Paper Train Review

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Fast Facts

Title: Paper Train
Developer: isTom Games 
Publisher: isTom Games
Genre: Arcade, Puzzle 
Platform: Nintendo Switch 
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 26/09/2019
Price: £8.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

Choo-choo! Did you ever want to become a conductor? It seems to be an easy job, watching over a bunch of trains. Allowing to take a closer look before changing careers is Paper Train from isTom Games. The game is arriving on time on the Nintendo Switch on September 26th and might be the best opportunity for you to try that at home! 

See in my review if you should hurry to board the train or if it’s better to let this one pass along! 

All aboard!

Getting on track

The main objective of the game is summarized just in a breeze: You watch over the train rails and carefully plan ahead so none will crash. Like a real conductor. Just with more cutesy looking graphics. They are as the title suggested, hand-drawn on paper. So, if something happens, there will not be much of a bloody disaster happening on your little screen… 

Paper Train has 300 level in total and starts with well-arranged stages. This prevents you from being overwhelmed and gives you a fair chance to learn the straight-forward controls. With over 300 stages packed tight with train racks that need to be sorted out, I guarantee that the challenge will also increase over time. 

A little overview of the stage select screen of Paper Train.

The tutorial at the beginning gives you a good overview of the whole game mechanics. Originally an iOs/Android (2013, called Paper Train Reloaded) and later a Steam (2016, called Paper Train: Traffic) game, the controls were adjusted well to the Nintendo Switch port. You can use the touch screen if you want to as well. The goal of each stage is to lead a certain amount of trains safe through a jungle of railways. Oh, and on the Switch, it’s only called Paper Train. Confusing name choices here. 

How to watch over trains 101

The player has control over the rails, not the trains, though. You can make them stop and wait for crossing trains to pass as well as you can switch the tracks into another direction. All with the four buttons A, B, X, and Y or the touch of your finger. Depending on the difficulty, the level you’re in can use them all or just selected buttons, so it’s either easier or harder to manage. 

So not only the number of trains you must lead increases, but so does the buttons you have to use. Coordination is key.

And with that comes the tricky part of Paper Train. Only being able to control the railways can cause collisions because the train won’t stop if there is another one in front of it. Thanks to them being dull and me losing track (haha) of the situation, more trains got wrecked during my playthrough. 

Speaking of colliding trains… Here’s an example.

Meaning the player needs to keep their cool and be focused on each stage. A dash of tactfulness isn’t wrong, either. The steam trains vary in size, from two wagons up to many more. With their size, the time span they need to pass an intersection naturally increases, too. 

One function I’d like to mention at last is the “Boost” function. You can reach up to three stars in a level and, depending on how long you need to complete it, the more (or less) you earn. Boosting is basically a fast-forward option, so the trains proceed faster towards their goal, so you can save both time and stars. Getting those three stars in every 300 stages can take a while and is a neat feature to keep you coming back. At least if you’re a completionist. 

Another level done!

Colour me impressed

The level design in Paper Train is surprisingly innovative and full of ideas. Come on, you also thought that railroads mostly lead through deserted surroundings! It’s a shame that the game is mostly keeping you so occupied so no trains will collide that you can’t really admire the graphics. From tropical island to an environment looking original taken from a Wild West movie or airports. 

Switching rails (here with Y) is a fun mechanic to spice up the gameplay.

As mentioned before, they are all hand-drawn and truly beautiful. Less is also more in this title regarding the graphics. The colour scheme is kept in an old map-like design. The traditional marine blue from ink that I still am familiar with and used to write in my fountain pen from my school days with is the perfect contrast on the beige paper with a light blue grid pattern. The steam trains look nice without having too many details on them. From now and then some planes fly over the screen, which is not only nice to look at but also test your focus if you don’t get distracted. 

Dull driver, dull music?

The developer isTom Games did face a challenge all their kind do: Designing video game music to accompany their game. The theme of the game is also an essential part of what kind of music is fitting. Imagine cheerful music in a horror game. Does not work, right?

Perhaps you’re familiar with my style of reviews and the section I take an extra-special immense closer look onto. Did you notice it, too? I am so empathic in this section and tip-toe around a bit. That can only mean, that… 

Yeah, the music’s not great. 

In fact, it’s the same tune over and over, rolling like the wheels around itself all the way. Variation can be found in the different signal-horns of the trains and the sound effects in general. It could be worse, yes, but doesn’t make the lack of music variety any more tolerable. 

I don’t have to mention that I put my Switch on zero volume after my stubborn hope already gave in and we were on the same page that there won’t be anything new. Wanna have a sample? There you go:

This is what you get, starting from the menu screen through all the stages of Paper Train.

Ready to get your ticket yet? 

So, playing Paper Train on my Nintendo Switch for several hours and tested it on my phone as well to be able to make a decent comparison. 

Paper Train is extremely easy to pick up, perfect for casual gaming at home or on the go. I had not so high expectations of it and sometimes I was frustrated. I have the urge to complete such games, though, and with that mindset, I came back to Paper Train again and again. And… actually enjoyed it quite much! 

How many trains can you spot?

The only mood killers were the music, the similarity regarding some stages and… the price. Even though the game is several years old (but aged fairly well), it’s quite pricey. The Switch tax strikes again. 

The game is free on mobile phones, even though the ads are super annoying after every stage. On Steam, it’s around 3 bucks, I was only to see the Euro price here. On Nintendo Switch though, you can buy the same game for almost 9£! Supporting indie devs is what I am supporting wholeheartedly, but the price differences on the Switch… I have no idea where it comes from, but I have an assumption. 

Looks confusing, but it’s fun!

Nonetheless, Paper Train a good game I can recommend… and not at the same time. Not only is the price an issue, but also the game itself might not be the perfect fit for every gamer out there. If you like such kind of games, this one is one of the ones I had the most fun with from its genre. 

Rapid Reviews Rating

You can purchase Paper Train from the Nintendo eShop on the following link,

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