do it without taking up any space, or spending any more money than the price of the game.
Rather than being a game filled with objectives and tasks, Tracks is, first and foremost, a big, empty sandbox for you to unleash your creativity upon. You can take your pick of a few different environments, or you can opt for a literal blank canvas if you completely want to start from scratch. Then, you can begin laying out a train track, designing it however you see fit.
What surprised me most about Tracks: The Train Set Game is that, even right from the moment you start the game, nothing is off-limits. I expected various items to be locked behind progress barriers, or that I’d need to earn in-game currency in order to buy them. No; in Tracks, it’s like having some kind of special-access account: nothing is off-limits. The only thing holding you back from what you can create is your own imagination – and perhaps the amount of patience you have.
Tracks isn’t just about laying track; there’s a massive amount of various decorational items you can lay to create an immense model town. There are houses and shops, cars and people, trees and rivers, fountains and statues; you can even lay roads, and have them intersect with your train tracks through a level crossing.
The freedom that Tracks: The Train Set Game gives you from the very outset is fantastic, and it sets it apart from other sandbox games where your progress usually has to be earned. It’s very easy to get to grips with too, with the console controls being mapped well and not too fiddly to get the hang of. One button rotates your object, and another will drop it after you’ve moved it into position: simple. There’s no resizing of objects necessary; the bits and pieces at your disposal feel as though they’d belong to a model village in the real-world, and so are all set to scale.
When you’re done building your train track, you can also try it out for yourself, jumping into a first-person view of the train’s driver cab. Here, you’ll have control of your locomotive, being able to control its speed, put it in forward or reverse, and stop to pick up any passengers that may be waiting at stations. You can even toot your whistle.
It’s not just a sandbox though; Tracks does have some challenges and objectives that you can play through if you’d rather. The challenges will see you building tracks to a certain specification, or transporting a number of passengers from one station to another. They’re fun, but I doubt it’s going to be anyone’s real draw to Tracks. The fun here is surely being able to let your imagination run wild.
Obviously, it’s not the sort of game that’s going to appeal to everyone; many of us prefer our video games to give us some kind of structure. But if you’re something of a creative and love seeing your visions come to life, Tracks: The Train Set Game provides a fantastic workspace to create some truly stunning model towns. Being able to jump straight in to everything right from the start is a huge bonus, and being free of limitations – at least in terms of how far a toy village can go, of course – is a breath of fresh air.