How well do the options on Mobile games match up to conventional model railroading?
Trains are among the most efficient forms of transportation. They also capture the imaginations of many throughout the world with their majesty and power. Their appeal led some to recreate these magnificent machines in model form for people to enjoy in their homes. Moreover, advancements in technology have only increased the functionality of layouts. Digital Command Control (DCC) can give modelers precise control of their layouts via a Mobile app.
While the possibilities are immense, the biggest barrier to entry is cost. Spending hundreds, if not thousands, on all of the models and materials to make even a mid-range layout is expected. Furthermore, most scales require a fair amount of space, meaning that owning a house is often necessary. Skill using tools also helps. Given the often steep requirements, one may be inclined to find an alternative. Virtual modeling offers a more affordable option that also doesn’t require cleaning and lubricating the models and maintaining the track. Let’s take a look at a few of the Mobile offerings.
Model Railway Easily
This model rail simulator from Hungarian developer Redbrick Studios is devoid of pretensions. It offers players the ability to create a model rail layout and delivers just that. The game gives players a few free models, with more available for $.99 apiece. On a platform filled with gacha systems, there’s something refreshing about a game where one can just directly buy stuff. Unfortunately, the options are fairly meager—even with the paid content. The steam locomotives have neither a tender nor coal bunker, which is a common pet peeve of rail enthusiasts. The game is also poorly optimized with the framerate chugging (heh) even with the graphics set to basic. Overall, this game is a nice distraction, but needs a lot of work to become a good modeling experience.
Train Sim Builder
3583 Bytes of Canada’s Train Sim Builder is a simple affair. Its customizability is significantly less than what the store page previews suggest. While it allows players to manipulate the terrain and add objects on the layout, players can’t lay track. The game also doesn’t allow more than one type of locomotive on the layout. Additionally, the interface is quite fidgety, as it’s easy to accidentally place objects when trying to move the camera. Most jarringly of all, the game forces players to watch advertisements. In summation, it has promise. It just needs a lot of work.
Train Tracks II
Australian developer Poppy Games gives us the last model train simulator on our list. It’s a weird one for sure, as it’s reportedly the only entry in the series that actually functions. It offers the ability to customize a fair number of parameters from terrain to map size. Additionally, the number of track options isn’t too bad. The problem is that it’s often difficult to tell stuff apart because of the game’s top-down perspective and simple aesthetic. Its interface could use some work, as switching between the running and construction modes is quite clunky. This game is at least a fun distraction, if one can tolerate banner ads.
While these mobile offerings are not quite as good as something like Trainz on PC, they still have potential. The physical models still win in the looks department, which is important in this detail-oriented hobby. There’s also the appeal of having tangible models that one truly owns. Nevertheless, virtual modeling on Mobile is an inexpensive way of playing around with the hobby. These games work well for those with limited space and building experience, and are quite accessible. If nothing else, it doesn’t hurt to give them a try.