Overcrowd: A Commute ‘Em Up Early Access Review

Easy to pick up, tough to master.

Overcrowd - Station

My main issue with modern tycoon games is that it’s usually a chore to get started. Most of the great ones like Cities: Skylines and Planet Coaster are robust enough to achieve some really cool things, but that often means the learning curve is quite steep. Luckily, Overcrowd: A Commute ‘Em Up offers a stellar tutorial that covers everything you need to know in just a couple minutes, paving the way for a fun and satisfying metro tycoon experience.

The main premise of Overcrowd is, like most tycoon games, simple—build and maintain a profitable and reputable metro station. After generating a new procedural campaign, you’ll start your first station from scratch. Once you staff, build and excavate your way to a functioning station, you’ll have to maintain a good reputation by completing objectives and fixing issues like litter and mechanical maintenance as they inevitably arise. Achieving your objectives will open up the option to move on to the next station.

But that’s only the campaign mode. The game also offers a sandbox mode where you just keep building upon the same station, setting your own win and lose states. Finally, Overcrowd’s Commute of the Day is a daily challenge for players to take on, which offers a unique set of rules and a randomly generated map. There’s a wide variety of content for players to explore here, but the core gameplay always stays the same. And that’s a good thing.

Overcrowd - Staff Room

Like I said before, Overcrowd’s tutorial is great. Not only does it list off everything you need to do and where to find the essentials, but it also doesn’t hide anything from its players. I find that many tycoon games are bogged down by complex, hard-to-navigate menus, taking the fun out of actually playing the game. SquarePlay Games really nails the UI in Overcrowd. Even if you don’t know where to find an item you’d like to build, it’s almost always one or two clicks away. And frankly, after playing the tutorial, you’ll likely have a handle on which category different items fall under anyway.

For example, I know that staff items like the garbage picker or megaphone fall under the tools tab. Items that make you money fall under the commerce tab, and buildings that allow your station to function fall under utilities. Everything just makes sense, and better yet, what you need usually only falls under one menu.

Overcrowd - Menu

There are two different types of currency in the game—money and bonds. Money allows you to buy infrastructure and items. Bonds allow you to procure new advancements for your station and hire more staff. You make money by selling tickets and setting up commerce items like newspaper stands and ad space. You earn bonds by achieving objectives and milestones.

Procuring new items and infrastructure is satisfying in Overcrowd mostly because options open up at a near-perfect pace. Just as you feel like your station is plateauing, new options open up allowing you to improve almost everything you’ve done. It’s almost like you’ve unlocked a whole new game.

Managing staff is also a huge part of the game. The more they do, the more they improve. Different staff members have different skills, and pairing them with different tools like the jerry can or first aid kit will help improve the skills that correlate to that item.

You can’t work them until they’re maxed out, though. You have to keep them happy by giving them breaks and days off. If you don’t, they quit, and you definitely don’t want that because your staff is the heart and soul of your operation. They keep the place running, and without them, there is no station.

Overcrowd - Full Station

So what are the downsides to Overcrowd? Well, there aren’t many, except for the fact that it’s really hard. That’s not necessarily a criticism, though. Many games are hard and amazing, and this is one of them. However, if you aren’t prepared to fail and restart a bunch of times, this might not be the game for you.

Overcrowd is extremely fast-paced, even considering the fact that you can play it at normal speed and pause it whenever you want. It’s all about split-second decision making and prioritizing. Sometimes there are multiple issues that need to be addressed, but not enough people on staff to take care of them. It’s all about looking into what needs attention the most and going down the list from there, and that can be tough to grasp on your first, second or even fifteenth try.

Overcrowd: A Commute ‘Em Up is still in Early Access, so we’re holding off on giving it a concrete score for now. But if it keeps on this path, it’s definitely one you’re going to want to check out. You won’t be in for an easy ride, but it will be a good one.