As a Londoner, I have a certain expectation of what an underground train station is supposed to be like. Perhaps that’s why it took me a while to get good at STATIONflow. My passengers are constantly complaining about cramped conditions, confusing signage and perpetual construction work. Isn’t that what people want?
As the architect of a train station on what appears to be some kind of ethereal plane surrounded by multi-storey icebergs, you’ll need to plan carefully and build within your budget to ensure success. The game’s construction tools are extremely powerful, allowing for corridors and plazas of more or less any shape you could imagine. Everything snaps together neatly, making the construction of something apparently complex far easier than it appears. The abstract style is cute but readable, making key information readily available, and the chilled atmosphere is enhanced by a charming, upbeat soundtrack.
STATIONflow’s ramp in complexity is much like the 60-metre escalator at Angel station – deep, reasonably steep, and once you’ve got onboard, you’re more or less committed to seeing it through. At first, you have a few street-level entrances and one platform. Life is easy, and passengers flow as smoothly as the first gin and tonic on a cross-country express. Then, the station gets a little more popular, the platforms get busier, a few new entrances open and suddenly you’re having to widen corridors and alter signposts. Or perhaps you’ll need to start accommodating disabled passengers, redesigning entire areas to allow for lift access.
Please follow the signs
The most satisfying aspect comes from setting up proper signage. Although that may sound drier than a Tooting Station sandwich at 11 pm, I assure you it really isn’t. Each passenger is an AI-driven agent, with their own needs, desires and intended destination. They’ll choose their route through the station based on the signs you’ve posted in corridors and on stairs, escalators and lifts. Sometimes, the best way to solve a congestion issue isn’t to spend tens of thousands on a whole new corridor, but simply to edit a few signs such that passengers travelling in one direction take a slightly circuitous route.
Once the hard work is done, and everything is set just so, it’s extremely gratifying to turn up the game speed and watch people drift through your beautiful and well-organised station. It’s usually at that moment that the game decides to unlock a new platform or a new set of station entrances for you to connect, and suddenly you’re tearing it all apart again and designing something new all over again.
Sorry for any delays
It’s a satisfying core loop, and with a variety of levels available as well as a fully-featured level editor, you’re unlike to run out of content any time soon. However, for all the laid-back charm that the game has, I can’t help but feel that it’s missing some of the peril that’s usually inherent in simulation games. Sure, some platforms and entrances are busier at different times of day, and there are customisable difficulty settings, but once a station is finished, there’s little to motivate sticking around. I’d have appreciated the challenge of some random events to keep things fresh. A music festival, a line closure, even a rainy day – something to change the daily routine.
STATIONflow is a joyful and creative toybox, with plenty of room for tinkering and enacting crazy designs. There’s a great degree of satisfaction to be found, but if you’re looking for a challenge, this might not be your stop.
[Reviewed on PC]