Outside of narrative and bombastic combat, some of the most underrated and enjoyable parts of games is just the little things. Little visual flourishes, pleasing sound design, and a game so warm and welcoming you can just settle into it. You know, the good stuff. The recently released Station to Station is just that, tasking players with setting transport pipelines of resources via stations, bridges and creatively placed rail road tracks.
It’s quickly apparent how inspired by titles like Dorfromantik Station to Station really is. Situated in front of the player are stunning, picturesque vignettes of worlds that you can bend and shape to your will to get the best end result possible. Clever placement of stations just in the range of a resource building such as wheat or a fishing pontoon will mean you have that little extra bit of reach to make your tracks shorter and cost less money. The primary end goal of each mission is simply to have a pipeline of resources that all funnel into one or two key spots, be it a village in need of food and water or coal, steel and iron deposits shifting into a steelwork.
Currency dictates the length and expanse of tracks that can be laid. Instead of placing individual titles, you connect buildings to each other via the stations, then snapping the two locations together. There is an automatically completed path when this happens, but it can get costly when this crosses over mountains and gaps via the use of bridges. Thankfully, one can place anchor points on the tracks so that the path can now bend around and avoid an incline completely rather than going over it.
Naturally, currency to create more paths only comes when resource buildings are successfully linked up, sharing and creating more key assets to channel into a village, steelwork, and the like. In turn, this wonderfully shifts the game into a tricky but rewarding puzzle of balancing acts. This includes maximising the resources utilised with the least amount of track work. It starts out as a simple, bright, and welcolming puzzler before turning into a real thinking man’s game, with many later levels thrillingly being completed with that one simple ‘Eureka’ moment. With this, I’m reminded of other clever puzzlers that are all about finding the last key hump, letting everything else finally fall into place.
Your saving grace in the game’s difficult levels is the valuable cards you’ll get as you progress. Complete enough of the main objective and these cards granted to you will allow for cheaper rail placement, doubling the income from resources and much more. These are very welcome additions to prevent that feeling of beating your head against a wall. You can experiment with these modifiers, allowing you to play a level out entirely until you run out of money, surveying the entire map in search of an incorrect turn or two. There is always a way out in Station to Station.
“…Little visual flourishes, pleasing sound design, and a game so warm and welcoming you can just settle into it.”
Diverse experiences can also be had in-game. For the hardcore puzzle players, you can also engage with the optional objectives in a mission that include ensuring you complete a level over a certain money threshold or limiting the amounts of bridges used in a level.
Station to Station doesn’t just deliver the goods when it comes to puzzle design, but also its art style, sound work, and general vibes. The game is voxel-style, with environments beautifully bathed in light and also high in detail. Zoom in and you can see tidbits of environmental work; cows grazing meadows and smoke billowing from the trains. Crucially, there are satisfying sounds when tracks link up or a building is placed. Everything here is expertly pleasant and helps bolster the feeling of comfort one can have with the game, encouraging players to sit at their desk and get through the game with some solid brainstorming and perhaps a cup of tea.
In an already busy year for games, Station to Station is a hard sell. However incredibly nerdy puzzler fans won’t want to miss this. More than just an attempt at joining the vague umbrella of ‘wholesome games,’ developer Galaxy Grove have created a real thinker of a title, bursting with clever challenges and plenty to adore.
Station to Station is available now on Steam. Check it out.