Choo-Choo Charles review: survival horror off the rails

Speaking as a grown man, I love trains. Not to the extent that I would never bother to learn anything about them, or identify one that is more specific than “spiky”, “blunt” and “chugga chugga choo choo”, but let the level It’s so much softer that I simply enjoy watching them fly around like large metal worms, and hear their various little hums and whistles. It’s the train!

Just as a train can be lured into a station with the promise of new passengers (like gifts are for trains), I was drawn inexorably toward Choo-Choo Charles, a rambunctious joke about a scary train chasing you everywhere. Marrying on a permanently dark island, you are stalked by a monstrous locomotive with a giant set of spider legs and an insatiable thirst for human blood.

Is there anything good? Well, no, it’s incredibly underpowered, very short, and annoying to play for any length of time. Sorry is a blunt train about it. Choo-Choo Charles is part of the memory of a meme, shown through the sparkling brains of the one-man development team, someone smart and dedicated enough to finish their silly little idea until it’s time. complete.

Imagine not only imagining a world in which the nightmare Thomas the Tank Engine repeatedly emerges from the woods to kill you — an accomplishment in itself — but to sit down and actually create something. there and sell it to people for real money. Those are really commendable things. That humble Choo-Choo Charles that was brought into popular perception by an early viral trailer is a testament to how compelling the concept is, and that it’s not because of lack of ambition that it fell short of expectations. Internet’s highest expectations.

Anyway, here’s how it works. You have your own armored train, which is no longer alive, but allows you to circumnavigate the small island on a series of interconnected tracks. This is your base of operations as you move between several optional NPCs and four main quest NPCs. In the very short time you know that this cursed island is home to Charles, a crazy train of spiders shows up every 5 to 10 minutes to catch you.

“In a very short time you know that this cursed island is home to Charles, a crazy train of spiders that appear every 5 to 10 minutes to catch you”

At first, Charles always got you. Your train has a gun attached to the back, which you can use to cut the monster’s health a few millimeters as they chase you up and down the tracks. A gun that overheats quickly enough to fire bullets into the grin-inducing face of the terrible train creature would be a little less fun than giving up and succumbing to his murderous embrace. Death robs you of a few shards — the game’s currency is found scattered all over the place — but otherwise no progress will be lost.

As you switch from one NPC to another, you can earn enough scrap to level up your train’s health, speed, and attack damage, though upgrading your train has a mostly impact It’s not obvious to your encounters with Charles, which at this stage will quickly become less intimidating and more unpleasant, like being hunted by a territorial chihuahua.

On foot, you have a better chance of survival, as the giant spider train can’t cope with navigating its path around obstacles like small piles of bricks and front porches. Watching Charles run around outside a tent, he suddenly looked pathetic and small, his wretched legs wriggling through the walls, his grin and eyes as big as plates. more like this stinking creature is hiding some deep sadness. Poor Charles, the cursed spider train has just enough artificial intelligence to want to kill you, but not enough to be able to step a step up.

Besides the big, lousy train, you’ll also occasionally have to contend with gun-armed human enemies who are jealously guarding the island’s three macguffins: a set of glowing green eggs. light, when placed in a temple in the center of the island, summons our young Charles for a mortal duel. You are unarmed while outside your ship and while the game suggests it is possible to sneak past these human guardians by leaning over corners and timing the approach yours, in fact, these eagle-eyed enemies spot you too easily.

Instead, you can more easily get the eggs by sprinting past the defenders like you were a World Cup turf invader, except that instead of risking your life to fight for LGBTQ rights, you’re cradling a hot egg the size of a soccer ball and booking it back to the little yellow train where you live (it feels weird, too).

A couple of hours is all it takes to complete the main game objectives, and it doesn’t take much longer to perfect the optional missions. These give you new weapons for your train and enough scrap to complete all three upgrades, which is essential for a successful duel with Charles. These optional missions are limited in their scope and variety, and tend to focus on retrieving an object from a few hundred meters away or a tedious bit of background. The voice acting and raw animations are goofy, and your surroundings lack a lot of detail or personality — the island is a homogeneous, sparse, swampy forest with few interesting points to separate. distinguish part of the map Coming from somewhere else.

There’s not much to see or do at Choo-Choo Charles other than what’s shown in the fateful trailer that brought this silly little one-man project kicking and screaming into the limelight. And shame on you and me for asking its developers for more than that. It’s an interesting and unique concept, stretched so thinly that it jerked back and caught our eyes. We deserve to be overwhelmed by it, and its author should be hailed as a prodigy of the horror genre.


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