Indietail – Train Valley 2

Do you like trains? Do you like simulations? Do you like resource-management-puzzles? If this introduction reminds you of yesterday’s post, then you’ll probably realise quickly that we’re reviewing Train Valley 2 today and that I’m still as uncreative as yesterday!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Genre: Trains, Strategy, Simulation, Puzzle, Casual
Release Date: April 15, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Train Valley 2 is a puzzle-train-sim developed by Flazm, the developer of the prequel, Train Valley 1. Alas, the premise is still relatively the same. You’ve got different stations that need to be connected using railroads. Building tracks, bridges and tunnels as well as destroying houses and other objects costs money that you earn by successfully guiding trains from one station to the other stations.

The main difference is probably the fact that you don’t have the semi-random tunnels, bridges and stations popping up everywhere.

Instead, you’ve got the task of constructing those yourself. Apart from that, you now have to deliver resources from one station to the next, to get processed resources that then need to end up at different towns. You transport workers from trains to the fields to work on grains. You then deliver the grains and more workers to the farms to get cows. At last, you bring the cows back to the towns to complete the production goals.

But the game’s not limited to only workers, grains and cows but also features a plethora of other resources and processed items that need a lot more steps to get produced!

In the first game, trains started driving off into the distance, causing chaos and destruction, if you took too long. Meanwhile here you have full control, alas having to send them off on your own in a slower-paced fashion, which is rather relaxing and quite a bit of an improvement. The game doesn’t get easier, though, as it’s more about the decisions you make. You need to manage your funds and decide on which station to build from and to, first, before taking action. Alas, Train Valley 2 can create a relaxing and less frustrating experience while still featuring logic puzzles that are as satisfying and difficult as the ones featured in the predecessor!

Overall, it seems as if the developer, Flazm, stocked up on the quality of life improvements while also adding a lot of features that make the game more entertaining. Challenging yourself in the levels and collecting stars now enables you to unlock different train designs, for instance. Things like these make the challenges worth it, while also providing completionists with some better rewards!

In contrast to the first game’s more realistic art style, Train Valley 2 features a rather vibrant colour palette as well as a less detailed poly-based art style.

When delivering materials to the different towns, these towns get upgraded, just like in the predecessor, but it seems to be overall more rewarding. Levels aren’t tied to themes, eras and locations anymore but, instead, feature a more general approach, named by some landmark, like “lighthouse” or “Eiffeltower”. Despite that, the cities and towns still develop in different styles that aren’t necessarily “European” or “Asian”, which I personally really dug.

Another new change: You don’t go through a century per level but instead work yourself through different ages from the steam age to the electrical era to, finally, the age of space. You can find a total of 50 levels in Train Valley 2, and you have access to infinite more levels due to the Steam Workshop and the player-created levels.

The music, however, is still not my favourite part of the game…or even the franchise.

In the beginning, the soundtrack seems to fit the game, but over time you can’t listen to it anymore. The tracks (pun intended) are all way too relaxed and calm. At some point, I got so tired of the soundtrack that I ended up turning it off and listening to some other music that fits the game just as much but is a lot less monotone. The problem with the soundtrack is probably the fact that it all sounds similar if not even the same. If someone played the Train Valley soundtrack, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it at all, which, in my opinion, is what makes a great soundtrack great. It either fits the game atmospherically or it adds more value to your experience. Train Valley 2’s soundtrack seems to fit but gets annoying over time and alas, in my opinion, is not good.

On top of that, there are some issues with the bridge/tunnel-construction.
It’s a tad difficult to see the terrain differences and where you can lay down tracks. In some places, you need to create bridges and tunnels although it may look like you’re able to just place tracks up the slope. When you want to construct bridges or tunnels, it can also become rather fiddly, to the point that it almost becomes frustrating.

That being said, I don’t think that this is a major flaw and while it can be a bit annoying in the beginning, you’ll get used to the controls over time and eventually learn how to use it just fine. My overall experience with the game was really satisfying and I did enjoy my time a lot, especially since I noticed the improvements from the first game.

Both Train Valley and Train Valley 2 are great games that you can get for around ten bucks. Train Valley 2 brings a lot of value to the table on top of the workshop content, which is just fabulous for games like this. If you like puzzle games and/or trains, I’d say go for it.

Cheers!

Indietail – Chinese Parents

Today we’re disappointing our parents! Not our real ones but our virtual Chinese parents! Today we’re taking a look at 中国式家长 / Chinese Parents, a casual Indie-Simulation where we become a random Chinese couple’s child, grow up and become a parent in the next generation – in hope of being better than our former parents!

Developer:  墨鱼玩游戏 (Moyuwan Games)Co
Publisher: Coconut Island Games
Genres: Casual, Simulation, Indie, RPG
Release Date:
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

As already mentioned, you are born into a Chinese family. The game follows a “Spore”-Esque gameplay formula in which you’re living through different stages of your life. At first, you’re a baby/newborn, then you enter kindergarten, different stages of school and later you need to get married to a partner you’ve met along the way which starts a new playthrough with a new generation where you’re a child again! 

Along the way you’re trying to accumulate different stats, knowledge, skills, and traits, while also making friends along the way, meeting your parents’ expectations (or not), working, participating in fights, competitions and other events as well as maybe even finding love. It’s a mishmash of way too many aspects of the Simulation-genre which results in an overall enjoyable experience

Yep, I called my character “nobody” in this playthrough.

To accumulate different stats, you need to play a little minigame in which you spend action-points to remove a variety of bubbles in different shapes and colours. The colours determine what stat these bubbles are raising. There are different stats that can be raised through these from Memory to Imagination to Constitution to IQ and some others. There are also bubbles that give you more knowledge which is needed to learn skills. Some bubbles cost more action points but have special effects like revealing the whole stat-map, giving you more action-points, collecting all bubbles of one colour or collecting the bubbles around it. There’re also bubbles that grant you more stats per round, which is quite neat, I’d say.

These stats determine whether or not you’re good at certain tasks like Sports (Constitution) or Arts (Imagination)! The other way of increasing them is by planning your schedule for the day. To do that you need to assign tasks that have to do with the skills you want to increase into a time-table. Most of the time these increase multiple stats but also increase your stress-level which has to be kept minimal by mixing in some entertainments into the schedule. If your stress-level increases too much, your character becomes anxious, depressed or may even die, which you don’t want to happen, right?

Once your time-table is all set, your stats increase and a new day starts with new events and more stuff to do!

Overall this gameplay loop would be quite repetitive if it wasn’t for different events that are occurring. Every now and then there are events that involve you and other people. Sometimes your dad comes home drunk and keeps shouting insults at you, other times you are rewarded with a flower from your kindergarten teacher and your imagination and mood becomes better.

By learning new skills and using them in your schedule, you unlock traits… but what are they for? 

Well, actually traits are for bragging rights. Your parents sometimes get involved in “Face Fights” with distant family members, neighbours and strangers. There they brag about their child to decrease the “enemy”‘s HP to win the fight. Your traits are basically your “attacks”, which I found quite hilarious. The rarer your trait is, the higher the damage! 

There are also talent shows called “China Got Trait!”, an obvious parody, where you show off your trait in order to earn better stats, some money and more “face”. 

So, your parents are quite proud of you when you unlock traits but what about the aforementioned expectations?

Now and then you are faced with a “mission” of sorts where you need to reach a certain amount of stat-points in a certain amount of turns or where you need to learn a certain skill. The race for that is quite interesting and I found it rather enjoyable to strive for appreciation and acceptance! For once, I tried to not disappoint my parents and most of the time, I failed. It takes at least two to three runs to figure out what to do in what order to achieve one’s goal in Chinese Parents. Hence, there’s a learning curve that I found rather enjoyable, too.

But enough of the gameplay, what about the presentation?

Overall it’s relatively simple. The art style makes use of meme-ish and toddler-like drawings for comedic relief while using a bright colour palette in most settings. Usually, you see one type of scenery per stage with your character in the middle of it. The character models also change in every run, which is quite interesting. Quite lovely, I’d say.

But then there’s the music and it’s… the same in all cases. Sometimes there’s a different tune mixed into the game here and there but overall you get to hear one tune over and over and over and over again and it might as well drive you into insanity. After around 4 hours of gameplay, I noticed that the music still hasn’t *really* changed and that the main theme is super obnoxious, resulting in me turning the music off and playing some other games’ soundtrack in the background. This was quite disappointing, as I had a blast playing the game overall. 

Chinese Parents is a casual game in its core.

You play it now and then but you don’t play it for too long. It’s not stressful. It’s rather relaxing. It’s a game you can return to whenever you feel like it. There are achievements that can be unlocked, as well as a few different careers you can go for and a treasure hunt to complete as well! 

I had a blast playing it as it plays with different stereotypes of (Chinese) parents and as it has this interesting art style and a lot of different funny moments. The events that seem to be procedurally generated also brighten your day whenever you play it, I’d say,…

and I’d say I recommend this game as well. 

Anyways, have a nice day and try to call your parents once in a while. I should try to do that more often, too. …