Developer / Distributor: N3V / Maximum Family Games
Release Date: 9 Jul 2010
Rating: ESRB – Everyone
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In my last review of a Trainz game (four months ago), I mentioned that I loved having “model trains running on tiny tracks laid all over my house. There would be several stations in my track setup, one in the hall, another in the kitchen, one in my master bedroom and one for my baby girl’s room. I would even throw in a couple of model houses from the Faller and Pola range of model building kits.”
It seems N3V heard my wishes and has released such a sandbox application; it goes by the name of My First Trainz Set — or MFTS for short. This newest iteration of the game is based on the TS12 engine –for the record, the build version for my copy of MFTS is 47430.
Although MFTS is targeted at kids, this ingenious piece of software can also be used by adults to create extremely complex track layouts in four different rooms of a virtual home. If you are such a fan, then get ready for many lost nights as you stay awake moving and placing objects and laying tracks all across the floor till your heart’s content. Not forgetting the countless hours wearing the train operator’s hat as you drive your engine around a room.
|Nope, this isn’t My First Trainz Set… and neither will it be my last|
After the main menu pops up, you will at once know that MFTS is definitely targeted at kids. After all, everything from the main menu to the game’s user interface has apparently been dumbed down. Take for example, the main menu, you get four huge virtual rooms to play in. They are the Bedroom, the Lounge, the Garage, and the Kitchen. Just click on one to make your way there.
Upon choosing the room you wish to play in, the game asks you whether you wish to select Drive mode or Build mode. Drive mode is obviously synonymous with Driver mode from Trainz Simulator 12 (the adult version of the game), while Build mode is equivalent to Surveyor mode.
|Which room shall be our playground today?|
A series of help messages appear next. These messages teach you what the large colourful icon means in the game. You also get to learn the finer art of looking around while in cab driving mode, as well as the importance of collecting golden tokens. You can easily dismiss these help messages if you wish.
Next, you are shown a selection window that displays nine engines. They range from really old engines to the modern ones that zip back and forth across the railways of the world. You can go ahead and randomly pick any of these engines to play inside the room. If you don’t like your selection, you can always change it later while in the game.
|Nine lovely engines to choose from|
Driving a train in MFTS is so simple that even a kid can do it… oops, I believe that was the intention for this game. Let’s cover the few buttons you see in the screenshot below. You have three buttons at the left. The top one is for moving your engine at top speed, the centre red button is for stopping the train, while the bottom arrow puts the train in reverse.
On your right is a large circle icon that allows you to select between cab view and outside view. Below this are two smaller circle icons – the one on the left is for you to sound your horn, while the one on the right turns on the lights of your train. At the bottom left of the screen, you may have noticed the gold coins. If you collect enough coins, you get a short speed boost for your train.
|It’s all downhill from this point|
As you play in each virtual room, you will find yourself stopping at what I like to call stations. A station in MFTS is represented by an area that is painted in black and yellow stripes. These are where you perform the task of delivering cargo. When you pull-in to such a station for the first time, a dialog box appears telling you where the cargo must go.
|Time to go looking for Cooking Utensils cargo|
Once again, you will find the interface for Build mode has been simplified quite a bit. This is obviously an attempt to make it easy for kids to get into customizing the track layouts in each of the four virtual rooms. An adult should probably be around to teach them though — it’s not as easy or as intuitive as it looks.
Three icons at the left side of the screen allow you to move, rotate, or change the height of a pre-defined object found in the virtual rooms. Only small objects can be moved around — for example, bottles and milk cartons found in a refrigerator can be moved around the kitchen, but the refrigerator itself stays fixed throughout the entire game.
|Here, I’m adjusting the height of the track at this point|
Another four sets of icons at the right side of the screen provides functions for adding, deleting, moving, or adjusting the height of the railway tracks. One thing to note is that you can add tracks to existing tracks; this creates a signal junction that can be changed on the fly while driving your train in Drive mode. Placing tracks is not as intuitive since it is usually a two step process. New tracks will be locked to the ground, so you must perform the second step of adjusting the track height manually.
The only thing that is missing is a tutorial for moving around the virtual room in Build mode. Unless you are a veteran Trainz user, you may have problems figuring out moving in 3D. You will only find all instructions in the user manual as the help text that appears at the start of Build mode was catered for running MFTS on the iPad.
|Can’t wait to drive my engine around this modified layout|
I was impressed by the way the trains and railway layouts look in each of the four virtual rooms. It looks so like an actual toy railway set up in somebody’s cozy warm home. The objects that decorate each of the rooms are very detailed – for example there’s the lovely upright piano in the lounge, a realistic looking car in the garage, a highly detailed kitchen top, and some nice looking play mats in the bedroom.
The engines and the carriages they pull look as sharp as ever, even when you zoom in all the way for a close-up view; they look especially magnificent as they perform a stunt of jumping over a broken bridge. And when you switch the view to cab view, you’ll be even more impressed by the detail found in them — such as the myriad dials, pipes, knobs, and switches you may see in the real thing.
|The little engineer that could|
The train engine sound effects are impressive as ever; I’ve always loved the way the train whistle blows and the way the train goes clackety-clack as you make your way down a track. There is no in-game music and the only voice acting I hear is the standard announcement of “All Aboard!” by the conductor.
My First Trainz Set works great if you are either hooked on building model train sets in your home or if you have a kid who is excited about owning one.
- You get four large rooms to use as virtual sandboxes for designing your very own railway layout.
- Driving the engines are incredibly straightforward and simple.
- The graphics look very detailed and accurate.
- You can move small objects around and customize the look of your room.
- An adult will be needed to help foster an adventurous mind in Build Mode. Teach your kids how to extend the railway layout all over the room and watch their excitement and happiness grow as they get to learn the concept of switching junctions.
- You get to sound nine different horns and experience their interior cab views!
|Some really lovely scenes to gawk at|
There’s a lot you can do if you accept the sandbox mentality. Otherwise, you may feel jaded by the simplicity of the game play elements.
- There’s not much “game” in My First Trainz Set. You only get to perform simple cargo delivery tasks or to try to win a gold award by zipping from the start point to the finish point.
- You can’t save a particular layout to a unique filename and expect to load them at a later date. In other words, once you change a layout and save it, you lose the previous layout.
- You can’t add new stuff unless you are truly a Trainz afficionado or know how to handle the Content Manager application bundled with this version.
- The game has obviously been designed for an iPad device from the start, this is evidenced by the help text you read in the game. For example, you’ll find messages such as, “Hold this button and drag your finger to move the camera around the room” or “You can also drag your finger up or down to get a better view.“
|Accidents can still happen, even in a virtual environment|
My First Trainz Set will definitely go well with kids. If you are an adult, then there’s not much fun value in the game unless you absolutely love the freedom to design any track layout you desire.
In summary, you will find My First Trainz Set to be a very decent addition of a highly specialized hobby for kids and adults alike.
|Stuntman at work|
If you are looking to see if My First Trainz Set might be good for kids, I recommend adding 1.5 to the final score.