- Format: Wii U
- Unleashed: Out now
- Publisher: Joindots
- Players: 1
- Site: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Wii-U-download-software/Suspension-Railroad-Simulator-977683.html
- Game code provided by the publisher
As much as we love the Wii U, it’s an unfortunate fact that any third party game will struggle to sell well on it by default. Simulators are a niche interest on any format; so a Wii U sim, while not really facing any competition, is perhaps in trouble. Who would buy this and why? Well, let’s try to find out, shall we?
Suspension Railroad Simulator (or “Schwebebahn Simulator” as the loading screens somewhat confusingly have it) is a train simulator also available on PC, but it doesn’t simulate the boring old trains that trundle along on the ground. No, it seeks to recreate the experience of driving the suspension train (clue’s in the name) which whips along above the streets of Wuppertal in what we imagine is a slightly disconcerting manner for many of the citizens underneath. Imagine a rollercoaster that travels at a sensible speed underneath the track rather than on top of it, where everybody concerned looks bored, and that’s about it. With fewer death-defying slopes and slightly less vomiting.
Simulators often instantly repel a casual interest with Byzantine controls, but that isn’t the case here. The controls, while unfamiliar, are fairly easy to get to grips with (especially if you remember that there’s an electronic manual like we didn’t). At a fundamental level in fact, you only really need to worry about the two analogue sticks; the right controls the brake, the left controls the speed. You may also want to make use of the button to open and close the doors so that people can enter and exit your metallic beast. You can also switch between forward and backward movement, but hey – let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Also, there’s a button for the horn! You can toot the horn!!!
There are some basic rules to bear in mind. You can’t pull out of a station with the doors open, the doors won’t open at all if too much of the train is hanging over the edge of the station, and running a red light will automatically kill your train’s power. Apart from that, you’re pretty much free to run riot to the extremely limited extent that the game allows. You can just hammer along the track without ever stopping for passengers if you like, you crazy renegade maniac, hitting the button to announce the next station even though there’s nobody aboard to hear it but you.
To be serious for a moment (don’t worry, it won’t last long) there’s a genuine skill to entering a station at a gentle and consistent speed before coming to a stop in the right position, and there’s a (mildly embarrassing) sense of achievement having done so. Pottering along the track, be it from the view of the cab or swinging the camera outside the train, can generate an undeniable sense of serenity – with the fact that you need to look out for the next station always at the back of your mind. In other words, you soon settle into the routine, and it’s not an unpleasant experience.
There is a theory, invented by us just now, that you are secretly playing the role of a train driver who died on the job, condemned to forevermore haunt the line. If you look in the cab from the outside while the train is in motion, you see, it is completely empty; and, while you can leave the cab to patrol your domain, you can never leave the train. An invisible force prevents you from exiting an open train door, the only other space you inhabit being the station that the game opens in. That would also explain why any passengers standing up immediately sit down when you walk by, an unexplainable chill making their legs buckle.
Poltergeist or not, there are other elements that call into question the realism of the experience. Ignoring the fact that there are probably less than a dozen character models for the passengers, the streets of Wuppertal are as empty as a Tory’s heart. Not a single vehicle or pedestrian is to be seen, severely restricting the sense of driving a train in a bustling city. Also, weather has no effect on the experience. We didn’t come across any rain in our time with the game (though it is apparently in there), but changing the in-game calendar to December does give you snow. Snow which has no discernible effect on the speed or braking of your train, and snow which never settles on the windshield, rendering the operable wipers entirely superfluous. We haven’t even mentioned the extremely lo-res textures, immense amount of clipping and pop-up, and extremely unstable frame rate. It’s not the smoothest experience out there.
You can turn ‘events’ on or off, but the only difference this made so far as we could see is the presence or omission of on-screen messages vaguely chastising you for no-nos. We smashed closing doors into passengers several times (sometimes by accident), hurtled through a construction area at top speed, and failed to slow for a designated stop; but each time, experienced nothing more than a text message tinged with resignation to our ineptitude. There was perhaps some other kind of penalty, but the scoring and levelling system is entirely ineffable; you can’t even check your points without going into the menus.
At £5.99 it’s unlikely to bankrupt anybody. We enjoyed Suspension Railroad Simulator more than certain Young White Man With Stubble Saves The World simulators, but six quid is six quid. If you’re happy to spend that on a curiosity you may only spend an hour or two with, we say jump in. It’s not really intense enough to satisfy hardcore train and/or sim enthusiasts; but if you’ve been aching for a train simulator on consoles this is the only option in the West that we’re aware of – and it’s a good start.