Have you ever been a bite or two into a brownie when you realize it needed to cook another minute or two? It tastes pretty good but it’s a little too gooey and missing that flaky crust that would make it perfect. You’re still going to eat it but that thought lingers in your mind. Then you think, man it’d be even better with walnuts. Oh, and ice cream. And a glass of milk. A few hours into STATIONflow, the recently released subway building simulator from developer DMM Games, I had that same type of feeling. Don’t get me wrong, STATIONflow is a complete game with solid gameplay. There was never a time I wanted to quit playing, but I kept thinking about all of the things that could make it better. So is STATIONflow worth a ride or is it just another train wreck? Let’s head to the station and check out STATIONflow review.
In STATIONflow you are in charge of a fledgling subway system with the objective of keeping the passengers happy as they come and go. Your station starts off with a single train platform and a handful of entrance/exit terminals. After constructing a few corridors to link them together passengers will start showing up. Each passenger, whether headed to a train or arriving on one, just wants to get to their destination. At first, this is fairly simple. Plop down a few signs so they know which direction to go and presto, they’re on their way. Keep things flowing and you’ll get a passing grade on your daily report card along with a cash bonus based on how well you did.
Staying On Track
With enough happy customers your Subway begins ranking up, opening up new access points and additional train platforms. These new terminals and platforms open up at different depths so you must build stairs and an ever-growing web of corridors to connect them all. And don’t forget the additional signs to keep everyone on the right path.
As the station grows, so will the passenger count and after a couple of days more diverse passengers will begin using your station, each with their own attributes such as eyesight distance and patience level. Some will require access to additional amenities like drink vendors or bathrooms. With each rank there are additional challenges thrown your way like the elderly who need escalators or disabled passengers that require elevators. As the passenger count rises it becomes difficult to fit in everything you need and things can quickly get out of hand.
Efficiently placing all of these amenities is paramount to keeping your passengers happy and revenue flowing in. So is eliminating bottlenecks that cause congestion. Passengers won’t leave the station until their needs are fulfilled, and the longer they are in your station the lower their happiness drops. Just like in real life, angry passengers become irrational. They don’t see the signs that point them in the right direction and end up going around in circles for a while.
Unfortunately, once you lose a person this way there is no getting them back. Even after they get back on track they’ll continually stop to display their displeasure, blocking a part of the corridor and slowing other passengers down in the process. A random unhappy customer is nothing to worry about but a flaw in your master plan rarely affects a single passenger. Failing to act can result in a horde of unhappy travelers that muck things up so badly that a chain reaction begins, dragging in more and more otherwise happy customers to the tantrum parade.
Therein lies the biggest challenge with STATIONflow – figuring out what the initial breakdown was that sent travelers in a downward spiral to angry town and fixing it. Clicking on an angry passenger pulls up an info sheet giving you basic information such as their destination and time spent looking for any required amenities, and from there you will need to identify where things went wrong. Were too many people using a ticket machine, making an impatient passenger lose their mind? Or was it something as simple as them getting lost because of an incorrectly placed sign pointing them in the wrong direction?
So about that brownie analogy from earlier. As I already mentioned, STATIONflow is a complete game capable of providing hour upon hour of fun. Each map (six shipped with the game as well as a map editor to create new maps) provides a unique challenge and the perfectionist will find themselves restarting each one again and again in an attempt to build the perfect station. If you don’t wish to start over you can demolish part or all of your station and rebuild it. Either way, the construction elements of STATIONflow give you everything needed to design the station of their dreams.
At the same time, there are so many additions that would make the game even better. Right from the start, better tooltips and an improved tutorial would help ease a new player into the intricacies of the game. Building tools such as multi-level stairs and elevators are a glaring omission. The laundry list of tweaks and additions goes on and on but these tweaks and additions are just quality of life improvements, not major design flaws.
So what is the biggest weakness of STATIONflow then? It quickly becomes obvious that your largest hurdle to creating an efficient station lies in the lack of detailed information. There is an overlay menu to help highlight certain aspects of your station but it doesn’t give all the information you need. A density overlay – something that has been in sim games since the 80s – is missing, as is any detailed usage of your amenities. Even your daily profit and loss statement is a high-level view of your revenue, lacking a breakdown of individual facilities. Without this data to guide your decision making you must spend a piece of your day physically watching an area to determine development needs which leaves other areas neglected.
The End Of The Line
All in all, STATIONflow provides the management sim enthusiast with a new environment to test their building mettle. The ever-evolving needs of new passengers and the accompanying facilities that need to be built come at a steady pace to provide increasing complexity to the station without overloading the player with too much at one time. Unfortunately, some glaring quality of life omissions paired with a lack of detailed data keeps STATIONflow from being a top tier game in the business simulation genre.