Storm the Train is one of those video games that does exactly what it says on the tin (that is if it came packaged in a metal container as opposed to being downloadable from the iTunes store.) The game sees players controlling one of three special agents who land on top of a runaway locomotive and then have to fight their way through the train’s menace filled carriages. The trio of heroes are Mason the mighty African American who can take the most damage, Carrera the speedy female and Caucasian Graham who is a good all rounder. Hurrah for sexist/racist playable character archetypes – it takes me back to the days of Streets of Rage.
The game would best be described as a simplified Megaman clone given that you spend your time running forward, jumping over dangers and blasting anything that moves. Forget about story because this is one of those titles were you keep on playing until you eventually succumb to the horrors out to impede your train storming antics. Although I personally prefer games that have a tale to tell, there’s nothing wrong with just playing to earn the highest score possible. That sort of game design didn’t prevent the likes of Pac-Man and Space Invaders from becoming timeless classics after all.
Even though there’s no end to the game the developers tried to keep things varied by having three types of train for players to board. There’s a ghost train populated by zombies, skeletons, werewolves and vampires, a futuristic bullet train guarded by robots and an oriental express were you have to contend with samurais and ninjas. When the game begins you randomly jump on one of the trains (by descending from a helicopter) and then advance with only a gun to protect you. Once you traverse past all the carriages you get to leap on another train and keep on going until you run out of health signaling a game over. What’s the deal with this track being used by an endless supply of hazardous trains? I’ll never complain about the Northern Line again.
WEAPONS AND CONTROLS
Your main goal when playing this game is just to survive and attain the best points score possible, but you also get three objectives to strive for during your train run. These missions range from killing a certain amount of enemies to saving hostages trapped in cages. Successfully clearing the assigned goal nets you stars, which unlock helpful items such protective gear and different weapon types. The varied arsenal consists of various handguns, beam weapons and rocket launchers that can be picked up by walking over crates. Weapon damage can be upgraded by spending the gravity defying floating coins you collect during your travels at the in-game store.
Shoot-em-up fans who have grown up with titles like Contra will feel right at home playing Storm the Train, but less experienced players shouldn’t be put off from having a go thanks to the accessible control scheme that anyone can master. There’s only four virtual buttons to worry about. On the left hand side of the screen you can tap on the movement icons that control moving forward/back whilst the right hand side houses the icons for jumping and shooting. The only other thing to look out for is the mayhem meter that fills up gradually as you destroy things. When the meter is topped up you can press it to activate a random power-up (such as an airstrike or a selection of automated drones that fly about mowing down hostiles or intercepting projectiles.)
I had a lot of fun playing Storm the Train and only a few minor gripes prevent me from giving it full marks. One negative is the button layout, which can feel unwieldy for persons cursed with smaller hands (especially if you play on a wide iPad screen.) Thankfully you can adjust the control layout to make things more comfortable. Another potential problem is that the gameplay can get repetitive, even though the developers try to break up the constant run and gun action with the occasional boss fight and vehicle sections (were the screen automatically moves forward as you pilot a wheel shaped tank or take to the skies on a jetpack.) Some more enemy types and a few more kinds of train would alleviate the repetition, but it’s not a big deal as this is the type of game you play in quick bursts rather than for hours at a time.
Visually I dug the cute graphics featuring cartoony characters with oversized heads. I also thought the way your character loses clothing, as he/she gets hurt, was a neat touch. It reminded me of the fiendishly difficult Ghost n Goblins were your knight would be stripped of his armor (forcing him to fight the undead in his boxers) whenever he got hit. As far as casual titles go it’s a hoot and best of all free to download. Competitive types who want to top the Game Center high score table can splash out real money on weapon upgrades, but I don’t feel it’s necessary. Part of the fun is earning the upgrades naturally by collecting coins and completing missions, so why bother dipping into your financial reserves to take a short cut that ultimately hurts the replay value?
I heartily recommend Storm the Train to mobile gamers out there. It costs nowt to play so there’s no reason not to check it out. It’s the most train themed fun I’ve had since the days when I would listen to Ringo Starr narrate Thomas the Tank Engine.