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The Rail

The Rail


Developer: Technocrat Games The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 2013.04.02
Genre: SciFi
Graphics: Pixel art / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Note: this game can be played with ScummVM software.



"On a tidally-locked world, the only way for resources to be moved under the deadly sun is by high-speed train. The management refuse to automate it entirely - after all, then there'd be nobody to blame when things go wrong." That's the official game description, and it quite accurately describes the starting point for this very short game. Of course, something does go wrong, as somebody takes control of the train and sets a bomb inside it.

Science fiction stories are always intriguing in so many ways. One of the reasons why they are so captivating is that they allow some things go beyond what is the reality on the planet Earth. The tidally-locked part is one of them. In plain English it means that the same side of the planet is always facing the central star, which means that side is very hot, whereas the opposite side of the planet is very cold, and the habitable zone, if there is any, is a small strip in between these two opposites. Some things in science fiction stories are sometimes a bit far-fetched, and in this particular case the entire train thing is one of them.

The protagonist meets the antagonist.The protagonist meets the antagonist.
So the story goes that automated robots are harvesting some resources which are then delivered to the habitable zone on a maglev train guided by a human. That is a bit hard to swallow. If machines can do material harvesting, then they surely could move them around too, which is a far less demanding task. For reference, automated rovers have been travelling on Earth's moon and Mars for ages, but no one has as of yet figured out how robots could extract any material from these places. Furthermore, maglev trains are used for speed and passenger comfort, which are both essential for human passengers, but carrying ores or something doesn't require neither fast speed nor smooth and comfort ride. This means that the starting point for this adventure is, well, not very well thought out. But that's where the player is supposed to shrug shoulders and suspense some disbelief.

Not counting the implausible scenario that the game is built around, it is actually a very nice science fiction game, which could be described as an extended escape room scenario. The terrorists who hijack this non-automated maglev in the middle of nowhere lock the train driver in the storage area of the train. From there, the protagonist has to first break free, then stop the evil scheme that is going on, and finally escape to safety.

Puzzles in the game are logical and can be solved without resorting to trial and error. There are some logical issues with the plot itself though, such as the terrorists who first go through the trouble of arranging the whole train incident, don't seem to care much after the protagonist manages to break free. The critical thing is, however, that solving the puzzles in the game is very fun. Despite the very short length, the game even has different endings, although the only difference is what the text epilogue will be like.

Going towards ending.Going towards ending.
The game is nice to look at. While it is by no means the most impressive graphical adventure ever seen, everything has been done so well that there really is nothing to complain about. The font choice could be different, as it is a bit difficult to read against the background sometimes. Sound effects support actions in the game, and there is some music too, but no voice acting. There are four save slots in the game, which are not probably needed because the game is short and there is surprisingly no death scenarios in the game despite the subject matter. The save option makes it more convenient to try out different endings in the game though.

While the plot is a bit forced, for instance the presence of the train driver being because "the management refuse to automate it entirely", it would be nice to see the plot develop a bit further than it goes now. Its abrupt beginning and ending can be explained by the nature of this extended escape room scenario, but there would be material for a more deeply-rooted science fiction story too. There also could be few more endings to the story, especially as they are shown as text dialogues, so there wouldn't be too much work to write a couple, more unexpected ones too.

The Rail is obviously quality work, and while it could be bigger and better, it is very good as is. It feels almost a waste to let all the good aspects of it be only a few screens long game, but on the other hand, there is absolutely no unnecessary stuffing or artificial lengthening in the game. It is very hard to think of any reasons not to play the game. Even if science fiction is not everyone's favourite subject matter, the plot is so short that the game can be played even as a series of casual puzzles. Recommended. A potential sequel is easy to imagine too! The train driver has to make his way back to the habitable zone on foot across the desert, the game will be called "The Trail" (this is where you are supposed to laugh).

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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