Chris Sawyer's Locomotion Reader Review
The uninitiated may raise an eyebrow upon first glance at Chris Sawyer's latest offering. Pixels? That is so 1995. But barring The Movies and Republic: The Revolution, management games have never been notable in the graphics department anyway. No, it's the mixture of frantic book-balancing, desperately gambling on loans to stay out of the red with sitting back and watching the fruits of your labours with beard-stroking admiration -that's what management's all about.
The idea is to take goods from one place, be it livestock, oil or people, to another. Quickly. Do this and you get money to spend on building more transport lines to take more goods to more places to get more money to...
If you haven't worked it out yet, Locomotion is Transport Tycoon 2 is all but name. If you've played the prequel, imagine the same tracks criss-crossing very similar landscapes with very similar planes darting across the skies, only with the landscape and track design lifted from Rollercoaster Tycoon (only without the frivolities -loop-the-loops aren't especially efficent in frieght transport) -so not quite the same then. The real effects on gameplay here are in terms of realism, no longer do you have to demolish half a city to put a station in it, you can go under it or over it. And, shock horror: turn corners underground. Either way ain't cheap mind. The aforementioned cities can grow much larger too, though they can't quite cover entire (now larger) maps.
The are now 3 types of location for your transport empire; alpine, British and American. And while these do differ, the fundamental way each of these is played remains the same, the effect is largely cosmetic. There are lots of new vechicles that fulfil much the same purposes as as the old ones.
Oh, and don't forget trams, they're new too.
Ah, I appear to have run out of steam (that's two puns now, erk). You see, when describing this game to someone, you'll tell them whats new, whats changed and don't get me wrong it's all very nice, but it's not leagues ahead of transport tycoon deluxe.
Perhaps more of an update then? Graphically: ish. New content? Check, if narrow-gauge railway is your bag. However the new objective-based scenarios are definately a step in the right direction, deliver this much oil or get this rating etc. It's better than it sounds, with the timed levels often real under-the-wire stuff. The difficultly is more or less spot on, the beginner levels are reasuringly forgiving when you're learning the ropes, the medium challenges are, well, challenging and the expert levels could be described as "fiendish". Personally I describe them as something entirely less publishable.
But thank the gaming gods, the core gameplay remains, addictive, occasionally frustrating, but always allieviated by a real sense of progression as technology advances and competition attempts to undermine you and is fended off.
The new content and new ideas fix a lot of problems, the AI is that little bit smarter (well, mostly) though, somewhat inexpicably, there is no way to repair or auto-replace ageing vehicles. A fan of the series should be confident that they'll find much to keep them amused here, certainly a justifiable purchase if you never owned the deluxe version of the prequel and probably even if you did.
And if you've never played any of Chris Sawyer's other works? A tricky one. I suggest you look up the slightly more accessable Rollercoaster Tycoon before commiting to this one. If all else fails, your girlfriend'll love it.
Quick score justification: while I do sorely love this game, the familiarity, in this case breeds contentment rather than contempt.
7 / 10