Model Railroad Simulator Review

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Graphics: 7.5
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 8.5
Review by Dennis Sloutsky

Model Rail Road Simulator is the latest railroad simulator offering from our local Canadian publisher Global Star Software. To tell you the truth I was rather skeptical when I got this one out of the box, since I've never played a computer rail road simulator game before (somehow all that hype surrounding Trainz never got to me), so I didn't know what to expect and what would be the purpose of the game. Was my (usually healthy) skepticism justified? Read on to find out...

Model Rail Road Simulator includes 40 game "missions" where you have to build your rail road according to the instructions given by the game, where you might have to link two towns and so on. Alternatively, you can select the "build track" game option and just build your railroad on any of the 10 maps available. Furthermore, it also includes a great 66 page encyclopedia on the general history of the railroad, as well as detailed history on the most popular types of trains and cars. The game also has a nice tutorial that will teach you most of the things you need to know to play the game (although after that you'd need to play around with it since it still doesn't cover all the features, such as removing a placed game piece from the screen). I'd have to mention that the learning curve of the game is very low, and you'll be able to build your own rail roads within twenty minutes after you first start the game.

The one that that I've noticed right away after starting the game, is that it's not a regular realistic Railroad simulator like Trainz from Strategy First of Microsoft Train Simulator: rather it focuses on the small model trains that you could buy at stores; it perfectly simulates them! I have some history with such model trains - it's a long story, but I'll tell it anyhow. When I was a really young boy, let's say 5 years old or so, my grandmother brought me an authentic railroad kit with a blue shiny train and cars and trees and stations and rails and everything else that came with it from her trip to Germany. As I saw it my eyes widened with excitement and since then it was my favorite toy that I played with daily. But all that ended after my younger sister was born, when I was 7 years old. One day, she, being of pre-kindergarten age, just had to go exploring the room and after finding my rail road that I have built the day earlier and left on the floor, she just had to mercilessly break the train beyond repair. Right now I recall this day like it was yesterday; I cried and wept like a little kid that lost his favorite toy that I was. There was no end to my tears and that day I fell asleep in my bed while still crying. My dad tried to fix it for a few long hours, but to no avail. And well, since I come from what used to be USSR back in the day, my parents didn't have the money to replace it, and I never got another model train again. Until now, that is...

The game tables look nice, with water flowing around in lakes and rivers, skycrapers standing in the cities, forests, rocks and houses looking almost like the real thing. And the trains and cars themselves are very detailed, with a lot of attention given to every model's specific features. Heck, some even produce little puffs of steam, and what more would you want? You can zoom in and out on everything and easily change camera angles. Did I mention that the game is using the famous LithTech engine to portray all that, and uses it rather well? The only problematic thing with the graphics I did notice, is that the terrain and some of the tree textures look somewhat bland, as if not enough attention was given to them. But then again, I believe I can't hold the game accountable for that, since it simulates a model rail road table, not real-life nature surroundings... One other thing that I noticed about the graphics, is that when you place too many pieces on the map, you will see a huge performance degradation, up to the point where I had to quit the game and restart it again - I am not sure what is the reason for that - bugs caused by the game+win2k combination or the fact that maybe LithTech engine wasn't exactly designed for that kind of games where you are able to see a really vast open environment with an option to zoom in and zoom out on everything (as it is, the game requires a PII-450 Mhz and a 16mb video card as minimal system configuration).

The sounds are like the real thing, the trains' wheels making realistic sounds, the station bells ringing and of course the trains' steam release valves going "choo-choo!". But even more wonderful is the music - it's a very appropriate dreamy tune that really gets you into the game and makes you feel as if you're actually riding the train somewhere in dreamland... I don't know why, but as soon as I heard it, I recalled myself being a kid all over again. It just has some sort of magic about it. Only downside here would be that this tune is the only one available in the game and it repeats over and over again, but it seems to seamlessly blend in into one exquisite melody when you're in the game.

The game missions like I've said set a task for you to do on the given map for each mission, like connecting two towns with a railroad. Every rail piece as well as the actual trains and cars cost a certain amount of money, which is taken from your budget when you place that piece on the map. Fortunately you can also "sell back" the pieces you've placed on the map and get your money back. The missions vary from very easy that let you build pretty much any type of railroad you want and still fit into the budget, to really hard ones, where you have to count every dollar in order to fit into the tight budget. In the "build track" game mode you have unlimited cash to spend on your dream railroad(s), buy different trains and cars, make everything look pretty and just enjoy your trains rolling around while improving some parts of the railroad or replacing it. You can also place miniature houses, trees and much more to give your table a more realistic feeling. My only concern with the gameplay was that there's no real clipping routine implemented - meaning you can place a tree or a building on top of rails and the train will still go through the object as if it's going through the air! Also for some reason there's no option to build bridges in the game, even though there are some rivers available... As well, just as a suggestion I think it'd be real nice to have a map of the game table area available for you orienting better in the game. But those are minor problems, and don't affect the gameplay much, if at all.

Overall, Rail Road Model Simulator is a great game. It really made me feel like a kid again, running the same train that I had back then and that I've missed so much somewhere in the depths of my heart all this time. It allowed me to relive my happy childhood memories, and brought back a lot of sentimental recaps that I didn't even think existed anymore in my memory. This game is a must buy for every self-respecting railroad model enthusiast, or a kid at heart, like me. Even if you're not any of the above and are just looking for something new and fun to play with to kill some spare time, try it out. Chances are you won't regret it. Just make sure you've got a decent machine to run it on. And now if you'll excuse me, it's time to play some more Rail Road Model Simulator....