Welcome to The Final Station rail line. I’m sure Sheldon will be very displeased with this particular train, but it’s all you have to survive the “visitation” and try to get somewhere safe.
The basic premise of the game is to conduct and maintain your train while caring for your passengers with food and medicine. When you reach the next waypoint, you exit the train to search the local environs for food, medicine, spoons (you never know when you’ll be attacked by a bowl of chicken noodle…), and anything else you can use to survive or barter with. One very important item to collect is a four digit code to get your train through to the next waypoint. The downsides of your urban exploration are the presence of zombie like humans and robots trying to kill you, and a general lack of help from anywhere.
The game is a 2D exploration game where you can move in four directions (arrows or WASD keys), but there is no jumping. There are only a few other keys used to do things (F and E are used to interact with people and objects, Q gets you a med pack), and you will need your mouse to aim and fire your gun. I played a bit with the MacBook track pad, but a real mouse is much easier to use for this game.
As you work your way through various buildings you may want to be careful when opening doors; you can’t see what’s on the other side until the door is opened. Once open, you can go through and kill any zombies can get out (that is, get to you). There are some slow walkers, but there are also some short sprinters which close on you very quickly. You do have a gun, but the game provides very limited ammo. You can punch things, but it isn’t the best help much against the mobile baddies compared to how quickly they kill you. When in doubt, run. You can use some of the items around you as weapons, like chairs or boxes or even toilets (no, really…look below).
Aside from the fighting, there is a story behind everything. As you make your way through buildings you will find random notes, messages for train engineers (blocker codes) and bits of information regarding the state of the world in which you live. The passengers on your train will talk to you a bit and they will talk with each other. You can listen in to get more information, but you can’t forget to take care of the systems on the train. If you don’t keep the various systems balanced (about four different things) the train can come to a stop, the passengers could suffocate, you get the point.
I have run across a couple of odd issues with the game. One is when looking at a note/letter, the page should display as a sheet of paper with text on it. On several occasions the sheet of paper shows up, but it’s blank.
In addition, when firing my weapon there have been a few shots which didn’t exactly hit where the reticle was aimed. These are minor issues, however, and don’t really take away from the game play. Besides, if you die the game picks up at the last save point, and the game saves frequently so you never lose much progress.
As for the audio/visual aspects, I have mixed feelings. The theme of the game is pretty somber so you would expect minimal audio, and that’s what you get. When the soundtrack provides some music, it is appropriately quiet and a little sad (like when you die). The sound effects are good but there aren’t many of them; the game doesn’t really need a large number of sounds.
The visuals get a bit more touchy. Yes, the dark and depressing theme is appropriate, but this game could use a little more in visuals. Most of the game looks almost monochromatic, but there are some spots of color; your character’s eyes are red and expended shell casings are yellow, but much of the rest is black, white, and gray. The distant backgrounds are usually an interesting skyline with a nice blur out to indicate distance, some lights for the tops of towers, that sort of thing. This bit is usually minimally detailed but well rendered and smooth looking. The foreground, including the people, is another throwback to blocky 8 bit graphics. This trend started a few years ago as a nostalgia fad and to bring back classic games while keeping the original looks for old game purists. Simple is great, but personally, I think the time for using this look has passed.
To get through the whole game will take anywhere from five to ten hours of play, so with The Final Station currently available on Steam for $14.99, it’s not a bad value for some diversion. There is some strategy needed to deal with the dangers and some old fashioned pattern learning to get through the various buildings and obstacles, so taken all together it’s a decent game.