Now, don’t get too excited… this is not an action game featuring a horse in a super battle suit!
Similarly, don’t too skeptical when I tell you this is a game about trains. A subject that will put even the msot hardened insomniac to sleep. Because, at it’s core, The Iron Horse is a solid reaction game that begs to be replayed again and again.
The premise is as simple as it gets. You begin with a locomotive engine, and as you move along the tracks you must connect carriage cars lying stationary in a siding. As you move past the carriage a broken link appears on both the end of your engine, and the front of the carriage. To connect the two you must tap the screen when the two icons align. It’s not necessary to have a perfect connection to successfully connect the two together, but the closer you get, the higher the score.
The train begins slowly, but as it’s length grows so does it’s speed. Each level has a length requirement, and once that is complete you move on to the next challenge, which is generally a longer and faster requirement of your reactions.
Played as an arcade experience, you only get three misses per game, so use those up and it’s game over. Regardless of how far you reached you must start right back at square one. The game does reward you though if you create perfect connections. Do this three times in a row at any time in the game, and you are rewarded a free pass. This gives you a guaranteed connection when used. You can stack up as many free passes as you like, so strategically you should build these up in the early levels and use them later when your reactions are stretched to their limits.
Finally there is a bonus mode. Every two levels, you enter this mode which gives you an endless length. Each carriage you add gives you points. However, if you miss just once you lose all the points. You are given the option to end your length of torsion at any time and take the points, by tapping on the end carriage which appears after each successful connection. So it becomes a gamble with your own reactionary ability… take the points and run? Or risk it all on one more go!
Despite the games simplicity, I was surprised at the level of detail. The developer AppStar could have easily created a basic train design for all levels. Instead, they have lovingly recreated historic locomotives through the ages, from stream through to diesel and electric. Presented in 2D, the trains zip past parallax landscapes giving a good impression of depth, and I particularly like the 3D like effect as each carriage moves from the siding and connects to the train. The music and sound are good too, with suitable music for each era of train, as well as sound effects of the various engines. I’m sure much of this detail is lost on most, myself included, so no doubt train buffs we’d really geek out on this.
The Iron Horse then is a solid little game with a big heart. In it’s current form it doesn’t offer much more than a quick pick up and play. But it does have an addictive side to it, calling you back fro one more play. I would like to see it developed further with more modes. Including a non arcade mode, that saves your progress, allowing you to continue on where you failed, and a standalone version of the bonus mode which could be called endless mode, which let’s you play for points with any train type… as this is undoubtably the most fun part of the game.
The Iron Horse is out now for both iPhone and iPad for $1.99. Get it on
(Lite versions are also available)