Played on: Nintendo Switch, via eshop
Although it’s fairly playable, Mini Trains bolts on too many unnecessary features at the expense of its core gameplay.
Mini Trains looks a lot more complicated than it really is, and it doesn’t win many points by being so. The premise is really quite simple: build track for trains to run on. It’s a task that requires skills in planning, timing, and execution.
The point is to get a train from A to B. Sometimes, there’s more than one train. Sometimes, the route must also go via C. The basic train tracks can cross over each other and connect to create loops and junctions. Switches can divert a train from one route to another.
The main track-building is actually done pretty well — it's a simple task to create almost any track configuration you desire. Things can get a bit fiddly when joining different lines together, or removing track, but the process is about as solid as it needs to be. I would've liked some kind of representation of where tracks can be laid, however — it’s occasionally difficult to see which background elements are really obstructions.
When your track’s ready, it’s time to start the engines and hope you avoid disaster. Both ‘design’ and ‘run’ mode have a 3d view and an overhead one, but the 3d view is so useless, I avoided it whenever possible. There’s also a view from inside the train, but that added precisely nothing to the experience as far as I was concerned.
Although the puzzles are pretty well designed, and get progressively more challenging and interesting, most aspects of the game outside of the main track building are frustrating. The 3d view is a waste and controlling it is awkward. Some of the details seem rushed. My lasting impression is that the game would be better with just the top-down view and a lot more polish.