Tracks – The Train Set Game from Whoop Group and Excalibur Games has just released on Steam Early Access. Tracks started out as a Game Jam project before being taken to the next level. Just Push Start first played the game at EGX 2017 where we felt it was one of the Top 5 games of the show! Now we have had more time with the game and have only fallen more in love with this nostalgic ride.
There are two game modes available, the ultimate chill, Free Play and, an objective based mode, Passengers. Despite the comical nature of the tiny wooden bowling pin people you need to transport, most of my time has been spent in Free Play mode. Passengers adds structure to the railway building, though Free Play is more relaxing to simply build and test how silly things can get.
In Free Play mode players are left alone, to see where their imaginations take them, literally along the tracks. Right now, there is a decent amount of scenery objects available to new players. Not only are there objects to add flavour to your toy railways, in the shape of houses, fountains, trees and even clock houses, but there are a few physics special objects. These include a couple of sized block towers. Plop these down in the way on the tracks and the wooden train will send these blocks flying in all directions in a comical and pleasing explosion of bricks.
At the moment there is a rather simplified in-game store where you can spend points to unlock some new types of pieces. For instance, at the start players will be randomly placing houses, without being able to stipulate size. Players are able to spend points to unlock a small house object that produces only smaller houses. This give players something to aim for rather than just having everything instantly available.
When you start to become uninterested in extending your mammoth freely built tracks it is time to get some wooden dudes to a station! This gives some purpose to the building, where players can try to build the most optimal routes. While it is only a small easy objective for the most part, this shows how the game could progress. All it takes is for more varied objectives with easier and harder train pick up locations and you have a good hour or two worth of content to enjoy at a time. As with much of Tracks I’m excited to see where the developer takes this feature.
Both modes can be played in the Modern Apartment and Free Play can also be played in a white expanse, or Clear to give it it’s official name. On Clear players can build free of constraints of placed furniture. The Modern Apartment has some furniture and walls that can either present an obstacle or another means of fun. A table for instance can be rolled along by a train, free of the tracks. Objects like this leads to some leap of faith style drops. The best bit; if the train fails at a jump you don’t need to scramble about picking things up! Instead fix the track so it’ll work next time, hold T to reset the train and try again.
As the Tracks has just released onto Steam Early Access I’m sure there will be many content updates along the journey towards full release. New environments could add an interesting twist to the objective based delivery mode and add unique flavour to the Free Play mode. They could ultimately change how players have to design their railways, around different objects and room layouts. Nevertheless, new objects to add into the environments will increase the game even more so, complementing both modes at once. These could include content such as tunnels, new building types and more interactable objects. The potential is almost unlimited.
Dr. Whoop, the developer, has already confirmed that the aim is to include Steam Workshop support. This could really take Tracks to the next level if done openly enough. Getting creations such as player made tracks into the hands of others would be a great away of adding to the game. Sometimes seeing what is possible makes you re-evaluate what to build next. It can also show you just how crazily epic you truly can make wooden train tracks! To go above and beyond this if player created items could be added or downloaded from the workshop it could exponentially grow the content of the game.
At any point you can jump in and start riding the rails you’ve built. Be it a simple loop or a long intricately crossing and weaving track you can drive a wooden train, from a first-person camera angle. The controls are extremely simple and intuitive to speed up or slow down, with the ability to decide which direction to take when the track splits. This lets you zoom through the creation you’ve made from an entirely different perspective.
Because of this, the potential for virtual reality is strong for Tracks. Not only the ability to look around when driving the train but also when building to move around, pick track pieces up and place them with motion controls. It all adds together to be a game that sounds ideal for VR support. That being said, triple AAA game studios don’t always go down this route with colossal budgets behind them for a reason.
The controls are overall intuitive. Most importantly, someone can sit down and easily build a basic track within a minute of playing, even without the tutorial instructions. Just click where you want the track pieces to be placed. Then it is a simple decision of if the one in front will be a straight, curve left or right by moving the cursor or up/down by using the scroll wheel. This is a slight niggle I have with Tracks, with scroll also moving the camera. Separating these actions would be beneficial to stop the camera from moving around all the time. Going further than this is when player will need to take a step back and quickly go through the tips. Nothing seems overly complex it is just a little cumbersome at times hopping in and out of the object menu.
Have you ever wanted a game that can transport you back to your youth? Tracks is that very game it removes all adult complications of life and gives you the building blocks for a great wooden train set. Leave stress at the door, forget any worries you may have, Tracks – The Train Set Game is an experience where you can just sit down and enjoy some child-like fun. Being in Early Access the current content is limited. As the content increased over time, with the likes of ringing bells on the way, the enjoyment possible will only grow alongside it.
[Editor’s Note: Tracks – The Train Set Game (PC) was provided to us by Excalibur Games for the preview.]