My Railway HD
All aboard for Game Insight's train tycoon title!
One of those hobbies that I've always thought I'd enjoy were it not for a complete lack of space (and even less spare time) is the art of building a miniature railway, hidden away somewhere in a theoretical attic, away from the demands of domestic life. Somewhere to simply relax and muse as the mechanical, system-heavy creation whirs away, oblivious to the tiresome realities of mortgages, utility bills, and overgrown lawns.
My Railway HD is about as close as anyone's come to replicating that experience digitally. In Game Insight's micro-simulation title, you'll need to connect villages with farms, towns with factories, and satisfy the various demands that the residents and townships make of you. Humburg (deliberately misspelled) wants wheat for example, while Pregue might currently be offering a great price on candle wax.
At the beginning of the game, you're given a generous chuck of change in the form of silver coins, which can be used to build the basics of your steam-engine empire: rail-tracks, basic trains, village upgrades and the like. More complex objects require the use of gold coins, which are considerably harder to come by, and are usually only awarded when you level up.
It would be hard to know where to start with what is an unusually complex freemium game, were it not for the fact that the tutorial does a great job of teaching you the fundamentals, and before long you'll have a brisk, if rather small, empire at your fingertips.
Icons on the left-hand side of the screen give you advice about who wants what and when, and once you've tapped on the icon a further tap sends you whizzing off to the appropriate area of the map without any fuss at all. It's a great way of helping you stay on top of the increasingly complex microcosm that the game rapidly becomes.
It's a very pretty title too, and your villages, towns and rail-tracks are extremely enjoyable to watch in motion as trains chug wheat, corn and stone from one village to another. If you want to personalize the experience, you can even add decorations to your landscapes such as shrubs, craters, huts, and even corn circles. It'll be a while before you can undertake your very own landscaping though, as most of these items require the rare gold currency, more readily available from the in-app purchase store.
As with most freemium games these days, the developers recognize the need to provide a little more engagement for gamers, rather than simply have them set things in motion and then go off to do something considerably less boring than watch an awful lot of timers tick down. Swatting the birds that occasionally appear in the sky will reward you with a nice injection of cash for example, while the train-drivers will sometimes become fatigued and need a good finger-press to the head in order to bring them back up to full speed.
Not much is going to get done without your attention, as village sales need to be manually completed, unless you've paid gold to have a shopkeeper maintain a watchful eye over things. They can be hired for a period of two hours for a small amount of gold, but to keep them permanently behind the till you're going to need to shell out a monstrous amount of money. You'll also often come back to the game to find yourself not only still relatively poor, but in possession of a whole fleet of train drivers who are fast asleep and not earning their keep.
My Railway HD is likely to divide gamers. On the one hand, it's one of the most enjoyable freemium titles that we've played for a very long time: it looks beautiful, its mechanics are more engaging than most, and the game does an excellent job of guiding you through your career progress. Yet more often than not you're likely to return to the game feeling rather frustrated at the meager progress you've made as a railway tycoon. At the free download price, we can only really recommend testing the game's limitations for yourself.
What's Hot: A more complex freemium micro-simulator than most, with genuinely charming content and satisfying objectives.
What's Not: Unless you have deep pockets, you're going to need to stay on top of the game if you want to make any meaningful progress.