Monday, May 20, 2024

Station to Station Review — All aboard the hype train

Forming relationships and cherishing connections are some of the most important things for human beings to do. It’s this line of thinking that sat at the back of my mind when playing developer Galaxy Grove’s Station to Station, a minimalist puzzle game that’s all about putting down tracks from place to place.

As a critic and journalist, I’ve often travelled from place to place, station to station, and explored new locations. It’s one of the highlights of travelling in the first place, taking in every nook and cranny of an area and getting to know the people that inhabit it. You may make new friends, you may not, but there is always a small part of the location linked to you forevermore. Station to Station doesn’t capture that feeling in its entirety, but it comes shockingly close.

Minimalist but certainly not lacking in things to do, Station to Station offers players a new way to solve puzzles by giving them the tools necessary to place railroads down, connecting individual stations to others in order to help with the production of resources. For example, connecting a wheat farm to a bakery for the production of bread, and then a fishing dock to a city station to provide the city with food.

There are multiple locations for players to choose from, such as the lush, green world of Greendale or, if you’d prefer something a little more exciting, the dusty plains of the Golden Dunes. Each location comes with its own pros and cons, with some places being far more hilly or more secluded, separated by stretches of beautifully rendered lakes and rivers. This may not seem like a problem at first, but building bridges (or any type of construction really) can put pressure on the limited money you have.

Because of the limitations, whether it be making sure not to put too much railroad down to meet a challenge or simply having a certain amount left when you complete the level, it can feel as though Station to Station isn’t as relaxing as it sells itself to be. During my first few hours with the game, I struggled with reconciling the calm and relaxing music and the soothing whistle of trains chugging by with the overwhelming need to make sure I completed every single challenge laid out before me.

Station to Station

The restrictions in gameplay seemed like a contradictory thing to worry about for a game that wants you to relax. But that’s where Station to Station’s Custom Games Mode comes in. Here you’re able to pick and choose how you want to play the game by changing the rules. For example, you can change the environment to be less demanding, or give yourself unlimited money. While it may take some of the puzzle and struggle out of it, I found that it was perfect for when I just wanted to sit and design my own little rural paradise.

And paradise it certainly is. Station to Station’s voxel art is nothing short of gorgeous in how it depicts rugged mountain tops, the ever-changing ripples of water, and the imposing cliffs of hilltops. Even the small cities, all of which are adorably rural, provide some of the most beautifully intricate details I’ve seen with voxel art.

Of course, with a game all about railways and connections, I have a particular fondness for the level of detail given to the trains. From the billowing smoke to the grating sound of steel, there’s a true shiver of delight that runs through me at zooming the camera closer to sit next to them. The only downside is that I wished there had been some sort of way to turn the UI off completely so I could follow the trains as they made their way from one destination to the next, getting lost in the music and the beautiful landscape.

Even so, witnessing these small moments of connection really calmed my mind. I’d even go as far to call this game ‘cosy’ — perfect for the gamer who just wants to relax and enjoy what Station to Station has on offer.

Score: 4/5

A copy of Station to Station for PC was provided to Gayming Magazine by PR.

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