Having lived near a major city and visited several others, I appreciate a good, affordable public transportation that can take me wherever I need to go without the hassle of dangerous roadways or confusing city designs. But the work of building such a system isn’t very sexy, and the prospect of simulating the details of building such a system felt less enthralling. So imagine my surprise at the fun that I had playing STATIONflow.
Here you play as a nameless, faceless subway station manager whose task is to keep the train system running at a profit. As more stations open, you see a diverse and colorful set of train riders appear, each with their own unique needs, as well as a full set of items to fulfill those needs. Tourists need information boards, commuters need their coffee, and everyone needs a bathroom. While the interface looks simplistic, as if running CAD software in real time, you quickly realize that the simple graphics belie the growing difficulty as your station progresses.
For example, signage is a key component of the layout and flow of your station, and passengers that do not know where they are going will freak out, spending an exorbitant amount of time in the station and keeping you from both a good evaluation rating and that hard-earned cash that you’re hoping to raise. And as you move through the game, you must return to every part of your station to keep up with your improvements – as new entrances appear, your signs must update to include connections to those new areas.
As the elderly become a component of your system, you make sure that escalators are in place, since stairs are no longer an option. And with game modes like Deep (which puts the station far below the surface and requires managing several layers), you’re bound to lose yourself quickly.
Once you get the hang of it, you get to see the pride that comes with your work. You get to see little avatars standing in line waiting to find out where to go. You can zoom down to the character level and see little commuters rushing to get by, exiting the train and imagining them running off to their little homes after a long day.
You can even click on each of the characters and find out their desires, why they’re upset, and what insight you can use to fix the problems. And at the end of each day, you receive your evaluation, along with the option to take out loans for more improvements. It’s a fairly comprehensive experience that will challenge you further as you progress more.
The interface can be clunky at times and zooming in an out can feel like a chore when you’re trying to get your improvements just right, but STATIONflow is an otherwise engaging and fun transportation simulator. It teaches the value of good design and getting it right the first time. It’s a fun romp through transportation planning, and fans of the genre (a la Sim City and RollerCoaster Tycoon) will have a good time with this one.