Transport Tycoon is a port of the classic PC game where you build an empire based on moving people and goods from town to town, enhancing businesses while fighting off competitors. Originally released in 1994, the new iOS version suffers from a complex management system and lack of sufficient tutorials.
Transport Tycoon is broken into a series of challenge maps of increasing difficulty, but are all fundamentally the same: a large area of several towns, mines, farms, and factories which need to be connected to each other. The simplest business to start with is by establishing a bus route through an individual town, eventually working up to a train to ferry passengers and mail between towns, or taking raw materials (iron ore, oil, grain) to factories to be processed into finished goods.
Had I played Transport Tycoon in its original incarnation, I’m sure I would have loved it. As an iOS game, however, it suffers from an overly complicated vehicle management system and general lack of information available to a player when something isn’t working right.
The three tutorial missions explain the bare bones of the game: how to buy a vehicle, how to manage a vehicle (which is in a separate part of the screen), and how to manage a route (which is in a different submenu that can only be accessed once a vehicle has been placed at a station). This is already complicated enough for buses, which will automatically pick up any passengers at a stop. Once you move into trains and cargo trucks, it becomes absurd. Trucks must be told to go to a cargo point, told which kind of cargo to pick up, then told to unload as separate commands. When placing a cargo point, if you place it in an area too far from the resource, the game doesn’t inform you of this until its too late and you’ve wasted money on building the route.
Buying a train is a matter of purchasing the engine, then adding cars. However, since the management and purchasing screens are in separate sections, I frequently ended up buying two engines on the same line, depleting my account. Likewise, figuring out where to place stations to transport people/mail between towns is a mystery, I eventually figured out to build stations between churches, but would frequently destroy the churches while trying to lay track next to them, with no option to undo or rebuild.
While you’re given goals for each map (transport so many people, make so much profit), the confusing layout of the maps often makes this a puzzle. Because it’s based on a 1994 PC game, there are long stretches where there’s nothing for the player to do, other than watch vehicles drive around in circles. Another flaw is that if you mess up a route, say, assigning a vehicle to an unreachable stop or sending a passenger vehicle to a stop where passengers aren’t needed, the vehicle will keep driving around the spot with no alert message. Likewise, pre-built tunnels into hills seem to go nowhere useful.
While I love retro games, the pixelated low-res graphics make it hard to determine how to lay track and roads, even with the grid displayed. Even with a retina display, the graphics make the game virtually unplayable on the iPhone 5, and just on this side of readable for the iPad.
If Transport Tycoon got a complete revamp in both graphics and gameplay, I think this would be a winner. As it is, it’s a dead end.
Developer: 31x Limited
Requirements: iOS 5.1 or later
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (optimized for iPhone 5)
Version Reviewed: 1.0.4