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Has potential, but is also unfinished and relies too heavily on cliches., September 7, 2018
Train (also known as "Train: A Text Adventure Game") is a story of amnesia, murder, and espionage.....at least, I think this was the author's intent. Unfortunately, it's not the most user-friendly game to play.
You play as a man who wakes up on a passenger train making its way through the German countryside. At his feet lies a body, and he has no clue of what happened or who he is. He quickly finds himself wrapped up in a complicated plot that's so complex that I challenge anyone to understand any of it. I'm not joking, either. I really haven't a clue what's going on here beyond some breadcrumbs here and there.
The bare-bones prose doesn't help matters any. A body is no more interesting than a couch to our hero. As for characters, they're more walking cliches than actual fleshed-out characters. To wit, a single person you'll encounter has a name, and it might not even be his real one. Others are just referred to by generic descriptors like "bartender" or "suspicious man".
The hero himself has no distinguishing characteristics, either. Aside from being male (which I presume is an oversight, given that the author suggests that you can be either/or), nothing is known about him. He doesn't stop to wonder why he's become embroiled in this plot, and he more or less bounces around from one locale to the next, doing whatever job some random strangers ask of him. Aside from a dream that pops up a bit later, he's a complete enigma. I assume that there's some explanation for all of this, but we'll get to why closure is so hard to come by here.
Gameplay, Puzzles, and Difficulty
This is your standard parser-based text adventure. All of the basics are here, with the added bonus of inventory and important objects and characters displayed on the right of the screen. The parser itself is rather unintuitive - some actions like "order drink" work in one place but not another. You can lay on a bed (right after you're told there's no time for lounging about), but not lie on same. This "guess the verb" gameplay is no fun, and the beige prose doesn't lend itself to unique commands that you might find in another game.
As for puzzles, there's not much here. There's one point where you need to escape from a room under a time limit, but you're only able to progress through trial-and-error. If by puzzles, you mean figuring out what commands work and if what's stopping you is a glitch, then there's plenty of that to be had.
Difficulty-wise, it's polite, but that's also because there isn't much game, and so you're not going to be restarting very far back. There are some sequences where you'll randomly fail, but other times you'll randomly succeed. There's also a lot of waiting for events to trigger, sometimes taking an upwards of 40-50 turns. With nothing else going on beyond the occasional flavor text, it gets rather tiresome.
If you've gotten as far as I have, it'll probably take you around 30 minutes, and that's once you've gotten the hang of the parser.
This is where the game really breaks down. It's not a finished work, judging by what the author's said in the comments. Still, it's replete with everything from simple typos and grammatical errors to utterly odd textual errors. Event flags don't seem to have been properly placed, and you don't even have to go the desired route to continue. You could feasibly wait around 200 turns for the game to deposit you at the next locale without the story even noticing your slacking. One event that's supposed to trigger may not do so at all, and may be completely broken when you encounter it.
To top it all off, I'd be amazed if anyone could actually finish the game. At one point, you'll come to an impasse where there's no way to progress, and I can only assume this is due to some glitch. I asked the author if there was some way through this, but I've yet to receive an answer. If anyone figures it out, I'd be happy to know.
I really wanted to like this game, and was even willing to look past the cliched story to get to the conclusion. But the unintuitive parser, and more importantly, litany of technical issues, prevent me from enjoying it. If the author ever finishes the game and fixes these issues, I'd certainly give it another look.
As for a recommendation, I'd say to give it a look if you have time and enjoy a potboiler mystery. I feel as if I'm one of the few people who had the patience to persevere, but there seems to be a great deal of unfinished potential here. Just be ready for some frustration.
2/5, saved by it's intriguing premise.