When it comes to mobile gaming, it’s often tough to find something great, or even something good, without being assaulted by microtransactions, intrusive ads, and other annoyances. Indeed, looking for mobile games can typically feel like wading through a shoulder-deep liquefied landfill before finding something fun to play with that doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out with the nearest rusty bicycle handlebar. That’s why I’ve decided to cover the best mobile games to be found, once a week, here on APG Nation.
Mobile gaming is filled with games geared toward someone who may not be ogling their phone constantly. These types of games will often have the word “idle” in their name, and will allow the player to gain stats while they are gone. Other games will incorporate mechanics that encourage the player to do other things as opposed to playing consistently the game, which can be good if you’re concerned about your phone’s battery life. This sort of mechanic tends to do well for casual strategy games on the mobile platform. A great example of this in action would be developer NimbleBit’s game Pocket Trains.
Pocket Trains is one of those games where the title does a great job of describing the game’s content. In this free mobile game, you manage a network of train lines, expanding as you make more money with each job. Each train has its own stats, such as speed, fuel capacity, and how much cargo it can handle. Shipping cargo from one city to another is the main goal of this game, and the game’s mechanics make this quite enjoyable. By temporarily storing cargo in cities, the player can transfer it to separate trains, making the transport of lucrative goods much easier when the original train does not include the destination city in its line.
When the game begins, the player must start their business in Europe by purchasing a license to operate in that region. The other five regions are Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania. This system manages to incentivize maximizing profit for the player to expand beyond the European continent. Also, the game’s mechanics incentivize the player to operate multiple train lines, like a train from line A may not travel down line B without reassigning the particular section of track to line A. This added challenge can lead to creative solutions in regards to cargo transport.
So, where does Pocket Trains fall short? For starters, it has microtransactions – not intrusive ones, and not ones that are crucial for gameplay, but the temptation is great. The microtransactions mainly allow the player to buy Bux, one of the two currencies of the game (the other being Coins). While Bux can be converted to Coins at a random exchange rate, Coins may not be converted to Bux. Thankfully, some cargo jobs pay in Bux rather than Coins, thus making the microtransactions mostly unnecessary for the game. Also, the game also makes the effort to gain better train engines quite an ordeal. Rather than buy the parts you want, you have to pay Bux to open a crate, which might have the train part you want, but could also contain a part to a slow steam train outperformed by every train you already possess. This element of chance makes the game less strategic and feels like a cheap tactic to keep the player hooked without adding any real gameplay.
Overall, Pocket Trains is quite fun. It has its quirks, and feels ridiculous at times, but the game is not as bad of a cash grab as it seems. The developers have a great sense of humor and actively work with users to address grievances and solve technical problems. If you’re a fan of casual strategy games on mobile devices, then you might just enjoy this game. However, if microtransactions completely turn you off, then this game is not a good match for you.