The Final Station – Review
It’s the indie game checklist! 16-bit graphics? Check. Miserable atmosphere? Check. Moody plot? Check. Zombies? Check. Train simulation? Er….? Yep, The Final Station is a weird mix. Playing out in 2D, you play as a train driver (well, more of an operator really as the train seems to drive itself) happily going about his business in a world that is 106 years removed from a cataclysmic event know as ‘the Visitation.’ At first, life is simple. You arrive at a station, you walk around (occasionally climbing a ladder) and look for the blocker code, which will release your train from the station and have you back on your merry way.
You interact with people and objects with the X button, and from here you pick up items and pieces of the story. A story that takes a little while to get going but, before long you start hearing from other train operators who tell you that there are no services going to the south, and that something seems to be wrong. Eventually you come to realise that the second visitation is underway. In real terms this means that now the stations and towns you visit will have these shadowy black figures stumbling along inside, much like zombies. Get too close and they’ll hurt you, but luckily they are susceptable to bullets and even well-timed punches.
The main gameplay loop at this point involves figuring out the best way to get through each level and back onto your train. The combat, while pretty stilted, is enjoyable in a puzzle kind of way. Each room is blacked out until you open the door, at which point any number of zombie types can run out at you. From armoured zombies to ones that explode or chase you down, who knows what will await you. Taking them out efficiently is the key though. Why waste a bullet when you can throw a chair at one of them? Figuring out the optimum path is definitely the most fun part of the game.
As you progress, you’ll find survivors and these have to be taken back to your train. In between levels, you’ll ride the train and it’ll be your job to keep it running, thanks to some fairly simple mechanical tasks, while keeping your passengers alive with the help of a limited number of medpacks and food. If you can get them to the next big town, you’ll be rewarded with cash that you can spend on ammo and other essentials. No part of The Final Station is truly fleshed out. The run-and-gun gameplay is far from being Contra. There’s no real platforming (as you can’t jump). Also, the survival stuff is actually pretty easy. However, in combination these elements all work well, making the game very enjoyable for its relatively short lifespan.
Presented in 2D with pixelated 16-bit style graphics, the game’s presentation rather lets things down. I’d have much preferred a scarier look. The visuals are all a bit too cutesy which really harms the atmosphere of the game and the incredibly sparse sound doesn’t help either. The game also has some very confusing interface choices, making navigating the menus actually a bit of a nightmare. I can’t think of another game which removes the highlighting from the option you are about to select. It’s entirely counterintuitive.
I do like a short, linear game though and trying to perfect those levels and keep your ammo saved is definitely where this game shines. If you’re looking for something a bit more action-packed, or even scarier, then The Final Station isn’t the one but if you can handle something a little slower then you may get something out of the game like I did.Pros
- A good mix of gameplay elements
- Reasonably compelling story
- Good level design
- Very average graphics
- Confusing interface design
- Lacks variation
The Final Station isn't going to out-think or out-gun other games as much as it thinks it might but, overall, this compelling survival/train-sim hybrid makes up with charm what it loses in substance.
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