Yesterday I sat down to what I hoped would be a relaxing evening with A-Train HX.
For those on the other side of the pond, A-Train HX is a train simulation game (previously known as "A Ressha de Ikou HX") that recently got a European release. Okay, so the graphics looked last-gen, and building up a city around some train tracks might not sound like everyone's cup of tea, but I've always had a fancy for simulation games. I hoped A-Train would be like many small releases - quirky and full of charm.
I'd never played a train simulation game before, so like a good girl I read up on the manual before hand. It described the basics of building up a city from scratch. "Okay" I thought, "Now for the game!" I booted up the menu screen (with the painfully small text, even set to the largest font on a HD TV) and off I went onto the first map in the main mode.
Oh. My. God.
I cannot fully desribe my feeling of confusion and panic at the sprawling metropolis that lay before me. Instead of starting from scratch (such as Theme Park or Sim City), A-Train plonks you smack in the middle of everything. With no tutorial. No handy hints. Not so much as a cheeky nod as to how the hell you're supposed to get started. Suddenly the instructional manual was like trying to teach the metaphoircal murmurings of Ulysses using an Ikea desk assembly manual.
Before people begin to complain, I know that A-Train HX isn't mean for a quick casual game, pushing around some Thomas the Tank Engines. I was more than prepared to get my hands dirty. But it was the complete lack of help that got me. Unless you've been playing these kinds of games since the Atari, I just can't fathom how anyone can figure out what the hell to do. Why are random houses popping up next to one station, but not the other? What are these signal points all about? How do I make money? How do I buy and sell shares? Three hours later, I was still none the wiser.
It was a big disappointment for me. I know a lot of people scoffed at the idea of a Train Sim on the 360 from the get-go, but I really hoped it would prove them wrong. It's terrific to see more diverse games heading to the Xbox 360, and good on 505 Games for taking a chance. It's the utter lack of effort that galls me. How hard would it be to put in a simple, in-game tutorial? So the incredibly niche title just got even nichier. Consider me a potential fan, lost.