Tracks | Nintendo Switch Review
Growing up, I never had a train set – we were more of the “slot-car racing” family and had a Scalextric for as long as I can remember. I still can still remember the distinctive smell emanating from the bristles underneath the miniature cars. So, when I noticed Tracks, I was excited to discover what I potentially missed out on as a child. Tracks: Toybox Edition, developed by Whoop Group and published by Excalibur Games, made its way onto the Switch in November 2020. For the purposes of this review, I used a Nintendo Switch Lite.
When you load the game initially, you can see the types of environments in which you can create, as well as being able to access three sample tracks to view. This game has a lot of controls, which may take a while to adjust - like accidentally removing a track instead of laying a piece of track down, for instance. However, I found the tutorial very helpful in explaining how the controls work, and in no time, I found myself creating miniature tracks and switching to the train mode to travel around. You have an option to switch the types of train – you begin with a wooden train, but you can change it to a gingerbread train or a rocket train. Credit where credit is due, the game looks visually amazing, and the music is very chilled and relaxing. You can adjust the scenery to fit your mood and it even has a function to change the weather, which I found very interesting. You have several objects with which to work, such as various buildings, construction elements, types of terrain, styles of passengers and modes of transportation.
My favourite part of this game would be the Passenger Mode. I found this section to be quite interesting, although it appears to be unfortunately limited to two environments. In Passenger Mode, your job is to locate the passengers, create a platform and track, and chauffeur the passengers to the train station. The location of the passengers and the stations vary, so you need to think quick on your feet when it comes to creating. While most challenges do not have a time limit, some do, which adds some pressure to not only create a fully functioning track, but to transport the passengers from A to B within the allotted time.
The menu options could do with some improvements. Once you have the tutorial turned on, it appears it cannot be turned off for that environment if you forget the button to press to remove it, unless you switch environments, which is quite disappointing. I tried on multiple occasions to switch off the tutorial, and even stated in the menu that it was switched off, but the tutorial notifications still appeared. The same happens, if you manage to turn off the tutorial holding the right button, it appears you cannot turn the tutorial back on, again without having to switch environments. Furthermore, the display of the Passengers Mode for the Bedroom environment appeared with a lock on top, making me think that it was unplayable until the mode was unlocked. But after a while, I noticed that you can actually play the Passengers Mode, but the locked symbol still remained – which I presume is not intentional and makes it very confusing.
While the following can be considered a positive as well as a negative, depending on your perspective, I found it quite odd that when loading a game, you will need to have the certain environment where you originally created the track pre-loaded. As the environment defaults to the blank canvas environment, I was baffled to see my track which I made in a dark bedroom suddenly appear in the blank canvas area. This gives the player an opportunity to use their creation in another space, however I feel that this should be an alternative option, rather than being the default setting for loading games. Speaking of which, separate Load Game/Save Game menus would also be very helpful, so that you do not accidentally overwrite your save with a new game. While there is no auto-save function, you can turn on reminders to remind you to save your game. Just make sure you have it switched on.
A major irritation in Tracks: Toybox Edition would have to be the camera whilst creating your track. Even with adjustments made to the camera sensitivity, I felt increasingly frustrated with trying to lay tracks near set objects, such as in environments like the modern apartment or the bedroom at night. Trying to adjust the camera to manoeuvre around the objects really took the joy out of a potentially good game, as I found myself having to remove huge sections of track as I was not raising the track high enough to reach the top bunk of a bed, for example. Also, trying to adjust the camera angle may appear that your track is not being obstructed by pre-existing objects, but only when you ride on the train, do you quickly notice, that this is in fact not the case. You are unable to create straight tracks quickly without having the track bend suddenly, and the placement of objects is also an added frustration. It appears that once an object is placed it cannot be rotated, and you end up deleting the item, and accidentally a part of the track, which happened to me way too many times. Furthermore, trying to build a track on the night-time setting is really not fun – although you can adjust the lighting with lampposts and various other light sources, you should be able to see what you are doing whilst building. I just found myself squinting all the time.
Overall, I expected a lot more from Tracks. This is supposed to be a chill, relaxing game creating and designing your own train tracks and watch as your designs come together. I have seen fantastic creations made with this game, so it is possible if you have the patience. But to be honest, I just felt constantly frustrated and disappointed with so many aspects of this game, that I just ended up setting it aside. I do not believe that it is particularly user-friendly, and I would be worried, how younger audiences would manage to navigate through this game, since it has a PEGI 3 rating. I think I will stick to my slot-cars from now on.
Tina’s Rating: 2 Choos out of 5.
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