LGR – A-Train – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – A-Train – DOS PC Game Review

This is drugs.
This is Lazy Game Reviews on drugs.
Any questions?
[LGR Theme]
[fizz, sip]
A-Train is one of those Maxis titles
that has always flown under the radar.
Waaaaay under the radar.
It didn’t sell well at all,
but I remember seeing it in all those Maxis catalogs
that came with the other games from them.
A-Train came out in 1992
right as other Maxis games like SimAnt and SimCity
were reaching new heights in popularity.
Maxis started to expand the company’s line
and one way of doing this was
licensing and publishing games
from outside developers.
A-Train is a Japanese game developed by Artdink.
It’s actually the third game in the series
with the Japanese version known as Take the A-Train III.
But since it was the first to
get much reception in America,
they just called it A-Train to make it more aggravating.
It was released on PC, Macintosh and Amiga formats,
but despite their best efforts,
the game never caught on,
and is one of Maxis’ first failures in retail.
I’ve had the game in my collection for quite a while,
and recently I finally took up the
initiative to learn how to play it.
I decided on the DOS version of the game,
since that’s what I would have
played at the time it came out.
I took one look at the manual and…
good grief, this looks boring.
Balance sheets, building guidelines,
construction materials,
downtown reorganization, expenditures,
subsidiaries, specialized income,
real estate reconstruction,
personnel fees, taxes.
This sounds more like some
economics class, not a game.
There is no in-game tutorial,
but you get a very nicely written tutorial in the manual.
This is one of those games where
the manual is an absolute necessity.
Trust me, I tried to figure out the game without it,
and about put my head through
a trash compactor as a result.
After about 30 to 45 minutes of messing
around with the tutorial and game mechanics,
I finally got the hang of it.
Here’s my take on the game’s focus.
A-Train is a local economy simulator
based around the idea
of running a citywide mass transit system
in order to boost businesses and population
in the near vicinity of train stations.
Eh, in simpler terms, it’s not so much
like Railroad Tycoon as it is SimCity.
You’re not building a transcontinental railroad
or learning the history of trains,
you’re helping to build a city
by heading up your own transportation business.
When starting the game,
you begin with a single train station
and a central railway,
which runs directly through your city
and connects neighboring cities.
Trains will come through at certain times of day
to deliver two of three important
commodities in the game:
people and supplies.
It works kind of like this:
the point of the game is to make money,
and you get money by getting people
to use your trains and services.
But you’ll need supplies or construction materials
in order to build those services.
These materials are the life-blood of the city.
They allow you to build things
and allow your city to build itself.
So the first order of business is to get these supplies.
The trains that come into your town will
leave you materials at your main station,
but you can’t just treat them like
resources in a strategy game,
hidden in some imaginary vault somewhere.
The materials are only available for use
in the area around where they physically sit.
So you’ll need to make ways for
the materials to be transported
from one spot to another to grow your city.
Now this is where the trains come in.
You build a railway and then build a station.
Then, of course, you’ll need to buy
and schedule a freight train
to transport these materials to areas
that need development materials,
but can’t yet reach them.
You will also need to make sure
the people can get these materials,
so you’ll need a passenger line
to transport them as well.
Once you get a nice system of transporting
people and materials to a new area,
the area will start to get interesting to the population,
but they’ll still need places to live and work.
You’ll then need to play the real estate market
in order to make land available for building,
since undeveloped lands aren’t yet owned by anybody.
Once you buy the real estate around
your stations, the value will go up,
and then you can sell it to the people,
who will then start building using
the materials that you provided.
You can spur this development
by building all sorts of buildings
like apartments, factories, office buildings, golf courses,
and even theme parks and baseball stadiums.
And the more people you have,
the more money you’ll make,
so as long as you keep your
ever-growing rail system in check,
everything will be fine.
You can upgrade the stations, upgrade the trains,
buy and sell real estate to make
things work how you need them to
in order to assure progress.
There are also plenty of little tweaks in the game
and advisors which will give you ideas
of what is going on and what may be in demand.
Like in SimCity, you can also take out bonds
with the bank, in case you need cash,
but you can also play the stock market,
which is an extremely interesting addition to me.
Say you’re building a lot of offices.
Then management firms will start to rise in stock price,
so you can play off of that.
But remember, these services are only open from 9 to 5,
Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
That’s because the entire game
takes place one day at a time.
That’s why at the default setting
you’ll keep seeing things go from light to dark
going through a day cycle.
A clock clicks down constantly,
which will determine what you can do and when.
You can turn the day cycle off, thankfully,
because it can get annoying real quick.
You also have seasons which come and go,
which is a welcome occasional change
to the already good-looking isometric graphics.
In fact, Maxis thought the look was so awesome,
it went on to use A-Train as the inspiration
for the look of SimCity 2000.
You know, a lot of the game actually
reminds me of SimCity 2000.
Of course, there’s the obvious:
it looks like SimCity 2000,
especially on the Macintosh version,
which even has the same interface.
But more of the feel of the game reminds me of SimCity.
Once you get past the steep learning curve,
the game is incredibly fun
and is just as addicting as any other Sim game.
No matter how many times it happened,
I still found myself enjoying the fact
that a new train station starts to bring a new area to life.
Eventually, you get bustling metropolises
and the feeling of fulfillment is really quite exceptional.
There are plenty of little things that could be better,
especially in the DOS version,
like the lack of decent sound effects,
some annoying repetitive music,
and the sometimes confusing menus.
For instance, why is the cash display
hidden unless you bring up a menu?
If you’re not careful, you’ll run out of money
and get a game over screen
without even knowing what happened.
The Mac version fixes this,
so obviously they knew it was a problem.
But an even bigger problem is sometimes
you’ll have a train station set up
and need to make a change to the line,
but somehow,
somebody will building an apartment or
something in the way before you can get to it.
And then the whole system becomes usless
because there’s no bulldozer tool.
So, you’re screwed.
‘Cause you can’t get rid of this
building in the way of the line
when you have a broken city.
Now you can fix this if you got the
optional A-Train Construction Set.
Some versions of the game came with this included.
It’s really the same thing as the
SimCity 2000 Urban Renewal Kit’s
Place & Print function.
You can edit anything on the map,
including those annoying buildings in the way,
and then continue your game in peace.
It’s not necessary, but it can
save you a lot of headaches.
There’s also some bugs, in my version at least,
where sometimes the save game
just doesn’t save,
and you’ll quit the game and you’ll
come back to a half-empty city
and that’s kind of annoying.
So always make sure that you
save your game twice, just in case.
But when it comes down to it,
A-Train is a great game, in my opinion,
even with some of these bugs.
It’s very well-made, has plenty of
options for you to experiment with,
it looks great,
and the gameplay is honestly nothing short of addicting.
I would still recommend the Macintosh version
if you’re really wanting to play the game,
but the DOS or Amiga games are just as fun
if you just get used to their quirks.
If you’re looking for a good city-
building sim with a unique twist,
why not give A-Train a look.

100 thoughts on “LGR – A-Train – DOS PC Game Review”

  1. I had this on the PS1 and loved it. My favorite thing was to lay tracks to an area, buy all the property, start all kinds of businesses and watch to property values skyrocket. I'd then sell the businesses for a healthy profit. Next, I'd take up all the tracks stopping service to the area, and laugh maniacally as the property values would plummet.

  2. So You're Telling Me That My Brain On Drugs Is A Healthy Nutrition That Helps Me Grow My Brain? Should I Do Some Drugs Then (some wrong stuff)

  3. LGR please read this…i really wanna play this but its hard finding a way and these emulated downloads i dont know how to run

  4. The warm VHS fuzzyness of earlier LGR supported by clint's voice and the melodramatic synth of the A-trains soundtrack combine to make a wonderful audio-visual experience.

  5. Had this on the Amiga 🙂 was awesome, never realy knew how to play the dam thing mind lol being 14 when it came out i couldnt be arsed to read all the Book lmao! I used keep running out of building materials ;p

  6. Can anyone tell me about the more modern versions of this game? I mean, there's a SHITTON of sequals: from the original A-Train to the latest versions, I've counted no less than 18 A-Train games, ones even for PS1, PS2, Nintendo DS and PC with 3D glasses. I will take Clive's word that this is good stuff (I've never doubted LGR reviews since I first subscribed), but I'd like to compare this to the modern offsprings.

  7. Ah so many memories, I got this as a kid in 1992, I was 12 and got the game while staying grandma's house for Christmas, only thing I could do was read the manual over several days until we finally made it home and I could actually play it!

  8. I loved A-Train back in the 90s. I still know all those in-game songs (just like with Transport Tycoon). Especially the sad "Christmas Time" song, haha

  9. I had this running on my aunt's old computer, and would play it whenever we went to her house, it wouldn't run on ours, because hers ran Win 3.1, ours ran Win 95. I still have the disks and manual, but the disks are broken.

  10. I played this game when it was brand new. Being a train nut, I loved it. Learned so much about business, rail scheduling, and civil planning. I miss playing it so much sometimes. A Train and SimCity 2000 were my games. 🙂

  11. It's like a blend of SimCity (the urban focus) and Transport Tycoon (the resource logistics and infrastructure chains). Very interesting. I like it when you review truly obscure management games. 🙂

  12. That takes me back. I remember seeing A-Train back in the day… but had forgotten it existed until I saw you mention it in another video. I'd love to play a modern reboot of the series if they did it right. Keep the charm and the fun parts of the gameplay, fix the annoying stuff. It could be amazing.

  13. I remember seeing this in a computer store when I was little and I saved and saved. I eventually bought it from an old catalog when the store stopped carrying it.

  14. played a lot of maxis games back in the day but did not hear about this one…. the graphics look cool ish though

  15. any idea where one can get a dosbox verison of this or A IV networks??
    been looking to stream them but cant seem to find it anywhere.
    thought gog'd hook me up but no, they dont have.

  16. i Played Transport Tycoon, Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon and recently Transport Fever, so this is similar to those games ?

  17. What is a learning curve? Effort on the x-axis and amount learned on the y-axis? Then a steep curve would mean much learned for little effort. Or, you could swap the axes. But then, is effort the dependent variable and amount learned the independent variable?

  18. Holy fuck this game is Japanese as fuck even after it's been localized. The undeveloped land with only a few houses looks like a dead ringer for Japanese suburbs. I keep expecting Sailor Moon to run out of one of the houses with toast in her mouth because she's late for school again. Plus, fucking baseball stadiums. XD

  19. oddly enough, A-Train was my first game on PS1… that version was way more playable and didn't have any of the issues mentioned here

  20. I loved A-Train. Mainly for the isometric view and the fact it ran on Hercules Monochrome. Something about it's art and graphics style looks very "zen".

  21. it's a good game but you can only make money by the trains. All other subsidiaries will drag you to bankrupt as you never get enough to pay the property tax and income tax.

  22. Artdink keeps making good games even today.
    The Macross games on PSP, PS3 and Vita are awesome.
    Most of their anime based games are excelent.

  23. I played this game and LOVED it! I just couldn't understand why it never sold but with its high learning curve, I guess that in and of itself would be a good reason. That or Maxis was flooding the market with simulation games and this one didn't get as much attention as the others. Hell, I owned EVERY Maxis game save for SC3000…

    …yes, sadly this includes the abomination known as SimCity 5. What a train wreck that was…no pun intended.

  24. loved this game as a kid, even though the graphics look bad now I always liked the city lights when it was night time in the game. If i remember correctly you finish the game when the bullet train gets made in a corner of the screen

  25. We've come a long, dark way.

    Back then, if you released a game without a money counter or bulldozer tool, but released an expansion to fix it, you were given a pat on the back and told to do better next time.

    Now, we have Paradox and EU4.

  26. I wanted to play it more but when I boot it up, it asks me to enter VideoMode dimensions, monochrome or colour and SoundSystem. Whenever I use the examples it gives for dimensions, it says that I'm entering it wrong. How can I solve this? (BTW: I'm playing on DosBox)

  27. A long missed but not forgotten game that was played by people with no fear for aggravation lol. A true Diamond in the rough…Great game!

  28. i LOVED this game back in the day. Too bad it wont run on todays computers, i cba to build a pc for the older stuff

  29. I remember playing this on my Amiga when I was about 14.
    I didn't remember the manual being that thick but mostly learnt the game through trial and error.
    I don't think I ever got to skyscrapers, most of the time I like starting a new town and making that grow.
    Loved this game and played it a lot.

  30. Great game…the challenge of being able to support the community that revolves around the train is a great touch to the game, this game should be a requirement to anyone running to be a mayor.

  31. A-train series in general is… lacking. I mean, they are decent games but they are never good enough to make me stay playing at it.

    A-train (1st one) had a serious annoyance : you won once your account has 50 M$ and no continue. I had to use PCTOOLS to hexahack savegames and/or waste money all the time so I could play longer. It was so ANNOYING as I just didn't get the reason why a so low goal was decided. I lost fun and the desire to play it, as I couldn't wreak a concrete havoc on the map before "winning".

    A4:Networks wasn't better. I lost all my games, because I didn't get it. The stock market system didn't have any sense (Capitalism, released in 1995 so two years before A4, was great in this subject) and whatever I bought back my shares from day one or not, the company was bought and I never understood why. But the worst thing was the bugs. One of them is that sometimes at any moment, the location of one building (whatever the type) in the Asset window become incorrect for no reason, despite the fact that I can find it visually still right there. For the game and for the usage aspect only, said building has "left" the map, disabling it in the process. A factory concerned by the bug become unable to produce blocks, hotels waste my money because no customers, etc. I had to destroy and rebuild (very costly), until it happens again.

    A-Train 9 was the last I tried. It wasn't buggy or at least for the small time I played it but there was some serious bad design choices. First, no squares on the map, you place as you wish. A problem as sometimes, the placement of your buildings can be wrong and so you can't place a new building between two already here, because it would overlap one of them by ONE PIXEL. Also, the fact that you can't use blocks if they are few meters too high (no joke) was a serious issue in elevated maps.

    It is a game series who could be good but always miss the target at the last moment. It made me wondering if the developers has played many games (and theirs) in the first place, because the issues removed the fun.

    Simcity 2000 and Transport Tycoon Deluxe was way better, even if they aren't exactly A-Train.

  32. I remember buying this game when i was a kid for my 486 computer, despite having the required spec it wouldnt load due to "not having enough conventional memory"

    SC2K worked and so did TTD so i played those instead

  33. You don't know how many of us played this game without a manual and sorted everything out. Cmon, it was the 90s, we sorted out flight simulator games without manuals! 😀

    My favourite part of A-Train is that it is one of the few economic strategic games where it plays not much for competition, but for collaboration: if you get rich, the rest gets richer, and the reward is seeing how a town grows because you are putting a supply line in it. It is so different to the sum zero strategy games that I am SO tired of.

  34. I wish there were more games that focused on public and mass transit to build a city. No building placement unless it part of the network, no zoning but where you place various depos will influence those indirectly and you get to place bus lines down and things. . Similar to how Cities in Motion was but also like how A-Train is. Also no road placement either, you work with what the game generates. You see the motorway get longer…then you see roads get rearranged over time, that motorway, now has an elevated section and is bulldozing through an old district, changing everything around it. The new on off ramps affect the buildings and road layouts too….all because you are placing rails and train related buildings as well as the public transport options.

  35. Help, I can't grow my city in A-Train. I searched for solutions, but I came out empty-handed. The game is that obscure. Can somebody tell me how to do that?

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