Wednesday 6 September 2006
The meeting of two common nerd mentalities - the railway enthusiast and the avid virtual strategist - has to make Sid Meier's Railroads! one of the most gloriously geeky games we've ever encountered. And, we're happy to say, our innermost geek - which lies beneath our more exposed layers of outer geek - is most excited by what it's seen.
Forget the grotty, under-funded and notoriously delayed train network that we're forced to endure nowadays - Railroads' world celebrates the golden age of the choo-choo and that epoch of prosperity is reflected in the game's 10 beautifully bright and colourful maps.
While the focus is on America, you can expand your empire across several countries - including France, Germany and England - and each map is full of bustling activity and delightful detail. Grain silos, lumber mills, oil fields and other industries can all be seen busily beavering away. And, as you venture into Europe, the architecture of buildings, types of train and local industries change according to the location. So, France has its vineyards, Germany is big on breweries and so on.
The business of laying tracks seems ridiculously simple - rather than having to build a line piece by painful piece, you just drag the track from source to destination and you're done. If your chosen route passes through mountains or over rivers the player is automatically offered a selection of tunnels and bridges that can be put in place to overcome the territorial hurdle. Even passing through a city isn't enough to halt progress - buildings simply shift to accommodate the track.