GeekDad Review: 'Lionel City Builder 3D: Rise of the Rails'

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Image: Big John Games
Image: Big John Games

Trains are cool. I mean, even if trains aren’t your special obsessive interest, you’ve got to admit trains are just really cool. But real life trains are expensive to ride, and can be dangerous (or illegal) to be near. So if you’re at all into trains or would like to be, or if your kids have outgrown Thomas the Tank Engine, there’s a brand new game to try.

Newly out for the Nintendo 3DS is Lionel City Builder 3D: Rise of the Rails made by Big John Games. This downloadable game is affordable and fun. With both structured and freeform elements, there’s something here for every level of player.

Image: Big John Games
Image: Big John Games

Story Mode

There’s not exactly a story here, but there are over a dozen stages to go through, all of which teach you how to use the features in the game. Learn to operate the train, pick up and drop off cargo, and then do it all with a time restriction, which is trickier than it sounds. You have to really micromanage the train operation for some of the levels. You also learn to repair tracks and transport people, all the while moving and maneuvering the train through a variety of terrain. You even have to relocate gophers and shunt train cars. Learn to keep to a schedule, and rescue cargo that’s fallen off the train. Efficiently manage different train engines to move cars along a track, and deal with other kinds of train traffic. Some of these stages can be pretty tricky, but fortunately you can jump to any part of story mode that you like, doing the easy ones first if you prefer.

Image: Big John Games
Image: Big John Games

Creative Mode

Once you’ve got your legs under you (or your rail cars…), pop over to Creative Mode to let your imagination free. Design your own train, choosing the engine and all of the rail cars, then create your own world in one of several locations, including the smelter, the coast, the mountains, the prairie, the desert, or in a toon world (unlocked after you complete much of the Story Mode). Arrange the track and build a town with houses, businesses, trees, hot air balloons, or even a circus. There are hundreds of options to choose from. Keep your people happy with places to eat and things to do.

The track editing and world building weren’t intuitive to me at first, but there is some help in the instruction manual, and trial and error will get you very far. Or do what I do and play around in a test world and then use what you learn in a world you’re setting up “for realsies.” Save your tracks for later editing or playing, and share your tracks with friends.

Image: Big John Games
Image: Big John Games

The game keeps track of how many miles you’ve driven and how many passengers you’ve carried. One game will suit for multiple family members since you can save multiple profiles. There are plenty of achievements to aim for, including sharing your tracks with friends, getting trains up to certain speeds, finishing the story mode stages, picking up passengers, building track, going on long train journeys, and so many more. There are so many options in this game that it will keep train lovers busy for countless hours.

If you can stand the 3D aspect of the 3DS, give it a try on this game. It really makes the trains and scenery look crisper, and makes it feel more like you’re actually taking a train journey. I enjoy setting the train to run in Creative Mode, just watching the scenery go by.

Image: Big John Games
Image: Big John Games

What did I think of the game? My game playing environment of choice isn’t usually the Nintendo 3DS, but I really loved it. I found myself picking up the device over and over to check out the next challenge or study the next detail. There is so much flexibility in this game that it won’t get old any time soon. The Story Mode stages will take me quite a while to get through, but aren’t so hard as to discourage me. The Creative Mode can be whatever you make it, but there are plenty of achievements to try to earn which will guide your exploration. For example, one of the achievements is to build a world with 100 objects in it. That alone will take quite a lot of planning and creative spirit. I can’t wait to dive in for more. I may have finally found the game that will get me dusting off my 3DS regularly.

Image: Big John Games
Image: Big John Games

As with train travel, take your time with this game. Enjoy the scenery. Soak in the challenges. Try all of the options. No need to rush.

Lionel City Builder 3D: Rise of the Rails is available now for Nintendo 3DS in the Nintendo eShop as a download. Check it out. For an inexpensive game (it’s only $4.99), there is quite a lot of gameplay there, and unlimited replayability. If you’re a train or transportation fan, or if you just love an interesting game, you won’t want to miss this one.

Note: A download code was furnished for review purposes.

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